My Neighbours the Yamadas follows what is intended to be a typical middle-class family in Japan on a series of misadventures. It is both hilarious and heartbreaking and you can laugh and cry in brand new shining quality as it this heart-warming movie released on Blu-ray this year.
Visually, My Neighbours the Yamadas falls far short of the Studio Ghibli classics, but what it lacks in colour and depth visually, it makes up for in story and character. This is not a linear plot, but a series of vignettes which tell a larger story, each vignette tells us something about our characters, society, or us as viewers, and what starts out as a vaguely difficult-to-follow narrative, becomes second nature almost immediately. Our characters and settings are so well-thought-out that it doesn’t matter that the narrative isn’t seamless, we care enough to want to see their adventures through to the end, whether linear or not.
One of the downsides to this Blu-ray is the English-speaking version. Whilst the dubbing is not some of the worst we’ve seen, the chosen voices don’t entirely suit our vision of the typical middle-class Japanese family. James Belushi isn’t exactly the stereotypical Japanese father, and although dubbing of this kind is often seamless, here it seems a little odd. For me, the movie benefits greatly from being watched with English subtitles.
Whilst it is wonderful to see this gorgeous story brought to a wider audience, the necessity of Blu-ray here somewhat evades me. This is the first movie 100% digitally produced by Studio Ghibli, without any hand-drawn cells. Progress is rarely a bad thing, but with the story being so progressive in terms of portraying Japanese society, the necessity to technologically use this movie as a stepping-stone is almost void. This is a wonderfully told tale, but I feel that the viewer is missing out on an important experience here. Without any cells being used, the colours and vibrancy we expect from Ghibli are entirely lost, which removes some of the wonder from the film. Certainly, this new Blu-ray release does nothing to resurrect this loss of vibrancy.
It is a film which has been created with such passion and heart that it is impossible not to fall deeper in love with it each time you watch. It is arguably the most humorous of the Ghibli releases. Whilst Miyazaki might be the most well-known Studio Ghibli alum due to his stunning visuals, Isao Takahata here proves himself to be the king of integrity in anime as he presents Japan to the world with a brand new, previously unseen universal vocabulary which speaks to the viewer’s heart. An unforgettable journey.
# Language Japanese
# Subtitles: English
# Number of discs: 1
# Classification: PG
# Studio: Studio Ghibli
# DVD Release Date: 9 May 2011