Apr 202011


My Neighbours The Yamadas is about to make its Blu-ray debut in the uk and thanks too the good people at Optimum Home Entertainment I’ve been lucky enough to have a sneak peak at this highly anticipated release.

In 1999 Studio Ghibli released their 11th feature film My Neighbours The Yamadas directed by Isao Takahata. Takahata is probably best know for the harrowing Grave of the Fireflies, which still to this day packs more of an emotional punch than most live action movies could ever muster. It tells the story of a young brother and sister whose lives are torn apart by war. The brother is forced by events out of his control into the role of parent to his younger sister. The film is regarded by most as being an animation masterpiece. After Grave of the Fireflies Takahata made Only Yesterday and Pom Poko for Studio Ghibli. The later is significant because it was the first Ghibli film to use computer graphics in its animation process. Takahata saw this as a tool he could use to make a fearure he’d had an idea for for years, My Neighbours The Yamadas.

The film is not a continuous story more a collection of short stories or vignettes that’s theme sometimes ties in with the previous section. The film features the Yamada family made up of Father Takashi, Mother Matsuko, Son Noboro, Daughter Nonoko and Grandmother Shige. The stories are often typical real life like events told in a more styalised way often encorparating elements of dream like fantasy or metaphorical surrealism, the beauty of animation is you can add these more surreal scenes into your story and they don’t feel as out of place as they would in a live action movie.

One of the standout stories features a battle between Takashi and Matsuko who both want to watch differant tv shows. What we are treated to his an almost battle dance as Matsuko tries to change the channel using the remote but is unable to as Takashi keeps blocking the signal using his newspaper. This scene is very typical of the whole film as it displays the everyday nature of the movie. Takahata wanted to the film to show the everyday problems of family life and contain little or no fantasy elements of the Miyazaki Ghibli films.

The technical achievement of this film must not be overlooked. Although its looks a lot less detailed than previous and subsequent Ghibli offers this film actually contains more animated panels than many other Ghibli movies. This was because of the way computers were used to render the lines and colour the scenes. Three panels had to be drawn for each image. This resulted in over 173,000 panels being used, to put this into perspective for some scenes over 2500 drawings were needed.  The idea was to attempt to stick to the roots of the characters who are lifted from the comic strip Nono- chan and try to portray the film as a moving comic book. The inspiration for this style of animation came from a Canadian short Crac (1981) by German animator Frederic Back. My Neighbours The Yamadas would be the first film to be shot using a 100% digital process. As usual music is a very big part of this film and is used to create a feeling of comfort with the story and its soft tone fits the film perfectly. The English language voice cast is provided by John Belushi who’s voice fits Takashi perfectly and Molly Shannon who’s slow muddled tones match  Matsuko’s scatter brain approach to life. Its also great to hear Tress MacNeille using the same voice for Shige as she uses for Agnes Skinner in The Simpsons as it just seems to work.

Most people associate Studio Ghibli with director, writer and animator Hayo Miyazaki and its fair to say he is largely responsible for most of he studios success. However Isao Takahata was (along with producer Toshio Suzuki) is a founding member of Studio Ghibli and its his and Miyazaki’s differing opinions on story telling and animation that have made Ghibli such a diverse and interesting studio. Miyazaki describes Takahata as his “Imaginary enemy” this is due to Takahata’s distaste for fantasy which is a prevalent theme throughout Miyazaki’s work. Miyazaki feels that he is more of an animator who directs movies from the point of view of the animation telling the story where as Takahata, who is not an animator is more of a director who uses the animation to tell his story. Miyazaki says that Takahata’s troubled upbringing in war ravaged Japan has left him twisted and unable to understand fantasy, however this mentality has left him fearless in his approach to both life and work.


The Blu-ray transfer looks amazing and adds a new dimension to one of Ghibli’s more lesser know titles. There are also some good features like an interesting 45 minute Japanese documentary on the making of the film that covers all aspects of the filmmaking process. The storyboards provide an interesting insight into how the film moves from motionless drawings to the moving versions you are viewing via the picture-in-picture facility.ours

For anybody out there who has been put off watching this Ghibli film because of its appearance I assure you when you do finally get round to watching it you will be kicking yourself for having waited this long, I know I  was. Its a sweet and engaging collection of stories that I’m sure you will find similarities or familiarities to your own family life.

My Neighbours The Yamadas double play Blu-ray+DVD is available 9th of May 2011 from Optimum Home Entertainment RRP: £24.99 Best price found £15.93 from www.amazon.co.uk

Special Features – Storyboards (PiP) / NTV Special Program: Super TV 15 months exclusive coverage: Secrets of My Neighbours the Yamadas / Behind the Microphone/ TV Spots / Original Japanese Theatrical Trailers

 Anyway peace out suckers! 8/10

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