I have loved Studio Ghibli for many years I remember starting with Princess Mononoke (though Kiki’s Delivery service was seen earlier it hadn’t been connected to Ghibli at the time). Disney had started to acquire the rights to their films and I went on the way to viewing and hoping to collect them all. Disney Dashed my hopes though by going through the Ghibli Catalogue and slashing titles they deemed “inappropriate”. This had me sad that some titles would never make it to the rest of the world. I managed to scrounge a few of these titles like “The Ocean Waves” I was blown away when I first got hold of this film. It had been in my collection only due to being a Chinese Bootleg for years. Now GKIDS has produced a proper American release for this wonderful film so now I have had the honor of reviewing this classic again.
Taeko is a 27 year old woman who is a gainfully employed single woman living in Tokyo. She has decided that for her vacation this year she is going to volunteer working at a farm in the countryside. This trip triggers memories she had thought long forgotten of her 10 year old self and her time spent growing up with her family. Through this experience she gains new insight into her present life and finds what she would want to do in the future.
This film has quite a few layers of beauty. The colors are far more vibrant and it worth the blue ray treatment. The backgrounds are pieces of art that you could enjoy on its own transporting yourself to the Japanese countryside. The animation is also quite fluid making it an easy watch. The music is another high point of this series. It kind of has a combined fluidity felt in European and early Japanese cinema. These musical notes combines with some nostalgic elements give an extra layer of feeling. The Japanese cover that they did in the end combined with the visuals brought a tear to my eye. Finally we get to the main aspect where this piece shines, the story. This story really holds on to you from beginning to end. You get to have more respect for Taeko’s adult self, seeing her through the eyes of her 10 year old self. In the end you are hoping for her to find the self-actualization she is craving and eventually finds throughout her journey of the mind, body and soul.
Though This is probably my second favorite film of all time there are a three pieces I have a beef with (one of which only comes from the new dub). Lets start with the Dub. The English dub is well acted so I only have a minor beef with the casting of characters. I mean some of the accents almost felt as comic as “Molly” from sailor moon. That being said it is a minor issue and easily dismissed. The second aspect is the pacing. The film has an excellent story with excellent characters but the pacing makes the story drag a little at times. The final issue is why this film doesn’t get perfect ratings from me which is the art style. For the longest time I thought Taeko was in her 40s because every time she smiled she has a ton of wrinkles looking like she is starting to show the effects of old age. My first clue to this was when she was talking to a teenage character and she smiled revealing that same 40-50 year old face. I decided after that point to look up the age of the main character and found that she was 27! I mean this is an excellent film in many aspects and the other issues are able to be ignored but this one bothered me the entire film…sigh.
In the end Only Yesterday just falls short of being a flawless masterpiece. It still easily in my mind is better than any of the other Ghibli films I have seen (and I have seen many). Disney tried to shelve this title for good due to a scene where the girls are talking about periods for the first time and the boys being boys were acting ignorant about it (no this isn’t the first scene in Carrie). I am glad that Disney’s prudishness did not prevent us all from getting to see this wonderful film.