Feature length films are often one long singular story. From beginning to end, we follow the events centered around a character, a group of characters, and or an event. Perhaps this is why I find productions like the Animatrix, Batman Gotham Knight, and My Neighbors the Yamadas so refreshing. Without being restricted to connecting every moment and every scene to the main plot, the writers of My Neighbors the Yamadas were free to jump in and out of the Yamadas' lives via snapshots. Like twitter or one of my favorite episodes of This American Life in which they forgo telling several long stories in attempt to tell as many mini stories as they could in an hour, My Neighbors the Yamadas succeeds in a type of characterization/storytelling that is impossible to convey any other way.
My Neighbors the Yamadas is like the Charlie Brown and Rose is Rose of Japan. The stories are simple, taken straight out of everyday life. The themes and subjects are clear and upfront. And the depth of the characters grows little by little with each story. I think quaint is the best word to describe it. Sure enough, like Presepolis, this film was inspired by by a comic/manga series in Japan.
The visual style is very simple and unique keeping true to the style of the original comic. Make no mistake though, studio Ghibli still finds moments to flex their animation prowess. With a fluid scrolling scene here, and a very smoothly transitioning wedding metaphor scene there Ghibli, like Gainex, shows that there is plenty of room for animation and expression using an art style that's light on details.
Many of the stories were enjoyable, but there are some that I found really touching. I failed to write down the titles of these short stories as I watched the film, so I'll simply describe a few. Mr. Yamada forgetting his umbrella in the rain. Mr. Yamada taking a picture of his family on a snowy day. Mr. Yamada settles for a banana. The day everyone forgot things. The young boy Yamada gets a phone call from a girl. And the sad moonlight Mr. Yamada fails to stand up to some bullies.
The music is wonderful especially considering theres lots of classical music. Studio Ghibli continues to prove that they're the masters of domestic storytelling. Despite many cultural differences, the Yamadas are very similar to American families, which helps make the film very relatable. And it wouldn't be a Ghibli film if it didn't have flying in it.