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Anime / Only Yesterday

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Present & Past Taeko

It's 1982 and 27-year-old unmarried Taeko Okajima works as an office lady in Tokyo. She decides to spend her summer holiday at her brother-in-law's farm in the countryside to help out with the safflower harvest, since she liked going there the year before. She sees it as a great way to get a break from the city life for a while.

During her trip she gets overcome with memories of when she was 10 years old and in fifth grade. In a series of flashbacks, imaginatively interwoven with her current life, a picture forms of her youth, filled with math problems, friends, boys and the typical throes of a girl growing up. It results in her wondering whether she is being true to her own nature in life, since she wanted to be in the country as a little girl already.

Only Yesterday, Japanese title Omohide Poro Poro, was released in 1991 and not only is it the first Ghibli film to be released after the Cold War, but is also a typical Studio Ghibli product— minus the fantastic plot devices that permeate most of the studio's work. It was directed by Isao Takahata and produced by Hayao Miyazaki. The result features lots of lovely scenery, intriguing, believable characters and wonderful, fluid animation.


After 25 years, an English dub of the film was finally released in 2016 by GKIDS, featuring the voices of Daisy Ridley, Dev Patel and Ashley Eckstein.

Only Yesterday provides examples of:

  • Adorkable: Toshio. Clumsy, not terribly intelligent, a little too forward, and generally a bit of a hick, but very friendly and eager to put others at ease. He proudly declares himself a peasant and listens to strange Hungarian folk music.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Taeko can be viewed this way in the eyes of one of her sisters.
  • Arcadia: A major theme running through the movie is the characters' love for the countryside.
  • Art Shift:
    • There's a subtle one between scenes that take place in the present and flashbacks to Taeko's childhood; in Taeko's memories, the characters are drawn closer to Studio Ghibli's typical style and the colors are more faded, while in the present day the characters are drawn more realistically and the colors are more vivid.
    • Advertisement:
    • When Taeko imagines herself on all the magazine covers, she's drawn with more pronounced eyes.
  • Author Tract: The movie is filled with monologues about the importance of Japanese farm life.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • Young Taeko does her daily exercises listening to a "Suny" radio.
    • Averted with Puma; the youthful desire for the same brand-name products that "everyone" has is a plot point, and Puma is the brand in question. The film even cuts to an image of Puma's logo that takes up the entire screen.
  • Call to Agriculture
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Both Taeko and Hirota have problems expressing themselves verbally when meeting in the street.
  • Character Tics: Toshio has the habit to start sentences with a sort of clicking noise (possibly either tongue clicking or him making a "tsk").
  • Christmas Cake: Taeko's mother is annoyed that she turned down a marriage proposal, saying "at 27, that's the best she's going to get".
  • City Mouse: Taeko, obviously.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: In a double dose—once when Taeko was a child, and another at a later age.
  • Cool Big Sis: Taeko to one of the younger girls on the farm.
  • Cue the Rain: It starts to pour down while Taeko is dealing with her biggest inner turmoil.
  • Daddy's Girl: Strangely, although the insufferable part of his strictness stands out to viewers, there are small hints that Taeko is this to him. For example, Taeko places her onions on her father's dish with no fear of scolding (her mother does that scolding) and she even pleads for something she wants while thumping his shoulders to massage them. He refuses her, but even his reprimand is gently stern and rather reasonable, and his older daughters complain he spoils Taeko rotten. The dubbing makes it clearer that despite all his stoicism, his interaction with Taeko gives him an affectionate edge, with him calling her "little bear".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Taeko's grandma occasionally has something to say about the family matters.
  • The Determinator:
    • Little Taeko is determined to enjoy that sour pineapple she was so excited about by forcing herself to eat as much as she could.
    • After getting scolded for trying to give her onions to her father, little Taeko shows a desire to be a better eater by begging her mother not to dispose of the onions.
  • Family Theme Naming: Taeko and her older sister, Yaeko.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Taeko's father rudely cuts short Taeko's acting career by forbidding her to do it, saying "show-business people are no good" and offering no further elaboration.
  • Ghibli Hills: You have to ask?
  • I Choose to Stay
  • Imagine Spot: Loads as Young Taeko, a bit less as an adult.
  • Iyashikei
  • Left Hanging: A lot of storylines in Young Taeko's life just end, without much of a resolution. Justified as they are slices of her life from when she was ten-years old, and in real life such things rarely if ever have a specific beginning, middle and end. Also, the memories are from 17 years ago, of course she would only remember parts that sticked out the most.
  • Love Epiphany: While on the train back to Tokyo, Taeko starts seeing her ten-year-old self and her classmates from back then everywhere, and she realizes her love for the countryside and possibly Toshio too is not just an escape. She decides to return and invokes I Choose to Stay because of this.
  • Magic Realism: The ending, where Taeko's ten-year-old self and classmates seem to interact with real life: they stop the bus and make Toshio stumble.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • Taeko's older sisters invoke this while marvelling about the lovely baths at Atami to Taeko. They are luxurious baths, but they're praising it just to play along with Taeko when really they have no interest in the bathhouses themselves. Being a kid, Taeko is excited over lovely bathhouses.
    • The family, especially little Taeko, makes a big deal out of having a pineapple in their household. Justified in the culture and time period where imported fruit to Japan was very expensive.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Implied. Taeko's dad slaps Taeko because she accidentally ran outside with only her socks on (which was the equivalent of being in your undergarments). Taeko's wails as he watches, his stoic face falling slightly. Taeko questions why it was the first and only time it happened.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: Played with. Taeko really wants a specific bag that her sister Yaeko doesn't use anymore, but Yaeko doesn't want to give it away. She finally gives in and gives Taeko the bag...but Taeko has lost interest.
  • Nice Hat: Toshio sports a particularly nice baseball cap.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Girls discuss their periods. Boys discuss the girls' periods. Girls chase boys with brooms.
  • Parents as People
  • Reaction Shot: Of the family members tasting the pineapple. Most faces are expressing dislike.
  • Real-Place Background: Eidan Marunouchi-sen subway, Ueno Station and the some of the countryside.
  • Scenery Porn: As usual for a Ghibli movie, but this one delivers some lovely scenes involving safflower.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A visual one for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial's E.T. Doesn't make sense in context.
    • The dress Taeko wears as a little girl is very similar to the dress Satsuki wears in My Neighbor Totoro.
    • In one scene, Taeko watches and sings the theme song from Floating Gourd Island, an actual Japanese children's puppet show from The '60s. There are clips from the series featured in the film as well, though with a noticeable filter over them.
    • There are some references made to the Takarazuka Revue; Yaeko is mentioned to have had a crush on an otokoyaku actress, and Nanako says that Taeko could join the revue if her acting career takes off.
  • Shown Their Work: Lots of details from 1960's culture (including The Beatles) and the Subaru R-2 subcompact car.
  • Slice of Life: Taeko's memories are largely ordinary, mundane events in her childhood.
  • The Stoic: Taeko's dad and Taeko's grandma (to a lesser extent).
  • Tohoku Regional Accent: Most of the present day scenes take place in Tohoku's Yamagata prefecture, so it is to be expected. The old ladies have particularly strong ones.
  • Translated Cover Version: The ending theme, "Ai wa Hana, Kimi wa Sono Tane," may be better known to Western listeners as "The Rose," and was a hit song for Bette Midler under that title in 1980.
  • Written Sound Effect: The Japanese title, roughly Trickling-Rain Memories. Taeko's memories of her childhood come trickling back to her in this fashion.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: briefly in the English dub, as young Taeko counts out the sections of the apple she's drawn, her voice actress Alison Fernandez, who is of Mexican decent, can be heard rolling the "r" when she counts to "three".


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