Only Yesterday

Only Yesterday

1991, NR, 118 min. Directed by Isao Takahata. Voices by Miki Imai, Daisy Ridley, Toshirô Yanagiba, Dev Patel, Youko Honna, Alison Fernandez.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 26, 2016

Originally released in Japan in 1991 only to end up on our shores during its 25th anniversary, Only Yesterday is a little-seen gem in the crown of Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli. Directly preceded by two of the studio’s most memorable animated films – My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery ServiceOnly Yesterday was helmed by The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’s Isao Takahata, who co-founded Studio Ghibli with partner Hayao Miyazaki. While the latter’s films tend to involve forest spirits, airborne adolescent witches, and Asian mythology, Takahata tends toward a more reality-based tone and story (although the folktale dreamscape of Princess Kaguya departs from that style).

The protagonist of Only Yesterday is Taeko, a twentysomething career office-worker in modern (well, 1991) Tokyo, who takes a holiday to visit the countryside of her youth, which in turn triggers long-buried memories of Taeko’s turbulent teenage years. These and other family and schoolyard melodramas are seamlessly interwoven into the story via flashbacks and narration. While reminiscing, she meets cute with Toshio (Yanagiba), whose family grows bright crimson flowers for use in fabric dyes. As in most other films from Studio Ghibli, there’s a none-too-subtle relationship between the human characters and the natural world outside of the towering Tokyo cityscape. And, of course, there’s also Studio Ghibli’s other recurring theme: that of a strong female character confronting (and usually overcoming) societal obstacles – in this case, the dull toil of the big-city office slog versus all that should have been and may yet well be. Or not, really; longtime fans of Ghibli will recall that not everything works out well for everyone in the studio’s oeuvre. Handkerchiefs should be considered essential for viewing this lovely, overlooked-in-the-U.S. addition to Takahata and Ghibli’s already perfect CV.

Only Yesterday is presented in both subtitled and English-language versions.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Isao Takahata Films
Pom Poko
"Lost" Studio Ghibli tale of raccoons in peril gets long-delayed release

Richard Whittaker, June 15, 2018

The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Stunningly beautiful, Studio Ghibli's latest animated film is a real work of art.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Oct. 31, 2014

More by Marc Savlov
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
Intimate, semi-improvised last night at a dive bar sees delight in the dregs

July 24, 2020

Hill of Freedom
Delicate South Korean tale of love lost and found finally gets U.S. release

June 12, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Only Yesterday, Isao Takahata

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle