Overview

Only Yesterday (Omohide Poro Poro) is a romance animé from 1991 and directed by Isao Takahata.

Plot

In 1982, Taeko is 27 years old, unmarried, has lived her whole life in Tokyo and now works at a company there. She decides to take another trip to visit the family of the elder brother of her brother-in-law in the rural countryside to help with the safflower harvest and get away from city life. While traveling at night on a sleeper train to Yamagata, she begins to recall memories of herself as a schoolgirl in 1966, and her intense desire to go on holiday like her classmates, all of whom have family outside of the big city.

At the arrival train station, she is surprised to find out that her brother in law's second cousin Toshio, whom she barely knows, is the one who came to pick her up. 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 (not all of them good ones) — 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. In doing so, she begins to realize that Toshio has helped her along the way. Finally, Taeko faces her own true self, how she views the world and the people around her. Taeko chooses to stay in the countryside instead of returning to Tokyo. It is implied that she and Toshio begin a relationship.

Film notes

Hayao Miyazaki was intrigued by the original Omoide Poro Poro manga, feeling there was value in making a film of the type of story about childhood it told. However, he felt he did not have the talent to adapt it into a feature length film as the episodic format was not easily adaptable, but sat on the idea for a few years while working on children's films like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. Eventually, he brought the concept to Takahata. Takahata's solution to solving the adaptation problem was to invent the framing narrative wherein the adult Taeko journeys to the countryside and falls in love with Toshio.

The story takes place within the Takase district of Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture. The Takase Station (and also Yamadera Station) of the JNR (currently JR East) 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 Zaō.

Unlike the typical Japanese character animation style, the characters have more realistic facial muscles and expressions due to the dialogue being recorded first (the tradition in Japan is to record it after the animation is completed) and the animators fit the animation to the spoken dialogue. Additionally, Takahata had some of the voice actors record their dialogue at the same session and filmed their performances, which allowed him to more accurately capture the vocal ticks and habits of the Yamagata dialect in Toshirō Yanagiba's (Toshio) performance. Only Taeko's childhood past (which has a more typical anime style) was animated before the voices were recorded.

There is a repetitive Eastern European theme in the film, particularly in the soundtrack reflecting the peasant lifestyle still present in the area and the parallels this draws with Japanese rural life. Folk songs from the area repeatedly occur in the film. For example, "Frunzuliță Lemn Adus Cântec De Nuntă" (Fluttering Green Leaves Wedding Song) is a Romanian folk song written by Gheorghe Zamfir and occurs in the film repeatedly during the landscape shots, for example arriving at the farm. Instruments used include the prominent nai played by Zamfir himself, cimbalom and violins. There is also Hungarian music in the film, using pieces of music such as Brahms "Hungarian Dance No. 5" in a scene where Taeko is eating lunch, and making references to Hungarian musicians when she is in the car with Toshio ("Teremtés" performed by Sebestyén Márta & Muzsikás. Adaptation from a Hungarian traditional folk song). The music of Márta Sebestyén with Muzsikás is used in several scenes as well. Bulgarian folklore music is also used in the soundtrack. When Taeko is on the field, one can first hear Dilmano, Dilbero, followed by Malka Moma Dvori Mete. These are typical Bulgarian folklore songs and the lyrics of both are connected to topics mentioned in the film – the life of farmers and marriage.

Taeko recalls her childhood favorite puppet show Hyokkori Hyotan Jima (ひょっこりひょうたん島 "Floating Gourd Island"), which was a real show that aired every weekday on NHK from 1964 to 1969.

Voice Cast

Main cast

Character Japanese English
Taeko Okajima Miki Imai
Yoko Honna (fifth grade)

Daisy Ridley
Alison Fernandez (fifth grade)

Toshio Toshiro Yanagiba Dev Patel

Young Taeko's classmates

Character Japanese English
Tsuneko Mayumi Iizuka Hope Levy
Aiko Mei Oshitani Stephanie Sheh
Toko Megumi Komine Ava Acres
Rie Yukiyo Takizawa Madeleine Rose Yen
Suzuki ("Soo") Masashi Ishikawa Jaden Betts
Shuji Hirota Yūki Masuda Gianella Thielmann

Taeko's family in Tokyo

Character Japanese English
Mrs. Okajima Michie Terada Grey Griffin
Mr. Okajima Masahiro Itō Matt Yang King
Nanako Okajima Yorie Yamashita Laura Bailey
Yaeko Okajima Yuki Minowa Ashley Eckstein
Grandmother Okajima Chie Kitagawa Mona Marshall

Taeko's farm relatives in Yamagata

Character Japanese English
Kazuo Koji Goto Matt Yang King
Kiyoko Sachiko Ishikawa Sumalee Montano
Naoko Masako Watanabe Tara Strong
Grandmother Okajima Nika Futterman

Other Characters

Character Japanese English
Abe Hirozumi Sato Jacob Guenther
Toshio's Mother Takako Sendou Tara Sands

Uncredited

Character Japanese English
Torahige Ichiro Nagai Greg Grunberg

Release

  • 20 July 1991 Movie theater
  • 1 January 1997 Original VHS release
  • 1999 American VHS release
  • 2003 Newer DVD release
  • 2006 DVD release by Optimum
  • 4 September 2015 Swedish Movie theater
  • 1 January 2016 American DVD release

English Dub

Although Disney's purchase of distribution rights to the entire Ghibli catalog in the 1990s included Only Yesterday, the film was never dubbed or even distributed in the United States. This was likely due to concerns over its marketability to children, with Ghibli's Geoffrey Wexler speculating that the extended sequence regarding periods may have been deemed inappropriate by North American standards. The film was only shown once in the United States, in a 2006 airing of a subtitled version on Turner Classic Movies. When the dubbing rights reverted back to Ghibli, Wexler campaigned for an official American release.

On January 1, 2016, an English version was released by GKIDS at the IFC Center in New York, and expanded to other theaters nationwide starting February 26.

Reception

Only Yesterday was the highest grossing Japanese film on the domestic market in 1991, earning ¥1.87 billion ($18,846,700) in distribution income. The 2016 English-language release later earned $525,958, including $453,243 in the United States.

The film received critical acclaim among critics and audiences. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 100%, based on 50 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The critical consensus states "Only Yesterday's long-delayed U.S. debut fills a frustrating gap for American Ghibli fans while offering further proof of the studio's incredibly consistent commitment to quality."It has a score 90 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 19 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".

Nicolas Rapold, of The New York Times, gave the film a positive review, saying, "Mr. Takahata's psychologically acute film, which was based on a manga, seems to grow in impact, too, as the adult Taeko comes to a richer understanding of what she wants and how she wants to live." Kaikyaku, of The Nihon Review, stated: “This film knows what it strives to be and executes it well. Though it won’t be for everyone, it represents the quality and artistry that Studio Ghibli is known for."

See also

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