Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: A
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: A
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: A
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 2 - Japan
- Released By: Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan
- MSRP: �4700
- Running time: 104
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: My Neighbors the Yamadas
My Neighbors the Yamadas
My Neighbors the Yamadas
What They SayThe Review!
© Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan
My Neighbours the Yamadas (Hohokekyo tonari no Yamada-kun) is a funny, touching and heart-warming slice of Japanese family life. This is another classic film from Studio Ghibli, and although it is stylistically very different from any of the studio?s past works, it is definitely worthy of its place among its older siblings. Based on a comic strip by Hisaichi Ishii, this feature length film is composed of a series of short vignettes in the lives of the members of the Yamada household. The segments are generally quite light-hearted in nature, with a couple of touching and sometimes tragic pieces. The minimalistic aquarelle look of the film captures its characters and environment perfectly, and belies the sophisitication of the computer software used to achieve this look. Highly recommended.
The transfer is of reference quality. Very clean with no discernible artifacts throughout. The look of the film may not appeal to everyone, however, as it is comprised mainly of minimalistic caricature-style characters. For those with a passing familiarity with the original comic strip, however, Studio Ghibli has captured the characters perfectly. The appearance of the characters reminds me somewhat of Doraemon comics I used to read as a child, or the comic strip by Malaysian artist Lat. One look and you?ll know what I mean. Backgrounds, when they appear, are generally very minimalistic. By minimalistic, I mean that a few straight lines is usually enough to signify the living room. Often, there are not even any backgrounds ? many of the scenes take place on a white background. However, there are times when the visual imagery is very appealing, with a creative use of motifs and changing backgrounds. A scene early on is particularly effective, with various visual metaphors used to illustrate the vicissitudes of family life, from a smooth-sailing yacht to patching a boat in a storm to calm waters with unseen sharks beneath the surface. Fans of Maurice Sendak?s Little Bear television series will find this very reminiscent of the opening sequence in Little Bear. The only criticism I have consists of one or two sequences where it was a little obvious that they had rotoscoped live actors a la The Last Express. But these are far and few in between. Overall, an impressive technical and artistic effort.
Three Japanese audio tracks are included, a stereo and a 5.1 DD, and a 5.1 DTS track. Dialogue is very clear, which is important because most of the film involves talking. There is not much directionality, but again, there is no call for it here. The score is usually unobtrusive, rather being an effective counterpoint to the events on stage. The theme song, composed and sung by Akiko Yano, is at the same time light, warm, funny, touching and just a little nostalgic ? a perfect representation of the film. Subtitles are available in Japanese, English and French. For the purposes of this review, the English subtitles were used, and they were very professional and appropriate at all times. I glanced at the French subtitles a few times, and found them to be also of a high standard. The text was legible and unobtrusive, and no timing issues were observed.
There are several extras included, most notable of which are the comic strip and story board comparisons. There are also a few animated rough cuts (before coloring), that give you an idea of what this show looks like in its raw form. There is also a short segment on Studio Ghibli, basically presenting short trailers for its past films, including Porco Rosso, Totoro, Kiki?s Delivery Servic, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds, Princess Mononoke, and others. Note that there are no subtitles on any of the extras.
The film tells no definite story, but instead examines the daily lives of the Yamada household. Office worker Takashi Yamada lives with his wife Matsuko, his mother Shige, and his two children, eldest son Noburo and youngest daughter Nonoko in a two-storey house in Japan. Oh, and how could I forget their dog Pochi? Pochi doesn?t do much, but you get the impression that he?s the only sensible on in the family sometimes ;). After the amazing opening sequence, followed by a wonderfully inventive comparison of marriage to a two-man bob-sledding partnership, the film is mainly composed of short skits involving the Yamada family?s interactions with each other, and more rarely, outsiders. The skits are generally light-hearted in nature, such as the family leaving little Nonoko behind in a shopping mall (comparisons with Home Alone are inevitable), or a delightfully funny duel for the remote when two different shows are on television. These vignettes are usually quite short (one in particular is only 31 seconds long), and none overstay their welcome. Ocassionally, there are one or two more serious or sad sequences, much like in life.
The individual members of the family are all ?characters? in the most entertaining sense of the word, but they all appear used to each other?s idiosyncrasies. This disgruntled resignation forms much of the humour in many of the skits, making the family a joy to watch in action. Their portrayal is always funny but not farcical, insightful but not introspective, light but not shallow, and thoroughly entertaining. Scattered throughout the film are readings of haiku by noted Japanese poets, that evoke feelings of nostalgia, and lend an air of poignancy to the proceedings. Although quite steeped in the Japanese tradition, the show possesses a universal human appeal that makes it accessible to audiences of all ages and nationalities ? a rare achievement, but one that Studio Ghibli does so well. The movie does begin to drag a little towards its end (it is 104 minutes long), but only the most impatient or inattentive will want to stop watching until the ?end?.
In conclusion, My Neighbours the Yamadas is a thoroughly enjoyable film that is accessible to everyone, and is a welcome change for any anime fans seeking something a little different. Even dub-only fans may find something to like here, as the voice acting is excellent, and the dialogue usually concise and funny. The price is also very reasonable for a Region 2 theatrical release. Get this disc, as it is unlikely to make its way to Region 1. Highly recommended.
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround,Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround,Japanese DTS 5.1 Surround,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Japanese Subtitles,Storyboard Development,Animated Pencil Sketches,Trailers (theatrical and TV),Booklet
Kenwood DVF-3030 Multi-Region Player, Grundig Xentia 16:9 82cm Flatscreen TV, Sony HTK-215 DTS & DD 5.1 sound setup