Only Yesterday

Only Yesterday (film)

is the sixth film by critically acclaimed director Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) and produced by Studio Ghibli. It is based on the manga of the same title by Hotaru Okamoto and Yuko Tone. It was released on July 20, 1991. The ending theme song is a Japanese translation "" of Amanda McBroom's composition "The Rose."

Only Yesterday is significant among progressive anime films in that it explores a genre traditionally thought to be outside the realm of animated subjects, in this case a realistic drama written for adult, particularly female audiences. In spite of its subject matter, the film was a surprise box office success, attracting a large adult audience of both sexes.


In 1982 Taeko is 27, unmarried, has lived her whole life in Tokyo and now works at a company there. She decides to take another trip to visit her elder sister's in-laws in the rural countryside to help with the safflower harvest and get away from city life. While traveling at night on a train to Yamagata, she begins to recall memories of herself as a fifth-grade schoolgirl in 1966, and her intense desire to go on holiday like her classmates. During her stay in Yamagata, she finds herself increasingly nostalgic and wistful for her childhood self, while simultaneously wrestling with adult issues of career and love. The trip dredges up forgotten memories, the first stirrings of childish romance, puberty and growing up, the frustrations of math and boys. In lyrical switches between the present and the past, Taeko wonders if she has been true to the dreams of her childhood self.

While mostly realistic in its depiction of Taeko, the expressionistic influences in Takahata's work are often marked by scenes where a character's imagination comes to life on screen. After Taeko encounters her first love, she turns and run up an invisible staircase towards the sunset and swims in the sky. The scene ends with her gently descending on to her bed, then cuts to an outside shot of her house where a giant heart emerges from her window. These expressionistic sequences run counter to Takahata's realistic storyline, but are consciously used by the director to transition back and forth from reality to the unreal world of animated fantasy, leveraging the advantages of animation in order to develop the character.


Film Notes

The story takes place within the Takase district of Yamagata, Yamagata. The Takase Station of the JNR Senzan Line is featured prominently; Though it has since been rebuilt, the scenery remains mostly unchanged. During the course of the film, characters visit prominent locales, including the resort destination of Mount Zao.

In the U.S., the cable channel Turner Classic Movies aired Only Yesterday on Thursday, January 26, 2006 (in the original Japanese with English subtitles) as part of its month-long salute to Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

Unlike the typical anime style, the characters have more facial muscles and expressions. Because of this, dialogue was recorded first (usually this is done after the animation is completed) and the animators fit the dialogue to the characters, resulting in more believable and realistic lipsync and facial expressions. Only Taeko's childhood past (which has a more typical anime style) was animated before the voices were recorded.

Those scenes set in 1966 with the 10 year-old Taeko are taken from the source material. Takahata had difficulty adapting the episodic manga into a feature film, and he therefore invented the framing narrative wherein the adult Taeko journeys to the countryside and falls in love with Toshio.

To date this is the only Studio Ghibli film released outside Japan to not feature an English dub, but it does still feature subtitles.

There is a repetitive Hungarian theme in the film, using pieces of music such as 'Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 7' in a scene where Taeko is eating lunch, and making references to Hungarian musicians when she is in the car with Toshio.

Released Dates

  • Germany - Released on June 6, 2006, under title of Tränen der Erinnerung (Tears of Memory) - Only Yesterday (Universum Film).
  • Australia - Released on 11th of October (Madman Entertainment).
  • UK - Released on the 4th of September 2006 (Optimum Releasing).
  • USA - According to an announcement made by Pixar and Disney executives after the Howl's Moving Castle premiere in 2005, plans to release Only Yesterday in the US have been "shelved indefinitely". Though no real details were given for the shelving, some commentators have speculated that Disney felt that the film was incompatible with Disney's image as a producer of family films (the film includes a family bathing scene set in a bathhouse, and a scene in which schoolchildren immaturely discuss menstruation), and were worried that its release might attract negative attention. Nevertheless, many fans have petitioned for a DVD release in the United States, and the film is currently ranked as the number three most-requested DVD release at the TCM website (and has ranked as high as second) . In North America, the English-subtitled DVD is available from Canadian sources.

Notes & References

External links

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