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The 1999 Studio Ghibli animated feature My Neighbours the Yamadas arrives on Blu-ray. Based on a four panel manga comic strip, the movie tells a series of stories about the Yamadas and their many family clashes, arguments and disputes.

 My Neighbours The Yamadas
My Neighbours the Yamadas isn’t the usual visual style of Studio Ghibli’s incredible catalogue but it certainly keeps the same sensibilities and warmth. The visuals generally look like a newspaper comic strip brought to life with the odd bit of artistic flair to make the experience grander and despite the relatively low key approach; the characters still shine with the usual Ghibli greatness.

After the first couple of segments, Yamadas feels an awful lot like The Peanuts; characters discussing their feelings on situations or complaining about their predicament; larger than life reactions and musings over life's day to day challenges. Some of this is quite amusing and there’s a real cuteness to families youngest member Nonoko. The family dynamic is explored well, with straight forward arguments over what TV show to watch to more wild visually stunning representations of the mother and father's wedding speeches and the adventure marriage and children will hold for them.

 My Neighbours The Yamadas
I didn’t really know to expect from My Neighbours the Yamadas and while I feel it would work better as a series of shorts as opposed to a near two hour feature it was quite interesting to see the Ghibli style I love so much in a very different set up.

Video


With the entire movie being essentially hand drawn paint strokes against a paper texture in style it was quite nice seeing the subtle visual tricks to expand the experience. Starting with the paper texture backdrop, you could almost reach out and rub your fingers on it. Then with the paint strokes you can almost smell the ink. It’s a pretty stunning style that really pops in HD.

 My Neighbours The Yamadas
As for the subtler details, pastel colours have the almost water painted feel to form back grounds and some of the computer aided animation adds a real depth to the bigger set pieces. An almost 3D effect occurs with the fly over the family’s town and the segment where Matsuko and Shige fly through different landscapes trying to find their babies has a beautiful mix of different styles and colours.

Despite the stunningly simple visuals the pastel colours and newspaper off-white backgrounds sort of stops My Neighbours the Yamadas from really popping. It has its moments but the visual choices slightly hold the transfer back from being as striking as you’d expect simple back lines on a white background to be. That said, the textures this creates are very impressive.

Audio


For a movie with a relativity simple visual style, the audio is a whole lot livelier. Dialogue is noticeably strong but it’s the music and layering of elements that works wonders. Sweeping musical pieces can feel very powerful in the rear speakers and they have a real knack of travelling over the top of you and subtly filling the room into quite a special affair.

 My Neighbours The Yamadas
It’s quite impressive that you can pick out the elements. The guitar, the piano and the drums all show off individually to form the joy filled score and even the dialogue has a fair few moments that playfully show off. There’s a great bit where Noboru, the families eldest is recounting how his mother always tells him to “Study Harder” and it repeats over and over again layering over itself and really filling out the track very, very well. My Neighbours the Yamadas is low key but it does low-key to great audio effect.

Extras


The storyboard selection is the entire movie over 344 selections. It’s not the usual picture in picture like you’d expect and going through each image is quite tiresome in the basic forward/backwards set up.

 My Neighbours The Yamadas
The ‘NTV Special’ (45:25 SD) is a fantastic documentary. Packed with details and interviews it really gives you all you need to know about the project and shows the Ghibli team at work.

‘Behind The Microphone’ (05:30 HD) looks at the US voice cast that included James Belushi and is the usual Disney stuff of showing the cast doing their recording with the camera at an angle.

There’s just over two minutes of TV spots, a little over thirteen minutes of Japanese trailers (some of which are in storyboard form) and rounding up there are other Ghibli trailers for Nausicaa, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tails from Earthsea, Laputa and the “I Need the Blu-ray of this now!!!” Spirited Away. Lastly there's a DVD copy with the release.

 My Neighbours The Yamadas

Overall


My Neighbours the Yamadas is a delightfully off beat Studio Ghibli project. It’s full of sentimental and humorous stories about family life and is packed full of heart. The disc itself looks and sounds great, it has a nice selection of features and this release is another great treatment of the animation studios fantastic work.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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