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Studio Ghibli Challenge #6: Only Yesterday (1991) Anime Movie Review


Only yesterday movie poster

100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes? That's truly something


Considered one of those anime movies that went beyond the norm of animation because of its realistic drama.


Only Yesterday was directed by one of Studio Ghibli's founders, Isao Takahata. It follows the story of 27-year-old Taeko Okajima, who works and lived her adult life in Tokyo. She decides to take another trip to her hometown in Yamagata to help in her family's safflower business. On her way home, she recalls several instances in her childhood such as falling in love for the first time, struggling in their math lessons, her first period, how she feels isolated because her parents always pays attention to her older sister, etc. She realizes that those moments in her life made her who she is today.


Instantly what you will notice in the film are the back-and-forth past and present style of storytelling. It may get quite confusing especially the since some characters were not present in her childhood and adult life. But I think that style fits the story. It's not linear in a sense but at the same time, it is satisfying.


The movie itself is very lightly toned. However, there are many moments especially when she speaks about her relationship with her parents. It's quite frustrating and at the same time relatable. Speaking of relatable, the whole plot is very much relatable in a sense. It makes you look back on your past self and maybe just like Taeko, your past defines who you are today. The film itself is like a jar of nostalgia.


However, the lesson in this movie I think is not to dwell on the past but to accept, learn and move on from it. And honestly, Taeko is like each and every one of us. She represents who we are as a person and how we approach our life's problems. That more often than not, the problem lies on our self. And we adapt to the changes that are happening to our environment.


Taeko and her sister

The animation, on the other hand, is also quite realistic. How they animated and designed the characters is really like the real thing. Even the cheekbones look real. Also, the Takase Train Station featured in the film has long been renovated but the scenery is still almost quite the same. I am pretty sure if I will be given a chance and visit the place, this film will be the one that I will remember.


But the real maestro here is the director, Isao Takahata. Fresh from directing a sad classic, Grave of the Fireflies, he really did a marvelous job here. I am not sure if this is his magnum opus but if it is, I won't complain.


Adult Taeko meets her younger self

However, I also do understand that out of all the Studio Ghibli films this film might not be someone's favorite or in their top 10. It may be because of its uniqueness and covering a non-traditional style of Japanese animation. Or if someone views this movie as something to watch a few times in order to fully grasp the story. Those are valid points honestly. But I still give this film a two-thumbs-up for its uniqueness and simplicity.


Even though the movie was released in 1991 in Japan, in the United States it was only featured in 2016. I hope the new Studio Ghibli Films are released almost the same day as Japan.


This film definitely is one of a kind but in a good way. No, this film is legendary.


I will give this film a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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