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12 Days of Anime 2020: Only Yesterday

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Yo! Sirius here.

For the 2nd day of the 12 Days of Anime 2020, I will be sharing my thoughts about the Ghibli film, Only Yesterday.

Unlike Kiki’s Delivery Service, which I reviewed yesterday, I haven’t seen this movie at all. I’m pretty much going into this movie blind, which is a bit exciting on my part.

I had heard mixed reviews from different people about this movie, that’s why I never tried to give this one a watch, even though I have a DVD copy of this. Lol. At least through this annual event, I got a chance to see this classic.

Taeko Okajima is a 27-year-old, independent woman who spent her entire life in Tokyo. Looking to unwind from the rush of the big city, she decides to visit her family in the country to help out during the harvest.

On the train there, Taeko vividly recalls her memories as a schoolgirl in the initial stages of puberty, as if she is on a trip with her childhood self. A young farmer named Toshio picks her up at the station, and they quickly develop a friendship. During her stay, Taeko forms strong bonds with family and friends, learning the contrasts between urban and rural life, as well as the struggles and joys of farming.

Nostalgic and bittersweet, Omoide Poroporo takes on Taeko’s journey as an adult woman coming to terms with her childhood dreams compared to the person she is today. (MAL)

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Just like Kiki’s Delivery Service, this movie SERVED. It was so good. I never had high expectations for this, but still, it blew me away.

Only Yesterday was a movie about reminiscing, getting closure, and be able to look ahead to the future.

All throughout the movie, we go back and forth, from the past to the future, as Taeko, the main protagonist, works and enjoys her time in the countryside. I admit, the switch between the past and present was a bit confusing at the beginning, but I was able to catch up and follow through. What stuck with me in the first half of the movie was the fixation of Taeko on her 5th-grade self. I find that really interesting, and it just so happens, Taeko also doesn’t know why she’s fixated on that era of her life, too. But yeah, as the story goes on, you’ll then get to understand why she was “stuck” at that time.

In my opinion, I think she was fixated on that era because it was around that time she had “open her eyes to reality”. As shown all throughout the movie, we got to see her fail, dreams crushed, and literally smacked in the face. It was the time of her life when she learned that not everything goes her way and pretty much, her child-like rose-colored glasses outlook on life was shattered. And everything that had happened at that time, snowballed and made her into her current version of herself, an independent woman who is working in a decent job but doesn’t feel anything fulfillment in life.

Through her time in the countryside, not only she learned the ways of a farmer, but she also got a chance to open old wounds and was able to face them head-on. Be able to grasp what and why those things happened to her in the past and also, be able to understand herself better. In other words, she went through an existential journey in the countryside. Good for her as she was able to find what she really wanted in the end and was able to choose something for herself.

Along with the main character, I also went through the journey. I guess, the fact that my age now is close to Taeko definitely affected my watching, but in a good way. Yeah, most of what she went through are not similar to mine, but seeing her reminisce made me think of my own memories, my regrets, and could have been. It made me realize somethings about myself, too. It’s very cathartic.

There was a part of the movie that I couldn’t move on from. It was an excerpt from a children’s song both Taeko and Toshio were reciting.

…if today is bad, tomorrow will be better
and if tomorrow is bad, then try a little harder…

This quote stuck with me.

Not only it relates much to the movie, but we, the viewers, could resonate with this. A powerful message about looking forward to the future even though we went through something bad. There is always tomorrow and we could still do better tomorrow.

I love it.

Because I watched this movie from my own DVD, the quality is not as superb as Kiki’s. However, the quality never for once affected the amazing animation of Studio Ghibli. Just like Kiki’s, the animation looks so good in this movie. The way the characters and the background were drawn, screams nostalgia. Because of this, it made my watching a lot more heartfelt.

The characters were also very endearing. As I said, Taeko and I had close age so it was easier for me to like her as I understand her way of thinking. I do admit, that her younger version was a bit annoying, but bruh, she was a baby at that time so it’s understandable. Another character I liked a lot was Toshio. He’s a really nice guy and quite driven, too. It was clear from the get-go that he likes Taeko, but I like how he doesn’t hover or push himself to her. He was just there for her and lend his ear and presence to Taeko, which in return, made the heroine comfortable to share her concerns. I love their budding relationship. They were able to build a solid relationship.

It’s clear that they’ll end up together, so I guess…that could be considered a happy ending.

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Overall, I really enjoyed watching Only Yesterday. It gave me a lot of warmth and feels of nostalgia. Also, the movie wasn’t just a journey of the protagonist, but also a journey of self-discovery of the viewer, and I find that really amazing. However, the downside to this is this movie is not for everyone. I don’t think kids would understand the implications and message of the movie, only the people who went through life and I guess, going through mid- or quarter-life crisis could grasp this. Still, this was an amazing movie and I heavily recommend it to people who haven’t watched it yet.

This is definitely now part of my all-time favorite anime movies, that’s for sure.

Anyway, that would be all. This has been Will Sirius and see you tomorrow.

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