Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Neighbors the Yamadas

My Neighbors the Yamadas is the 12th movie put out by Studio Ghibli. Based on a Yonkoma manga (Yonkoma manga consists of funny comic strips with 4 panels) called Nono-chan, the movie brings to life the Yamada family; a typical Japanese working family.

It's a totally different style to the other movies. Instead of anime the movie looks like the original manga and is brought to life. The backgrounds are mostly left black and white, while the characters are coloured as if painted. Despite the simplicity of the drawings the animation and attention to real world detail makes it all come to life convincingly.

Rather than one long story, the movie is split into a series of individial events in the Yamada's family, most ending with a haiku in calligraphy by a famous Japanese poet. Examples would be losing your child in the mall, or trying to get your son to study. I can also relate to the scene where the father wants his family to come and have their picture taken in the first snow of the year, but they are watching TV, so he puts the camera on the TV and takes the picture anyway.

There is a real warmth in the humour; the characters love each other and that shows through even when they are tired and irritable. This is something like a Japanese version of the Simpsons, where families are not always looking out for each other, children do not want to study, and the father does not love his job.

This is now one of my favourites SG movies; it's not only very funny and full of observations on life that cross over from Japanese culture to Western, it is also deep on occasion, and explores what it really means to be a family.

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