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Only Yesterday (Omohide poro poro) (1991)

  Directed by: Isao Takahata
Written by: Isao Takahata
Starring: Youko Honna, Miki Imai, Toshirô Yanagiba
Links: Only Yesterday on the IMDb
Genre: Cartoon/Animation

This movie gets: 7.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Reflective" - a review by pearly

In Only Yesterday, 27 year old Taeko (Miki Imai) takes a trip to the country to work picking safflowers, and her 10 year old (Youko Honna) self tags along, offering up endless memories of her life 17 years ago, memories designed to help her make the best decisions for her current self.

As the film begins, the atmosphere of the animation seems a little blurred (not literally); the backgrounds of the scenes are somewhat lacking, and the young Taeko appears to live in a bit of a ghost world. As the film goes on, and you come to realise that these images are memories of the now 27 year old Taeko, you see that this is a clever technique - the scenes with the young Taeko are all done in this way, whereas the current Taeko is surrounded by the most beautiful and complete country side, with all the colours hitting your eyes. This differentiation in style is subtle, but it helps to orient you as you watch.

As with many anime films, there is an emphasis in Only Yesterday on the natural world. Taeko lives in Tokyo, but when she goes to the countryside for her trip, it opens her up as a person. The message is about the benefits of nature, but it's more than just that. Taeko, on reflecting about her past, realises what's important.

Also, as with many animes, there is a supernatural element, but this is not particularly prominent; there are just little things that happen occasionally. At first, when strange things begin to happen (after a relatively "normal" beginning to the film), it's a little surprising (there were confused laughs going on in the cinema when I saw the film), but you settle into them, and their purpose is usually to show one of the character's inner feelings, which is a pretty cool technique, and used well in this story.

There is also romance in the film, but it is almost an aside to the story rather than its focus. Taeko's life contains both good and bad memories, so there's fun and laughter, as well as confronting scenes. At times, I think that the film moved a little too slowly, and I wasn't sure where it was trying to head; I think I would have appreciated it overall a little more if it was just a touch shorter. For the most part, the film is just relaxed storytelling, with one memory after another, but no clear beginning, middle, and nothing leading up to offer an obvious ending. I was therefore pleased when an ending did present itself at the last moment, and everything was tied up nicely, and it felt like there was a point to the film, one which had, minutes earlier, not seemed to be there.

Only Yesterday wasn't 100% to my tastes, but it's the type of film which I can see people really falling in love with, because it really makes you think about yourself, and maybe even learn something. I loved the scenes with the young Taeko, particularly the pineapple tasting, and the resolution of the argument about the enamel purse, which totally and embarassingly reminded me of myself at an earlier age. And this is one of the film's biggest charms (and this is probably true of many films in the anime genre); the truth of the characters. Much appreciated.

pearly gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Sat 31 Jul 2004

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Reader comments

  1. i love gibhli.everything about gibhli. so, keep trying to make many fantastic movies (again)

    A comment from Yudith on Mon 11 Apr 2005 17:19 #

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