Stan Lee is far from the only creative genius we lost this year; Isao Takahata passed away in April, and tonight, Japan Society—with some assistance from GKids, who provided the 35mm print—honored the esteemed animator with a screening of My Neighbors the Yamadas (one of a handful of non-Miyazaki features that Disney bothered to localize when they acquired the Studio Ghibli library back in the early 2000s).
Like much of the director’s work, this charming slice-of-life comedy is less concerned with traditional narrative structure than with pushing the boundaries of the medium. The “plot”—or, more accurately, the series of vignettes—revolves around the misadventures of a quirky suburban family as they navigate such mundane conflicts as locating misplaced grocery lists, studying for exams, and deciding who should control the television remote. The real star of the show, however, is the film’s visual style, which utilizes digital animation techniques to evoke the appearance of a child’s drawing (simple shapes, sketchy line work, and scribbled coloring—appropriate, considering five-year-old Nonoko Yamada acts as our narrator/point-of-view character). It’s a bold departure from the established Ghibli aesthetic, and most certainly paved the way for the “living painting” look of The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Takahata’s final masterpiece.
[Originally written November 17, 2018.]