Archive for August 2, 2007

Anime Review: My Neighbors the Yamadas

Director: Isao TakahataYamada family portrait, kind of

based on comic strip by Hisaishi Ishii

Japanese release: 1999

U.S. release: 2005

I am torn in attempting to review this film. I have no complaints about the actual execution and stylistic choices of the animators and Japanese voice actors, which is predictably excellent coming from a pro like Takahata; but thinking about its choice of subject matter – the family – and its predictable treatment of that institution disappoints me.

My Neighbors the Yamadas is about a typical middle-class Japanese family living in the suburbs: there’s the overworked father, the somewhat lazy stay-at-home mother, the slacker son, the cutesy innocent daughter, and the wise-cracking, cantankerous grandmother. Oh, and a dog. Lacking any pretension of having a central plot, the director chose to instead put a lot of short stories together around the theme of “family.” While this makes sense when one considers that this film is based on a newspaper comic strip (thus its very minimalist complexion), it also prevents any maturation of the characters. Or, as one of the side characters remarks about the grandmother as she draws a line in the sand to separate her trash pick-up from his, “She’s still the same 60 years later” (in this case, 60 minutes later).

Despite this Is this Your marriage?movie’s seemingly low production values, it’s more like a cross between the Simpsons and a BBC comedy than a Saturday morning cartoon. The characters throw accurate punchlines – aimed at the middle-aged.

… continue reading this entry.