r#132 – only yesterday

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another post where you’ll find my nitpicking of many anime that I don’t think it’s perfect. Well, no anime is perfect anyway. But don’t worry, for now, the current anime movie we’re going to discuss is not going to be bad reviewed because this is actually a pretty good movie. It is one of the first works from Studio Ghibli produced back in the day, and I think they nailed presenting the movie as it is.

Let me break it down for you, though before that, you may want to watch the trailer first in case you haven’t watched the movie.

script – memories like falling raindrops.

Let me be blunt on this one; the story is very … chill and down to earth, one could say it’s way too chilling. Maybe it really does because it was surprising to have myself watched a movie that has no big game, no suspense, no spectacles, and no awesome plot twist. But the movie is definitely something. The movie has a weight that even though wouldn’t make you awe in awesomeness, it may give you the biggest smile you ever had in a while.

Only Yesterday is the story of Taeko Okajima, a 27-year-old woman who currently working as an office lady for a company in Tokyo, she’s unmarried, and live with an undefined purpose. The snowball starts when she decides to take a break from her daily life in the big city, and take a trip to visit the family of the elder brother of her brother in law in Yamagata.

While travelling at night on a sleeper train to the countryside, she begins to recall memories of herself as a 5th-grade student. It was 1966, and she was very eager to go on holiday like her classmates, all of whom have a family who lives in big cities like Tokyo. From there, the memories of her childhood begin to come back to her, reminds her about so many nostalgic pasts.

And that’s it, that’s the whole synopsis. But I have to give props to the director of the movie, Isao Takahata *rest in peace— who has told me a very good storytelling in this movie. Even with a very simple material, which this one character named Taeko who if I know her in real life, I wouldn’t even have the interest to talk to her knowing how simpleton she is on the outside.

But the narrative is so good to the point where I thought, oh wow it exceeded my expectation; it’s pretty good, it was a pretty good watch. But I know it sounds so contrary to how I just described the movie, so how come a movie is this good when there’s no big game, no suspense, no spectacles, nor any awesome plot twist? Well, the answer to that is because the movie doesn’t even try to do all that, so there’s no reason for us to say the movie has failed to do that because the movie doesn’t even try to do all that.

With that being said, it’s safe to say that the movie is not for everyone. To enjoy the movie the most, you have to become a certain someone, or at least have to be in the mood to watch this kind of movie. For example; I know that Avengers: Endgame is a very hot discussion these days, and I believe a lot of my readers are a fan of the movie … so to put this into perspective; don’t watch this movie in the same day as you watched Endgame, or else you’ll end up very annoyed because Only Yesterday and Avengers: Endgame are two different movies.

Only Yesterday is a movie that, like any other movies from Ghibli, put the theme of nature in the forefront as the heavily discussed subject matter. The only difference this time is the missing evil aircraft or an instrument of death that usually make a lot of chaos, so don’t expect a war of two tribes or the kind of story that will erupt into a climax full of explosions and heroism.

Only Yesterday is a very chilling movie from the beginning until the very end, with a very consistent pace, fortunately. And “no spectacles,” I was totally serious about that. The movie is all about Taeko, her two linear storylines that are being told back to back; her life in 1982 and back in 1966. We explore the life of her through her own flashback and experience as the first-person narrator of the movie.

But even though there’s no complex writing in the making of this movie, it surprisingly still has a plot twist that I appreciate and enjoyed being confronted by it. Not at the end of the movie and barely even in the middle of the movie, there’s that one conversation of which will make you think, oh so that’s why this and that, now it makes sense. The writing is still beautiful and even though it’s written through the idea of coming of age, what the movie heavily presented is the slice of life part of Taeko. It’s a bit of bitter, but full of smile and laughter.

The only drawback of Only Yesterday is the fact that it’s not for everyone, but not because it contains the over the top violence or nudity, but because for some people this movie is a completely plain and boring movie to watch. Even for me, there’s a reason why I was avoiding this movie for so long; it’s because there’s a huge possibility I won’t be able to enjoy my time watching it. To be blunt, my time isn’t that precious but still, I don’t want to waste my time watching a movie that I know I won’t be able to enjoy it. And to be honest, I prefer to watch a complicated anime or explore a story with a horrific tragedy like Berserk or something.

I was having a hard time especially when I watched the first part of the movie. It was the first time I introduced to the slow narrative of Only Yesterday, and by then I thought the movie was so bad since I didn’t know what they were trying to build up. Only at the end of the movie, I realize that Only Yesterday actually never even tried to give me a climatic ending. So it was pretty much my fault expecting something else from this movie.

On the first rewatch tho, which is the second time I watched the movie, I actually enjoyed my time watching it. It’s that one movie that tells you to live in the moment, to just care about the current story that the movie tells. Whilst what I was trying to do in the first watch was understanding the movie from a critic point of view; I was too focused on finding out where the story will lead to and answer the question of whether it’s worth investing my time to this character knowing how the ending will play out.

Turned out, it’s a wrong move, that to understand this one movie, you actually have to live in the moment. Only Yesterday even almost feels like doesn’t have a structure that a movie should have; so there’s no setup, there’s no clear goal, there’s no planning, there’s no act 1 and act 2 … almost none of that. Should have you do live in the moment just like I did, and the movie will come out pretty good. Right then you’ll feel the memories that taste like falling teardrops, it’s bitter and sweet, and that’s about it.

For some people especially if you’re female, Taeko is a very relatable character to follow through. Even her journey as a city girl who sets off for the countryside in Yamagata prefecture is very real at that time of the year, the story and animation are even based on real-life facts. I watched the documentary about the making of this movie, and I found out that Takahata-sensei took 17 of his staff on a trip, rode a bullet train from Tokyo to where the movie takes place only to know what it feels like to be Taeko, they even visit the sorts of nature that Taeko will experience in the movie such as Sunflower farms.


Moving on with the review, the whole movie is the character because the whole story is Taeko’s story, so you may refer this part to everything I just wrote about the writing and the narrative above, because all the characters are as interesting as the story, and they are as good as the story. They are very ordinary though, both Taeko and her story, and what I get from watching the movie is that to have a beautiful life, you don’t have to be a daughter of a rich parents or someone who gets to experience a once in a lifetime occurrence; you can be an ordinary girl and have a beautiful life at the same time.

Undoubtedly there are so many smiles and laughter throughout the movie. But not just that, the second act of the movie introduces us to Toshio, a second cousin of Taeko’s elder brother of her brother in law —I know right, it’s a long, long relative … but that’s the story. From there, Taeko finally has someone to talk and build a conversation about her past.

There is not much we can talk about because like I said, the characters are the whole story; Only Yesterday is all about Taeko. And I have talked about the whole movie a lot, it’s all the same thing about the characters.

visual and arts.

Moving on again, Only Yesterday is probably one of the few movies that you’d be glad to watch it English dubbed. Why, you may ask? Well, Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel are the ones who dubbed our main characters’ voices. It was surprising when I found out that the movie was originally released in 1991, but then received its North American release in 2016 with whole additional new actors behind the characters.

The visual is awesome, there are few moments when I was dead sure that I’m watching a movie from Ghibli. And having to watch the documentary of the making of this movie has also gave me more context to appreciate even more. The only thing that bothers me is not the whole character design, but it’s one decision that portrays the adult characters in the movie especially Taeko and Toshio, that one decision regarding their facial muscles; one detail that always annoys me because it made me see these characters as someones who are older than they should be.

The music is awesome tho, they use often some ethereal Hungarian folk songs of Márta Sebestyén to add this idea of nature in the countryside. The main theme song with piano tunes is awesome as well, it’s really representing the general feeling of the movie.

closing – nesha’s final verdict.

The movie is rated for all ages, Only Yesterday is definitely can be watched by children, but just so you know that one of the main reasons why the movie only neem released for the Western audience since 2016 despite it’s being originally released in 1991, is because the movie touches some aspect of which children most probably won’t understand, or even too early to be introduced to. Only Yesterday is a slice of life story in a way of coming of age storytelling, so as supposedly it also tells about adulthood besides all the awkward sweetness of childhood adventures.

There’s really nothing much to talk about the movie. In the end, it comes back to what I have explained earlier; Only Yesterday is not a movie for everyone. You should be a certain someone, or must be in a certain mood to really enjoy the movie. You can’t just sit and watch this while having your breakfast in the morning, but even if you’re that one moviegoer who gets comfy one night to watch a movie, you can’t watch this without knowing what kind of movie Only Yesterday really is.

But now you have read my review, and know that to understand the value of this movie I had to do a rewatch. What I have to say is that Only Yesterday could be a great movie for you if you’re into this sort of thing … but can also be a bummer if you’re not into this kind of movie. So don’t push yourself to watch this if you think Only Yesterday is not for you. But of course, the movie is from Ghibli and it’s probably worth a watch nevertheless. I’ll leave the decision to you, but here’s my overall score for my own experience..,..

scored 7 out of 10

additional pieces of information.

external links: Nausicaa.net (fan site), Wiki (en), Wiki (jp), .lain, Allcinema, Anison, Syoboy, ANN, and MAL

* this image is available to be downloaded!

Thanks for reading my rambling.

In case you want to read some more stuff like this, do help the blog grow, and help the word spread by hitting that like button and interact with the comment section. You do that and I’d greatly appreciate you for being fantastic. Let me know what you think about this movie, especially if you actually excited about the movie, what part that makes you excited?

Thank you for spending just a little bit of your time here- or I dunno, sometimes I found my writings too long to read. Anyway, I’ll see you again in the next one. I forgot to tell you this in the last review but, “keep watching anime,” and I’ll see you again next time! Bai-bai now~

© written by nesha5971

14 responses to “r#132 – only yesterday

  1. That “one aspect of how they drew the adult faces” will probably improve them for me. I hate it when anime makes adults look like teenagers. The beauty of a fully mature adult is different from that of the kid.

    I was 10 years old in 1966, just like the MC. This should be interesting.

  2. This movie was made by Studio Ghibli but neither written nor directed by Hayao Miyazaki. That explains the sad absence of flying machines. :/
    Did you notice the voice cast for the English dub? Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel are both hot stuff right now but much too young (Patel 1990) or not even born in 1991 (Ridley 1992). So maybe they made a new English dubbed version and maybe even a newly renovated version. That’s why the colours were so strong and crisp?

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