My Neighbors the Yamadas (synopsis - Page 1)
Nonoko, a small girl of about 4, introduces her family.
A child's drawing of a Sun, the Moon and a Mountain becomes Grandma in the same childlike style. Grandma Shige is introduced walking down the street. She stops to admire a neighbor's garden, and starts a conversation with him. The neighbor thinks at first she is praising his flowers, but then disgustedly realizes she is actually praising two caterpillars living on his flowers. She tells the caterpillars to grow up and to become beautiful gaudy butterflies.
Next we meet Mom. Matsuko is a typical housewife. Sometimes she is lazy and generally not very creative. She is introduced cooking curry. Her son complains that that is all they ever eat. They're having curry, same as yesterday, same as last week, and before that…
Now we meet Noboru, the little girl's older brother, and Mr. Takashi Yamada, her Dad. Noboru is complaining about his studies, and asks aloud what it is all for. Mr. Yamada starts lecturing him that studying is not merely to learn what he studies, but also to develop discipline. Except, he gets confused, and starts not only repeating but also contradicting himself. He goes on and on, as the rest of the family despair.
A small bird flies thru, and we follow it outside of the scene, thru some tree branches and as it lands on the credit title of:
Noboru is reading a manga. He speculates aloud that his life is ordinary because his parents are ordinary. If he had richer and better looking parents, then his life would be much better. Mom overhears him, and objects. She tells him that he could not have been born from different parents. If he had, he would be a different person. But Noboru cannot accept this. He knows HE is HE, and would still be himself under any circumstances. Nonoko overhears this conversation, and comes to realize for the first time in her life that there was a time when she and Noboru where not born, and that her parents had a life before them. So. . .
. . .We come to a scene of Matsuko and Takashi in their traditional wedding dress. Somebody is making a wedding speech in voiceover. Matsuko and Takashi embark on their married life as in a bobsled team. We follow them bobsledding down a snowy mountain. (The same bird we saw earlier is seen quickly flying thru the scene). But, as we zoom back, we see that the snowy mountain is actually their wedding cake, and now we see that it is Kikuchi's Grandmother who is making the speech.
The voice over describes that life is like a boat in the ocean, and the bobsled becomes a sailing ship. The ocean becomes rough and we start sailing thru a storm. We see a Hokusai style ocean wave crashing against the ship. The sailing ship becomes a wooden raft, and now the newlyweds need to patch it up in the rough sea.
Kikuchi's Grandmother is telling them the importance of children in a marriage, in her speech. The raft lands ashore and becomes a cart. The cart rides thru a cabbage field where babies are harvested. We see flocks of storks flying overhead carrying their babies to deliver.
The cart carrying Mr. & Mrs. Yamada goes in to a river and becomes a canoe. The scenery is a beautiful Japanese ink wash. A giant peach in the river floats by. Mr. Yamada lifts it inside the canoe and splits it open. A crying baby pops out. Noboru is born.
Next we continue into a bamboo forest, Mr. Yamada uses a long knife to split it horizontally, and from within a very cute baby girl is born. Now we also have Nonoko.
The whole family flies thru the clouds in an airy fantasy, and we follow them to the city's urban landscape, where Grandma Shige rides on a giant pink snail. Her daughter and son-in-law along with the grandchildren join her on the snail.
The fantasy scenes are interrupted, and we settle to a domestic scene. Takashi and Shige are fighting verbally. She feels the property (where they live) is hers, but he says it was he who built the house using his own hands, so he has rights too. Matsuko tries to get them to stop and is joined by Noboru. Matsuko tells them to listen to Noboru, who makes good sense. Unfortunately Noboru finishes the argument by telling them that since he is to inherit everything, any fighting is useless anyway. This response is not to anybodies liking, and Noboru is chased out of the house and into the street, where everybody chases Noboru on assorted vehicles. Noboru himself rides a tricycle.
The wedding speech continues, and the fantasy segments are continued. We see the Yamadas in a submarine looking at a beautiful underwater scene with coral reefs and bizarre tropical fish. Now we have a pirate ship, and Mom and Dad are shot into the air from a cannon. They fall into the water and she becomes a mermaid.
Now we see underwater sharks looking up at a raft where the Yamadas watch TV. The sharks come above and join them in their TV watching.
The voice over speech is now saying that winds are good for a boat or a family: when there is no wind there is no direction, and everybody rows every which way. The Yamadas are shown in a rowboat doing exactly this.
The fantasy segment over again, we see Mr. Yamada driving with Mrs. Yamada at his side not being very good at giving directions. Mr. Yamada, frustrated, drives on amidst the confusion… Till he crashes... It was all a video game! "It's our turn!" yell the kids.