By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
After the release of Studio Ghibli’s When Marnie Was There, it was unknown if Studio Ghibli would ever release another film. While Japan did not get a Studio Ghibli film this year, here in North America Studio Ghibli released Only Yesterday, a lesser known film that first debuted in Japan 25 years ago. It is a hidden gem about growing up and nostalgia.
The film follows Taeko Okajima (Daisy Ridley) as she goes to Yamagata to visit her family, help them with the safflower harvest, and spend time with her brother in law’s second cousin, Toshio (Dev Patel). During her trip, she relives memories of her childhood through flashbacks.
While many people think that Grave of the Fireflies is Isao Takahata’s best film, Only Yesterday might be better. It has great hand-drawn animation that shows the Japanese countryside. The images are often so realistic that it looks like a live action film. The film is similar to another Studio Ghibli film, From up on Poppy Hill, because both films are based on a manga, as well as having similar themes and both being set in the 1960s.
Only Yesterday makes use of many unorthodox film techniques. Throughout the film, there are a variety of flash-cuts that make visual reference to the things the characters discuss, and mind-blowing dream sequences abound. The film’s soundtrack features a variety of music, including Japanese music from the 1960s, Hungarian music, and even a Japanese version of the Bette Middler classic “The Rose.”
One of the film’s themes is the difference between city life and rural life. Taeko loves the countryside, so the film showcases many famous places from the Japanese countryside in the beginning of the film. Although the film was released in 1991, these themes are still relevant in today’s industrial world.
The film’s other major theme is the decline of traditional agriculture. The second half of the film features a brief lecture about safflower and its uses. It takes a long time to farm products the old-fashioned way, and its industry is declining which today, whereas factory alternatives are booming.
While it took a long time for the film to be released in North America, it is still worth a watch. It will cause you to feel nostalgia for an era that is, in turn, nostalgic. Only Yesterday will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray soon.