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Poking Fun at Americans

By Matt Kamen     September 04, 2006

Thankfully for all of us, there are actually some happenings worth talking about this week.

Poking Fun at Americans

Normally, I leave DVD discussions to the end of each column but this week's release of the classic anime movie 'Only Yesterday' a Studio Ghibli film directed by Isao Takahata and released in the UK today by Optimum Asia is a bit more noteworthy than usual. Two things stand out in particular about this release. One, 'Only Yesterday' is one of Studio Ghibli's finest films, a quiet look at a young woman escaping the pressures of Tokyo life to discover herself in the country, while reminiscing about her childhood. It's slow but in a good way, taking the time to tell its story and features soft, beautiful animation easily one of director Takahata's greatest achievements. Two, America won't be seeing this released over there anytime soon. Even though Disney have the rights to the movie as part of their distribution deal, there are no plans to release it in North America, making the UK release one of the few legal ways to own this movie.

Thankfully, Optimum's UK releases of the Studio Ghibli library have been nothing short of fantastic and their Only Yesterday DVD is no exception. In addition to a widescreen anamorphic print of the film itself, Optimum provides full storyboard-to-film comparisons, original Japanese trailers and a making of featurette. Time for American fans to get multi-region DVD players, it seems.


It's mean to poke fun at people with speech impediments, but it's almost second nature for us Brits to gently rib TV presenter Jonathan Ross, whose predilection for pronouncing 'R's as 'W's is practically a national treasure. We love you really, Jonathan.

The lispy host has a public appreciation for all things Japanese and is to thank for bringing anime masterpieces such as Studio Ghibli's works to mainstream attention here in the UK. Starting at 11pm this Thursday on digital channel BBC3, Ross acts as tour guide of Japan for the sofa-bound in the second series of Japanorama. The first episode sees Ross exploring 'kakkoi', or the essence of 'cool' in Japan. Expect at least semi-regular nods to anime, manga and Japanese cinema to pepper the series.

Serene Conventions

There's still almost two weeks to try to register for the Serenity 3 convention to be held at the Thistle Hotel, Heathrow from September 15-17. Guests from Firefly include Sean Maher, Monica Baccarin, Jewel Staite and Mark Sheppard, who played Simon, Inara, Kaylee and Badger, respectively. Also in attendance will be Farscape's Chianna, Gigi Edgley. Starfury's events have been a success in the past and the organisers try to offer more than the usual glorified meet-&-greet sessions a lot of conventions go for, instead adding parties and limited free signings to the agenda.

Expo Expands

The London Expo has added a couple more guests to their list of star attendees, notably Joel Gretsch (Tom Baldwin of The 4400, joining Jaqueline McKenzie to round out that show's main cast) and Ellen Muth, who played the main character of Georgia Lass on the sadly under-appreciated black comedy/drama series Dead Like Me. The organisers are also expanding on the popular 24 panel from their last event, with Louis Lombardi and Glenn Morshower also booked to attend.

New DVD Picks for 04/09/06

Silent Hill

While it was very much a love-it-or-hate-it movie, Silent Hill easily takes the title of best videogame to movie conversion. To be fair, with cinematic travesties such as Street Fighter and Super Mario Bros. to compete against, it wasn't exactly a mean feat, but Silent Hill goes beyond being a good transfer to film; it's also a genuinely scary horror movie. With a good selection of extras, including a making of and commentaries, this is worth snagging for some early Halloween viewing.

Danger Mouse: 25th Anniversary Complete Collection

"He's the greatest! He's fantastic!" You know how it goes... The greatest spy in the animal kingdom deservedly gets the boxed set, anniversary, loaded with extras treatment. The collection contains every episode ever made and is complemented with creator interviews, a look at discarded theme song ideas, interactive games and a plethora of other goodies besides. The set has a slightly high price tag but it's more than justified with the sheer volume and quality of content here. If you don't buy it, you suck.

Robotech: New Generation 2

Manga Entertainment release the final 13 episodes of the original Robotech series in this remastered collection featuring extended scenes originally culled from the adaptation of the Japanese source series, Genesis Climber Mospeada. While light on extras, the picture and sound quality is fantastic and the price is low. A worthy investment for those with nostalgic memories of the show or anyone looking to catch up on the franchise before The Shadow Chronicles is released.

That's it for this week. Thoughts? Comments? Hatemail? Contact me at


Showing items 1 - 4 of 4
snallygaster 9/4/2006 8:30:33 AM
Ghibli's contract with Disney does not permit Disney to edit the movies at all for their American DVD release (which I think we can all agree is a good thing). Given that the movie has a 10 year old girl appearing nude in public bath houses, an open discussion of menstrual periods, and a lesbian character - and given that this is Disney - it should come as no surprise that they will not release it. Yes, it's stupid, and it's 100% Disney. If any other company besides Disney had picked up the American DVD distribution rights, this would not be an issue. We're lucky that Disney released My Friend Totoro, given the scene with the father taking a bath with his two daughters (buy up your copies now before Disney notices the scene and recalls them!).
evilron 9/4/2006 7:14:06 PM
I loved "Only Yesterday." I agree with Snallygaster that Disney will probably pass on distributing this movie to us 'Ami's' due to their smallminded view of the world. We were forced to stop playing Totoro where I work because some idiot complained about the bath scene.
snallygaster 9/5/2006 7:23:42 AM
wrrlykam - yes, the bath scene in Totoro is a very innocent scene. But I'm certain that the suits at Disney did a lot of hand-wringing over that scene before they decided to issue the movie. Consider this: If that scene had been in a movie actually produced by Disney (although it probably would have never made the cut) there would have been soap suds in the bathtub. Mountains of soap suds. I don't envy Disney's position. They are like WalMart in that anything and everything they do gets put under a microscope, especially with their animated features.
evilron 9/5/2006 7:42:40 AM
Wrrlykam- agreed, I cannot imagine anything sexual about the bath scene. I worry about the kind of mind that does see this as sexual. Typicaly we've never been told to stop showing a movie due to violence. The bath scene was also in the original cheap non-disney release that came out a few years ago. Unfortunately it was the F-word(full-screen). My advice as always is to go to and order a non-region DVD player. The cheapest one runs under 20 quid, about $35 american.


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