My Neighbors the Yamadas

My Neighbors the Yamadas ★★★★

Consistently impressed with Isao Takahata's output which, even when in the Ghibli house style, tends to have a very different feel from those Miyazaki masterpieces that define the studio. This is as inconsequential as a film's plot can be, making My Neighbor Totoro look like some twisty knot of storytelling. It is made up of snippets too small to even call vignettes of an average family's life going through mundane events. I almost started to think of it as a recurring comic strip where we'd catch up with what they're up to next in little installments. They are often funny, sometimes sad, and uniformly well animated with a playful watercolor style that Takahata would later perfect in his 2013 fable The Tale of Princess Kaguya. From scene to scene they cook breakfast, fight over the TV remote, leave a kid behind in a store, forget to dry the laundry, and all sorts of entirely relatable aspects of family life. The cumulative effect of dozens of stories transforms these literal loose outlines of people into fleshed out and believable characters even when they get up to some larger-than-life antics (such as the grandmother trying to talk a biker gang into going straight). If there's a central flaw it's that you start to feel the pace- something about stopping and starting so many times makes you hyper-aware of just how many times you've done it even if you're immediately charmed by the next sequence. I almost think it would be best enjoyed in 20 minute chunks across a few days to really lean into that comic strip feeling. Totally gets me back with a magical music number that closes the proceedings though and I can always appreciate a pleasant slice of life.

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