Only Yesterday (rewatch)
Posted by martinteller on May 13, 2012
Brimming with the type of wistful nostalgia that the Japanese seem particularly fond of, this anime follows a young woman taking a holiday in the countryside, which triggers a series of memories from her 5th grade experiences. With gentle tones and measured pacing (and in an unusual touch, to the strains of Eastern European folk music), we share in Taeko’s youthful frustrations, disappointments, shames. It’s a lovely, understated film that despite its geographic and cultural specificity reflects a universality of pre-pubescent challenges and attitudes. Takahata’s art style is more natural and realistic than the usual wide-eyed, exaggerated anime look, and except for a few scattered moments could be easily done in live action. But it probably wouldn’t have the same effect, I don’t know if it could capture the same bittersweetness of Taeko’s reminiscences.
The film is actually doubly nostalgic, as the “present day” scenes actually occur in 1982, when the manga it’s based on was written. For the most part, you wouldn’t know it (at least a Westerner like me wouldn’t) but there is a visual reference to E.T. that places it in time. As for the Ozu vibe I mentioned when I first watched it, I’m less certain of that now. Yes, there is a plot point that reminds me of Ozu’s marriage dramas, but I don’t think it’s any kind of direct homage.
As with many Studio Ghibli productions, my enthusiasm has cooled a little since the first viewing. Just a little, though… I still think it’s a marvelous and often touching film. There’s a bit too much farming talk, perhaps. But its sense of introspective melancholy strikes a chord in me, and it was a pleasure to revisit. Rating: Very Good