Tour de Ghibli: Only Yesterday
Brief Synopsis: A vacation to the countryside causes Taeko to look back at her past and examine who she is and where she is going.
Themes: The film’s two big themes are nostalgia and the majesty of agriculture. Taeko’s trip forces her to remember her life as a 10-year-old child, and not all of them are good. But the bad memories are just as important as the good ones because all of your experiences inform who you are. Although this is less of a theme and more of a message, it’s worth mentioning that the film strongly endorses life on the farm. Taeko has been enamored with the countryside since she was a kid, and the characters she encounters on her trip give long speeches about how they love being farmers.
Animation: As always, Only Yesterday’s animation is superb, but this film does something interesting. The scenes of adult Taeko are done in a fairly realistic style (while still showing most of Ghibli’s trademark features) and the scenes of child Taeko are much more cartoonish and anime-esque. Furthermore, the adult scenes feel more complete, with harder lines and large, lush backgrounds. The child scenes have washed out colors and the backgrounds fade away the farther they get from the characters. Seeing as how those scenes are Taeko’s memories from 17 years prior, they are likely incomplete and hazy.
Sub vs. Dub: There is no English dub for this film.
Verdict: While this isn’t in my top tier, I enjoyed this movie a lot. It is moving, funny, and gorgeous, and the two different animation styles created a thematic divide between the past and present. My biggest complaint about the movie is the reverence with which it treats farming and farmers, to the point that nearly strains credibility (one character states that he loves farming so much that he could do it for 24 hours per day). Still, it’s not enough to interfere with your enjoyment of the film.
Note: This film is unavailable in the United States. Disney owns the rights to it, but has elected not to release it yet, most likely because it wouldn’t fit with its brand. I’m hoping that it will sell the rights to another distributor because I’d like to see it again. For now, be on the lookout for film festivals (which is how I saw it).