Sunday, December 22, 2013

Only Yesterday

Only Yesterday, released July 20th, 1991, was directed by Takahata Isao and based on the manga of the same name by Okamoto Hotaru and Tone Yuko. Set in 1982, it follows a young woman named Taeko, as she takes a vacation from work in the countryside, spending her time alongside her brother-in-law's relatives doing farmwork. during this period, she recalls memories of her childhood in 1966, when she was 10.
Taeko leaves trails of nostalgia wherever she goes.
Only Yesterday stands out among the Ghibli films I've seen as the most slow-paced of them all. it is light and cozy, but a bit odd in its subject matter (there are other slice-of-life films from Studio Ghibli, but none this quiet). it swaps between past and present at random, occasionally taking breaks where Taeko muses about farm life. in between this all, a romance starts to blossom between Taeko and her host, Toshio, though it was rather hard to see through the sepia-tinted nostalgia glasses till the end. it can be confusing at times, making references that only Japanese people would really get, but for the most part the flashbacks are completely relatable to those watching (considering we've all been there during those awkward growing up years).
Haven't we all been there?
The visual style, while still recognizable as Ghibli, is different from what you'd expect from a Ghibli movie. it's much more realistic in its facial movements, making for a very interesting (if a little disconcerting) look about the characters. also in contrast to the standard Ghibli mould, the dialogue was pre-recorded (sans the flashback scenes, which were done in a more traditional style) and the faces animated to match, as was done with Akira. in a way, this contributes to the feeling of the passage of time in this movie.
The facial structure is much different than a typical Ghibli movie. It's even more noticeable when they laugh or smile, since more of the facial muscles are shown.
The soundtrack was unique, even for a Ghibli. after all, not many anime can say they've used both traditional scores, Hungarian (and Romanian) folk music, and a Japanese rendition of "The Rose". all of it accents the movie beautifully (well, having "The Rose" at the end was a little weird and even comedic), and really breathed some life into the movie when it was needed. nothing felt out of place, even when things turned Eastern European towards the end of the first third.
They typically reserve the Hungarian music for when they're showing off the scenery.
Further making this movie unique is that it stands as the only Studio Ghibli film to not be released in North America, despite Disney holding the rights to it. it DID make it to television in January 2006 as part of Turner Classic Movies' tribute to Ghibli, but has yet to be released in the US or Canada (it HAS, however, been released in Germany, Australia, and the UK). as such, it only has a Japanese audio track.
Perhaps it's a good thing, since I doubt they could translate this well...
Due to Disney never taking an interest in the movie, one would either have to import it or simply torrent it. as such, it is available from many torrent sites (I sourced it from The Pirate Bay as part of a Ghibli package). the material in the movie is really quite benign, though due to talk of puberty I would recommend this for 12+ (unless you don't mind awkward-as-hell questions from little kids). older people in particular may enjoy this movie, as it may take them back to their youth. if they don't mind subtitles, this could be a way to introduce a parent or grandparent to anime.
As long as they're not uber-conservative, they shouldn't mind this.

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