a.k.a. Omohide Poro Poro
Taeko has reached a point in her life where she needs to get away, away from her job, her family and most of all, away from the big city life she has always led. A much-earned vacation to the countryside will alas be stirred by peculiar visitors: her childhood memories. Recollections from fifth grade, a period full of milestones for this young woman, perhaps indicate she has reached another crossroads in her life, sixteen years later. After all, you need to know where you have been to see where you are going.
summary by Kjeldoran
Highs:Unprecedented focus on characters; full of emotions and cultural insights; beautiful artwork
Lows: The two-for-one concept does not work for everybody; music keeps a low profile
“… And the award for best character development goes to…” that’s right, another Ghibli masterpiece signed Takahata Isao (Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbors the Yamadas). A definite pinnacle in character emphasis is reached with Only Yesterday as every single minute is dedicated in giving unparalleled depth to Taeko (this anime’s unassuming heroine).
Slow and steady wins the race; Only Yesterday takes its time making sure everything is just right. The length and pace is nothing to be afraid of. As slow as it might be, this movie is far from boring. Through the eyes of Taeko, the viewer grazes countless themes all related to finding one’s self in Japan during the 1960s and 1980s, thus incorporating a valuable Japanese historical and cultural lesson for hapless foreigners such as myself. Of course, growing up has its worldwide similitude. Many events can reach into anyone’s heart and in some cases, stir up memories of their own.
Since we are talking Studio Ghibli here, one can obviously expect impeccable animation to concord with the touching storyline and compelling characterization. From the landscape’s clean and vibrant colors to the pale, yet engaging, aquarelles used during flashbacks, the art flows smoothly and keeps your eyes wide open. Something as unexciting as the sun’s reflection on water can easily distinguish itself due to the conscientious realism and detail put into it. Music is not as noteworthy as usual; Hisaishi Jo’s magical touch would have possibly helped in decking it out somewhat.
Even though a certain rivalry between the main storyline and the long flashbacks, as they form a plot of their own, can make someone forget he is watching one movie instead of two, those who enjoyed the mellow narrative approach used in Ocean Waves will surely fall in love with Only Yesterday. Just make sure you keep those credits rolling; it is through this ending that one really reaps the benefits of two hours of sheer character development.
Highs: Exquisite artwork; real characters with real problems speaking real dialogue
Lows: Flashback scenes don’t segue smoothly; one grating seiyuu quirk
I can relate to Only Yesterday. While many anime, particularly recent ones, have focused on the lives of teenagers, this gem from Studio Ghibli is very much geared toward an adult audience. It’s refreshing that companies still make anime for us older folk.
One cheap tactic that quite a few anime seem to employ is to bombard the viewer with a plethora of characters with wildly different personalities. It takes a fantastic script and director to make an interesting anime about just one character. Only Yesterday is far more than just interesting; it’s completely engrossing and involving. Don’t let its leisurely pace or golly-gee-down-on-the-farm approach to viewing life fool you. This movie has character analysis and introspection in heaping handfuls. Moments in the film that focus on every day, slice-of-life events are magnified and afforded a great deal of importance and detail.
The emphasis on detail isn’t just given to the story or characters. This might as well be one of the prettiest movies ever in terms of visual entertainment. Not only are the characters animated very intricately, but the backgrounds are lush and awe-inspiring in their beauty. And unlike what others may think, it is the absence of music that shows how powerful this film is. It just goes to show that you don’t need music to create atmosphere.
Aside from a bit too much jumping around between the scenes of adult Taeko and younger Taeko and a very annoying habit (in my mind) of Toshio’s seiyuu to click his tongue before each sentence, Only Yesterday is a sensational allegory of life… and without a doubt one of the finest anime ever created.
Only Yesterday can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.