While it has a title that goes so far as to have a blurb on the front giving you the correct pronunciation, I doubt you’ll find a movie as charming and heartwarming as this outside of the Ghibli releases.
What They Say:
The story is about a young girl named Hiromi Nozawa and her dog, Junkers (pronounced Yoon-kers). Hiromi is having troubles at home mainly because of her parents wanting to separate. As she is fighting the loneliness and sorrow which is tearing her apart………Junkers trys to comfort her because unlike any other dog….he can talk and grant her 3 wishes.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. Both tracks have standard stereo mixes that come across quite well here, though the English track is louder than the Japanese one. There are some nice subtle moments of forward soundstage directionality in a few areas, but mostly this is a dialogue driven movie and that flows through nicely here without any problems or dropouts.
Originally released in 1995, Junkers get a great looking anamorphic transfer here in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The coloring of this film is done in a watercolor style that gives it a very light and airy feel that works quite well here. The backgrounds look fantastic and mesh well with the character animation. Outside of a few areas of very light cross coloration, I couldn’t find anything to nitpick with this transfer.
Probably the weakest part of this release is the cover art, where it simply has a scan grab of Junkers sitting in the middle of the street and a word balloon with his name being properly pronounced while the logo takes almost half of the cover above him. I can imagine passing by this easily after chuckling at it if I came across it in the store. This is one of those unfortunate releases that doesn’t have a reversible cover with the very Ghibli-esque artwork either. The back cover provides a better-looking shot from the show while providing a simple summary of the premise of the show. Basic staff listings and the usual disc features are included here, though I’m surprised that no mention of the anamorphic widescreen transfer is here except for the concept that it’d scare away parents (bah – parents of kids today are not my parents!). The insert has a cute cover that showcases a variety of Junker’s shots that opens up to a two-panel spread that has a message from the original author, Naoto Kine. The back of the insert has the full production credits translation and bilingual cast listings.
The main menu is a nice piece that takes part of the show’s animation of a little picture box being opened and zooms in on the picture section, which is then substituted for various images from the show playing set to some nice instrumental music. Moving to submenus is nice and fast (and fun to move the little paw print around at that) with good access times and quick menu loads.
There’s a small but good collection of extras here. There’s a nice little art gallery showing off various aspects of the film. The interview section has pieces with both Naoto Kine and Junichi Sato, both running between five and ten minutes or so, and each giving some interesting insights to the film and its origins. Also included is the original 3-minute pilot film used to help sell it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Prior to this film actually being licensed, I had never heard of it before and that seemed to be the general reaction of many. Junkers Come Here, originally released in 1995 and directed by Junichi Sato (of Sailor Moon fame at the time, among many other series since then) and based off of two original novels written by Naoto Kine, is the kind of tale one would ordinarily imagine being adapted by Studio Ghibli. I generally dislike mentioning other shows or creators when doing a review, rather I’d prefer to keep the focus on the team and people actually involved. But with Junkers, it feels so much like some of these other films that the casual mention will go a long way in covering what it is.
The story focuses around young sixth grader Hiromi Nozawa. We’re given the impression that she’s your typical kid growing up in modern Japan. She’s decent at her studies; she loves her parents and has some good friends. Add in a couple of boys at school who pick on her (obviously because they like her) and you paint the normal backdrop. Also, note that her parents are both very busy professionals, her mom is in hotel management while her father is a director that gets overseas calls a lot, and you get an even clearer picture.
Her home life though certainly isn’t bad. There’s a daytime housekeeper in the slightly middle-aged Fumie, a very pleasant and outgoing woman who loves doing what she does. There’s also Keisuke, a college student who lives there and earns his room and board by tutoring Hiromi in various areas of study to help her keep an edge. And yes, Hiromi obviously has a crush on this attractive college kid. Last and certainly not least is her Schnauzer named Junkers, pronounced “Yoon-kers”. This is a fun and energetic little dog that’s not exactly afraid of cats but finds them difficult to deal with.
Oh, and he talks.
Junkers is perfect in this role as a dog that talks and offers some advice to Hiromi, but he’s often just as unsure as she is about things. He likes reruns of period samurai dramas (and apparently bad ones at that) and is very much the faithful companion of Hiromi. But he worries about her and her feelings about Keisuke. Your impression of Junkers (and Hiromi as well) will definitely depend on which language you watch it in. Each gives a solid performance, but each brings different nuances to the roles that can subtly change their meanings.
Of course, any movie must have some form of conflict, or what the point of it all is. With this film, the story eventually starts revolving around the family life of Hiromi and the plans for her parents to get a divorce, not understanding that Hiromi isn’t quite as grown up as she appears to be from the outside. All of this plays out well and provides a very interesting and heartwarming and heart-wrenching story. There are a lot of great layers throughout the film provided by the cast; from Keisuke and the troubles he has with his own fiancé to Junkers fun encounters with cats or the crossing guard woman who he accidentally speaks in front of once. While there is a central plot to the film as it moves forward, much of the enjoyment of the film simply comes from the day-to-day life of Hiromi and Junkers.
The animation, from the characters to the backgrounds, is great. With a lot of the backgrounds being repainted pieces from photographs or other real-world landmarks to interiors that are richly colored, this is the kind of film that really pushes that real-world feel and reminds us of the richness around us. The character animation is nicely fluid and very detailed while also going the route of actually making the characters look Japanese. That’s a nice plus in itself. Junkers design is really nice too, and by using the Schnauzer they’re able to really pull the human facial elements from that particular breed out nicely and it works well. As Kine mentions at one point, it almost makes him look like the traditional visage of God, or at the least the old wise man master who nods sagely with each pronouncement.
Junkers Come Here was a real treat and a surprise. I sat down to watch a few minutes of it to get a feel about it so I could decide on the best time to watch it, making sure it was something my daughters could see. During my original watching of it, I spent the next two hours watching it late into the night and again the next morning with them. We’ve revisited it over the years as they’ve gotten older and it still holds its charm and is a kind of fun little evergreen title to dig into.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Release Date: August 19th, 2003
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.