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REVIEW: “Only Yesterday (おもひでぽろぽろ)”

March continues to deliver some awesome animated films. Only Yesterday has been out for nearly 25 years originally premiering in Japan during the summer of 1991. It’s one of those Studio Ghibli movies I’d heard of but never got around to seeing largely because it never got a proper release in United States. Thanks to GKids, the same company that brought us Oscar nominated Boy and the World, Only Yesterday finally debuted here in the states this year!

arting-onlyyesterday-01A lot of people not familiar with Studio Ghibli would assume Hayao Miyazaki directed Only Yesterday, but it was actually Ghibli co-founder, Isao Takahata, who also directed other Ghibli films such as Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko and The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

Only Yesterday was a different type of animated film for the time it came out in the early 90’s. For one it was a slice of life that focused primarily on an older female, Taeko (27), and her journey of self discovery while reminiscing about her adolescence of growing up in the 60’s. It ended up being a huge success, and grossing ¥1.87 billion in Japan.

The source material for the film was a three volume 1960’s manga by the name of Omohide Poro Poro (Memories Trickle Down)  by Hotaru Okamoto and Yuko Tone. Isao loved the manga but couldn’t figure out how to translate it to a feature film which is why an older version of Taeko recalling her childhood memories is used as a framing device, and to be honest, it definitely shows.

For me all the childhood scenes were so charming and lovely. Taeko with siblings, family and classmates had me cackling and “awe-ing” all over the place. I found myself not really caring for the 1980’s storyline and just waiting for Taeko to have another flashback.

arting-onlyyesterday-04Lots of reviews are praising how smoothly things flowed between the different timelines, and I just didn’t feel that. I couldn’t see how 60’s Taeko and 80’s Taeko were lining up. It felt disjointed up until she started sharing her one of her memories of being in a play with the people she’d been staying with in this rural town. Knowing that the 60’s portions were based on a manga makes a lot of sense as they felt more cohesive to me.

I really appreciated that they had a whole subplot on these young girls dealing with getting their first periods and the embarrassment of how it’s handled along with their classmates’ reactions. Even today it’s still considered a taboo subject. Other favorites bits I had were definitely when she’d start daydreaming being a celebrity and she’d get these overly large “anime” eyes. It was hysterical!


I also had some issues with how Taeko was animated. I know they added extra lines to her face to be more expressive since the voices were recorded before it was animated instead of afterwards (which is how voice acting is traditionally handled for anime). But because of the simplistic character design that is Ghibli’s standard style with younger characters, the additional eye/cheek lines aged the character drastically, and instantaneously whenever she is laughing/smiling/talking. I kept thinking she was supposed to be in her late 30’s vs 20’s. While not a huge deal, it was really distracting.

arting-onlyyesterday-02I’m glad I watched this now and not while I was younger when I was first getting in to Ghibli films as I feel like I may not have appreciated it as much since it has a fairly slow pace. It does however make me want to read the source material! I do feel people are being generous with their ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Only Yesterday is a good film, no mistaking that, but 100%? Mmm.. not sure I’m on board with that.

I do like how my friend summed up the movie: “It does a good job of making you feel nostalgic for a time or place you never lived in.”

That’s the beauty of storytelling.

[Rating 3/5]
Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (8.5/10 average)
[Based on stats as of March 30th 2016]

Release Date: February 26th 2016 (Limited)
Studio: Studio Ghibli
118 Minutes | Rated PG
Directors: Isao Takahata
Writers: Isao Takahata
Stars: Miki Imai, Toshiro Yanagiba & Yoko Honna

**Gif credit: shishi-gamii

Have you seen Only Yesterday? What did you think of it? How does it stack up against other classic Ghibli films? Comment below or tweet me @teriarchibbles!

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