My Neighbours the Yamadas comes to UKBlu-ray courtesy of Optimum Home Entertainment with a 1080p resolution, encoded using the
AVCcodec and framed within a theatrically correct 1.85:1 aspect ration. The disc itself is Region B locked.
The visuals have always been desaturated, and those expecting the colour timing to have been tweaked as has been the case with some Ghibli Blu-rays will be sorely disappointed – the rest of us can breathe easy though. The colour palette remains as soft, gentle and steeped in pastel shades as it ever was. The full spectrum of watercolour hues are perfectly recreated on this transfer with the salmon pinks and washed out lemon yellows appearing almost edible in their bon-bon-esque goodness. The use of haphazard watercolour filling in, the type whereby if you go over or don’t even get near the demarcation lines doesn’t matter, makes the purpose of colour bleed detection less than helpful but I’d stake my hat on there being none whatsoever. The light gradation of sweeping brushstrokes and ebbing colour are also impervious to banding.
Linework in Ghibli features is often on the chunkier side but Yamadas takes the biscuit – its ability to recreate fat pencil strokes complete with crumbly wavering edges is a joy to behold but a nightmare to try and pick up aliasing within – try as I might to get so much as a hint of it, I couldn’t spot a whisker out of place.
The delineation is sharp and remains so, with no rogue soft shots joining the mix, the result of this sharpness is an accentuation to the clever faux 3D layered paper effect whereby pans seem to pass over two separate fields of the image giving the illusion of depth and motion through perspective.
I’d struggle to find anything negative to say about this transfer, perhaps there’s a hint of telecine wobble but that wouldn’t simply be picking hairs, it would be identifying hairs on a gnat’s backside. This image looks absolutely wonderful, from the stable Crayola shades to the pin sharp aliasing-less linework, it is a thing of beauty.
There are two audio options – English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. I opted for the original language track.
Hardly a whiz-bang-fire affair, but don’t be fooled that because of a lack of audio cues to play off My Neighbours the Yamadas is any slouch in the surround sound department. Rears are almost constantly used when anything is happening, drip feeding elements of the score through or even some discreet effects. It isn’t the most immersive aural environment but you can’t blame that on the lossless track that works well with the tools its given, particularly during some of the more magical dream moments.
The layering of voices and sound effects from all angles during the Que Sera Sera number, with fireworks going off in different directions, is a great example of the stratification still on offer from a work tethered so often in the mundane. The great recreation of Akiko Yano’s score owes much to the range offered by this track, and the scenes where the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra come in really spring to life with great buoyancy. Brass instruments cut through the soundscape well in pitch and even the muted period theme tune of the Masked Rider daydream segment has an authentic subdued but cutting tone to it.
The centre channel copes with everything from the guttural grunts of Takashi and the shrill panicking of Matsudoto the microphone effects of the wedding speeches.
The LFE could have had a bit more poke to it, giving instances such as the fireworks a kick and the front soundstage could have been a tad wider, but there is little else to complain about in a track that offers surprising directionality and a great recreation of a catchy score. The layering of Matsuko nagging Noboru to study, emanating from all five channels, has never sounded so good.
344 double pages, each consisting of five pics telling the story from top to bottom. A great indication of how a few of the characters were drawn by the artists with slight differences and just how close the final film was to the early artwork.
NTV Special – 1080i – 45:25
Billed as “15 Months Exclusive Coverage: Secrets of My Neighbours the Yamadas”, this Japanese TV special gives a fairly exhaustive look at the production, from interviews with Takahata and Miyazaki to clips of the various sound recording sessions and production meetings.
Behind the Microphone – 1080i – 5:30
A short piece covering the recording of the James Belushi led American dub with the usual chat from the cast about what drew them to the project and their thoughts about the characters they are portraying.
TV Spots – 1080p – 2:03
A few short promos from Japanese television.
Original Japanese Theatrical Trailers – 1080p – 13:13
Far from being repetitive marketing material, these show some excellent scenes in their early stages prior to being filled in with colour and refined.
Studio Ghibli Collection Trailers – 1080p – 9:42
Trailers for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, Laputa: Castle in the Skyand Spirited Away.
For those not in the Blu age yet.
My Neighbours the Yamadas is a somewhat harder sell than many Ghibli films, being removed from the planes of magical elements and globe-trotting adventures, but invest the time to scratch beneath the primitive looking surface and what you’ll discover is a story that is appreciable by all due to its universal themes, studied humour and sheer heart.
The region B locked disc has simply sublime visuals that perfectly recreate the watercolour aesthetic as if you were watching the invisible man draw each frame before your eyes. Audio is all it could likely have been, with some nice discreet effects, pitch perfect centre channel and a capable treatment of Akiko Yano’s music. The extras aren’t copious in number but they delve into all the important elements of the production as well as giving viewers a look at the storyboards and some rare Japanese marketing material.
If you’ve fought a losing battle trying to convince others that the Charlie Brown cartoons aren’t just for kids, enjoy the mixture of observed and zany comedy and have a predilection for quirky Japanese animation, My Neighbours the Yamadaswill certainly be welcome guests in your home.
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