Written and directed by the very talented and legendary, Isao Takahata, My Neighbors the Yamadas is one of the more interesting and quirky Studio Ghibli movies. It is a bit of a hidden gem actually as it is so different that it often gets ignored or overlooked. If I am being 100 percent honest, it would not make my greatest Studio Ghibli movies of all time list, but it is still well worth checking out.
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You can download or stream the film from a digital platform. Click on the Download button at the end of this review and make your choice. If you’re interested in other Studio Ghibli films, check out also our reviews of Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, or Arietty.
The Movie Review
One of the most interesting things about My Neighbors the Yamadas is that we do not have one overarching plot. Instead, this movie is made up of several shorts, all of different lengths that revolve around the Yamadas. The Yamadas are your typical modern Japanese family.
The Yamadas consist of the father Takashi, mother Matsuko, Noboru the teenage son, Nonoko the little sister, Shige the grandmother and Pochi who is the dog. I would liken the family to a more realistic and less extreme version of The Simpsons if you are looking for a comparison.
We have some very funny moments here and I would certainly say that comedy is the category My Neighbors the Yamadas best fits into. However, there is also a little bit of drama too as we get to see the ups and downs of everyday family life. I like how for the majority of the movie, it is all played straight, but we get a few I guess daydreaming segments that offer a bit of fantasy which I got a kick out of.
I liked how varied the different shorts were, all of which were things you could imagine the average family doing. From Nonoko going missing in the store, a heart-to-heart between father and son, and the husband and wife arguing. The different shorts that make up this movie all have their own charm and help give you a better idea of how this family ticks.
Despite their flaws, you feel that Takashi and Matsuko do love each other and just want the best for their family. Even though a lot of this is played for laughs. I think that Isao Takahata did a wonderful job of ensuring that My Neighbors the Yamadas still had the heart and soul of a Studio Ghibli movie.
One of the things that I think will split people down the middle is the way it looks. This was released in 1999 and it looks like no other Studio Ghibli movie that was released before or even after it. They have gone for a more sketchy kind of art style here instead of the traditional hand-drawn animated style that the studio is known for. It looks like something someone scribbled in their book.
That is not to say that this looks bad, far from it, it actually gives the movie its own unique style. Of course, if that style clicks with you is really a personal preference. I grew to like it the more I watched the movie and while it is very different, I still think that it has a great deal of charm.
9/10 I think that when a Studio Ghibli movie is dubbed for the West, they knock it out of the park. My Neighbors the Yamadas has one of the less memorable voice casts, but that is not to say they are bad. Jim Belushi and Molly Shannon play Takashi and Matsuko and they are fine, but they never really blow you away, but to be fair, that could be down to the tone of the movie more so than the performance of the actors.
While I would not say that this is something I would class as a classic, it is still fun and I have seen it a few times over the years and always got a few laughs out of it. If you want to see a Studio Ghibli movie that is a bit different from the usual fantasy or slice-of-life style that they are more known for, give My Neighbors the Yamadas a try.
- This is one of the funnier Studio Ghibli movies
- Despite the laughs, there is still a lot of heart in this movie
- I liked the sketchbook style the movie had
- It is one of the more “hidden gems” from the Studio Ghibli vault
- Some of the segments are better than others
- The voice acting did not leave the same impression on me that other Studio Ghibli movies have