Only Yesterday (1991)
Whenever we hear something about Studio Ghibli, we instantly think of the name Hayao Miyazaki as the master of story-telling. Yet some fans even forget that this wonderful Japanese animation studio has another great master. He may be lesser known than Miyazaki-sama, but his ability to tell stories is nothing short of brilliant. Isao Takahata is one of the studio's co-founders and while his films were released in the United States, people often associated his name with the emotionally heart-aching Grave of the Fireflies
. While his other films, such as Pom Poko
and My Neighbors the Yamadas
got a US DVD released. Unlike Grave of the Fireflies
, which has the air and power of a Schindler's List
-esque, these two films were more light-hearted and comical.
But then last year, Isao Takahata's name became more well known when Disney translated and released the English dubbed version of his wonderful The Tale of Princess Kaguya
. Yet, there was still one more of his film that went unnoticed until now. Only a few weeks ago, Only Yesterday
remained the only Studio Ghibli film that hasn't been dubbed by Disney. First released in 1991, this film was based on the manga of the same name and it tells a story about a woman named Taeko Okajima (Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
Daisy Ridley), a Tokyo office worker planning to take a 10-day vacation. Her sister's husband owns a farm in Yamagata, and since she had such a nice time there previously, she wanted to visit her distant in-laws again. Throughout her trip, Taeko suddenly remembered her childhood back in 1966 and the audience would occasionally see the young Taeko (Alison Fernandez) in the the 5th grade following her around. Taeko doesn't understand why her mind drifted back to her 11-year-old self or why this 5th-grade version of her followed her to her trip, bot Taeko remembered both the times that were good and bad for her.
Needless to say, Only Yesterday
isn't a Studio Ghibli film about fantasy and wonder, not even the kind where children discover wonderful and magical things like in My Neighbor Totoro
. But who is to say that Only Yesterday
isn't magical in itself? Hayao Miyazaki may be the master of taking his characters' stories off the ground, but Isao Takahata is the man who grounds them and still able to make them interesting. Seriously, this man can even make a scene where cutting a pineapple is interesting in this film! There is even a scene where Taeko is picked up by one of her brothers-in-law's second cousins, Toshio (Slumdog Millionaire
's Dev Patel) in Yamagata and they simply talk about life, farming, and harvesting safflowers for nearly ten minutes. While scenes like this may be too slow for children, it is nonetheless quite realistically engaging for older teens and adults to watch.
I'm very surprised that new-coming British actress Daisy Ridley who just made her biggest debut as Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens
last month was able to don an American accent for the English dubbed version of this film. Another great surprise is casting Indian actor Dev Patel as Toshio's, Taeko's love interest. Throughout the film, Taeko reminiscent about her childhood in 1966 Japan. Some were quite comical when it comes to dealing with school and family. During that age, the 5th-grade-Taeko was a selfish brat who didn't do well in school and didn't care. But she does care when girls her age started to experience menstruation bleeding and soon found themselves teased by immature boys as they lift up their skirts, demonizing periods as if it were contagious "cooties". However, other flashbacks were quite sad and disturbing as Taeko is slapped by her father, scrutinized by her mother and older siblings (then again, she did deserved it), and is forced to participate in a semi-pro theatrical endeavor by her cold, indifferent, and strict father. We see that her difficult childhood molded her into the adult we see today.Only Yesterday
shows that Studio Ghibli was will into take chances in making a film that went with a much deeper matter than normal magical fantasy. Like The Tale of Princess Kaguya
, this film shows how a woman tries to function in Japanese society, all the while trying to discover what she truly wants in her life with breath-taking animation and artwork. While Only Yesterday
may have been originally made over twenty-years ago, it's still as fresh as if it was only made yesterday, capturing our hearts. (No pun intended there.) If you cannot find this film in English dubbed, try watching it in its original Japanese with subtitles. I promise it is just as amazing