I’ve been watching: Only Yesterday (1991)

  • The latest in my tour through Studio Ghibli’s anime films is Only Yesterday. It’s about Taeko, a 27-year old woman from Tokyo who spends a short holiday with her brother-in-law’s family in the countryside, in the course of which she experiences a series of reminiscences from when she was a ten-year old girl, causing her to reflect on her life and what she wants for herself. She befriends her brother-in-law’s brother, who helps her figure out how she feels and what she wants for herself.
  • I think this has been the Ghibli film I’ve liked least of the five-and-counting that I’ve watched so far. It’s not a bad film as such, it’s certainly excellently scripted and well-made in general, but it’s not really to my taste, and I can’t say I liked it. Which is weird because it’s supposed to be one of the most acclaimed of Studio Ghibli’s films.
  • Maybe it’s just that I don’t get it. Maybe I’m not old enough to get it—unlike Studio Ghibli’s typical output it’s targeted at an adult audience rather than a child audience. It deals with themes of nostalgia, wistfulness, modern alienation, insecurity—themes which I perhaps lack enough experience in life to properly be able to relate to yet. Certainly I didn’t get the ending at all because [SPOILERS] I can’t understand why anyone, especially someone of Taeko’s age, would want to give up a life in a city like Tokyo to be a farmer’s wife. It sounds perfectly dreary to me, I have to say. But then again, I’m from a big city and can’t imagine any other kind of life.
  • The parts of the film I enjoyed most were Taeko’s reminiscences of her 10-year old self, of childhood memories of growing up, puberty, childhood romance and the quaint frustrations a 10-year old experiences. Those sequences were very entertaining and 10-year old Taeko was a funny and charming child. Maybe I enjoyed those sequences most because I could actually relate to them, having once been a pubescent child myself, whereas I can’t (yet) relate to the peculiar anxieties and emotional concerns experienced by 27-year olds.
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