My Neighbours the Yamadas - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Optimum Asia
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • 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 Neighbours the Yamadas

By Bryan Morton     July 13, 2006
Release Date: April 10, 2006


My Neighbours the Yamadas
© Optimum Asia


What They Say
Join the adventures of the quirky Yamada family - from the hilarious to the touching - brilliantly presented in a unique, visually striking comic-strip style.

Takashi Yamada and his wacky wife Matsuko, who has no talent for housework, navigate their way through the ups and downs of work, marriage and family life. Amongst their brood is the sharp-tongued grandmother who lives with them; a teenage son who wishes he had cooler parents; and a pesty daughter whose loud voice is unusual for someone so small. Even the family dog has issues!

The Review!
Time for something a little different from Studio Ghibli, as we take a look into the life of the Yamada family...

Audio:
The soundtrack for this release is provided in English and Japanese 5.1 versions - I listened to the Japanese track for this review. You would perhaps expect a movie that's so heavily based on dialogue to be quite limited in its use of the surround stage, but there's some good use of effects and placement here that makes full use of the available channels. Everything is clean and clear, with no obvious problems.

Video:
The animation style for the Yamadas is noticeably different to any other Ghibli release I've seen - I was reminded of the old Rhubarb and Custard cartoons in a way. The film was originally released in 1999, and isn't showing any signs of age, although I suspect the animation style used would mask the odd imperfection quite well. Heavy use is made of pastel colours and there's not a huge amount of detail, but that just contributes to the feel of the movie. There were no obvious problems with the transfer.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
Another simple menu for this release, with a shot of the family dog relaxing in his kennel while the snow falls. Submenus are provided for scene select, extras and language setup. There are no transition animations, so it's all simple and quick to use.

Extras:
Not a huge selection of extras on this release compared to other Ghibli releases " just a selection of promotional films and trailers and storyboards.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Meet the Yamadas - Mom Matsuko, Dad Takashi, little Nonoko, her big brother Noboru and their grandmother. Their adventures are quite hard to write about, as there's no real story - My Neighbours the Yamadas is simply a collection of short stories that feature the family, from the kids discovering that their parents weren't always married, to dealing with the local motorcycle gang, and all points in between. Some stories are comic, some are more serious, but they've all got a laid-back slice-of-life feel to them, and the family themselves are a group of people that you'll be able to see little flashes of yourself or your family in.

The first difference you'll notice between this film and other Ghibli releases is in the animation style, which is very simple compared to the lush, beautifully detailed scenes that usually mark out Ghibli films. There's also a distinct lack of the fantastic " while some of the sketches are visualised in out-of-the-ordinary ways (Matsuko and Takashi beginning married life in a flying bobsleigh being a good example), all the events are rooted in the everyday life of a fairly everyday family. The things that happen to them aren't always hugely exciting " every scene is grounded in events that could happen to anyone, but that's part of the appeal, as you find yourself spotting little things here and there that you can relate to or that have happened in your own life. Not all the scenes will "click" with everyone " I did find there were times when I found my attention beginning to wander while I waited for the next sketch to begin " but over the course of the film there'll be something for pretty much everyone to raise a smile at.

I have to say, though, that it was all maybe a little too laid back in places " not in terms of what was happening, but in the way that how it was presented on screen seemed to steal the impact from the stories. I think it's part of the pastel, minimalist style of the animation, but I found that there's a feeling of calmness that comes from the film that just overrides everything else. As an example, even when Takashi and family are running around trying to find Nonoko after leaving her at a shopping centre, the feeling of urgency and worry that parents are bound to have in that sort of situation, and that you can see on the screen, just didn't transfer across to me " I was just a detached observer. Similarly, other scenes that should have been laugh-out-loud funny just raised a smile. I can't honestly say that's either good or bad, as how you feel about it will vary depending on what you're expecting to get out of the film and probably also on the experiences you've had in your own life, but it's something to be aware of.

None of which is to day that I didn't enjoy the movie - I did, but I do think that it doesn't completely live up to its potential, either.

In summary:
For all that it sometimes missed being as funny or emotional as it perhaps could have been, My Neighbours the Yamadas was still very enjoyable to watch. It's very different, especially compared to other Ghibli releases, but in amongst the lives of the Yamada family there'll be something for everyone to relate to.

Features
Japanese Language 5.1,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Original Trailers,Storyboards

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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