Not being too familiar of the work done by Japanese animators or anyone associated with Studio Ghibli, it was hard to know what to expect when I started watching My Neighbors the Yamadas, but as it turns out, it’s a fairly successful cartoon series from Japan. Created by Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies), the cartoon focuses on a family of four and a grandmother in their day to day lives and experiences.
The film brings the Japanese vocal talent to the table, but appare…tly in a move to make the film a little more palatable to American audiences, the American audio adaptation is done here too. The wife Natsuko is voiced by Molly Shannon of Saturday Night Live fame, and Takashi is voiced by none other than Jim Belushi (According to Jim). Now, both performers are fairly funny individually, but together, doing somewhat Japanese interpretations of characters was a little bit odd. I understand the intent to keep things true to the original, but there was an element to this that just wasn’t that funny.
So I flipped over to the Japanese track and watched the series of vignettes, and rather enjoyed it. If there is an American cartoon to equate this to, it would probably be The Simpsons. Takashi helps his son out every so often, but all he seems to want is peace at home, and the family disrupts it one way or the other. You don’t have to watch all of the cartoons in one sitting, it’s a little better that way. An another quality product from Japanese animators comes to video shelves that deserves watching, because there are some nice humorous moments in it.
Thankfully, the disc includes both the Japanese and English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, which is good, because having to listen to Belushi and Shannon the whole time could have been a fate worse than death. And I recommend anyone who watches this watch it with the Japanese track on.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the disc recreates the muted color palette of the cartoon fairly well. There are still some issues with still frame shots, which is a little distracting, but not from the overall piece.
Disney usually doesn’t pack the extras on too heavy for lesser known kids films, but they go against the grain a little here. Sure, the usual previews for other films are here, but there is a five minute look at the US vocal talent used in the film, and the storyboards for each vignette are included, which are pretty cool.
The cartoon is definitely an acquired taste for some, but I think you could probably get away with having your younger kids see and enjoy it. Again, you would probably enjoy the Japanese audio more, so fire it up for your kids and let them at it.
Special Features List
- Voice Talent Examination
- Sneak Previews