Only Yesterday (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:John Eriani
Review Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Release Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2006



What They Say
The key to Taeko's future, lies in her past.

Only Yesterday revolves around Taeko, a single woman working a desk job in Tokyo in 1982, taking a vacation in the countryside with the family of her sister in-law. During her vacation, Taeko finds herself looking back at her time as a young schoolgirl growing up in 1966. The film flips back and forth between the two time periods with a lot of nostalgia and beautiful country scenery as Taeko sorts out her flashbacks and tries to make some tough decisions about her future.

The Review!
The director that brought us Grave of the Fireflies next film was another that is quite different from your average anime.

Audio:
I watched the film in its original language of Japanese 2.0. It's your standard stereo mix with no dropouts or distortion. There is no English soundtrack on the disc and this is due to the fact that this is one of the only Studio Ghibli films that Disney/Pixar have not dubbed into English and probably never will due to some of the subject matter in the film. While this is a shame its great that at least the film has been released on DVD here unlike the USA.

Video:
Presented in its original aspect ratio and enhanced for anamorphic widescreen Madman have given us a proper PAL transfer that makes the film look almost new. There is a bit of film grain and artefacts here and there but for the most part the transfer shows just how amazing the animation is even for a film from 1991. There is also the option for watching the film with storyboards which some people may not like as this was put onto a separate disc with the R2 Japanese version and the video may suffer but I did not see any problems.

Packaging:
This release come in a single white keep case as is the tradition with all of Madman's Studio Ghibli Releases. The front cover artwork is a nice shot of a classroom with both adult and young Taeko standing together and holding hands, there is lots of white and the gold Studio Ghibli collection banner at the top is a nice touch. Sadly the bright yellow OFLC rating just doesn't go but Madman has given us a reversible cover. The reversible cover is of adult Taeko sitting down with book in hand looking up at the sky, the title is written in Japanese and no ugly OFLC logo can be seen. The back cover has a few shots from the film with a brief synopsis and the standard Madman technical grid can be found at the bottom.

Menu:
The main menu opens up with young Taeko in the park doing exercises and then fades to the title with the park as a background and a piece of calm music from the film plays. All the other menus are just static shots from the film without any background music. Everything was quick and easy to access.

Extras:
There is only a few extras on the disc the main ones are; watching the film in its storyboard version and Making of featurette which runs about 45 minutes in length and goes through the whole process of making the film as well as giving us an insight into what the working relationship between Miyazaki and Takahata is like. There is also the original theatrical trailer and the Studio Ghibli collection trailer.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Isao Takahata's second Studio Ghibli film was released in 1991 to critical acclaim. The film is vastly different from a lot of anime in that it is a realistic drama about a young woman who goes on holiday to Yamagata and while there she reflects on her time in the fifth grade.

The film opens up with Taeko preparing to leave on holiday to go help with the safflower harvest, it seems she has done this before and stays with her sisters' in-laws. The film moves in-between the present and the past, it first starts out with one of her first holidays as a child and soon we are drawn into the life of young Taeko as she goes about her days in the fifth grade. She deals with boys, learning about becoming a woman and struggling with math. Interspersed with scenes involving adult Taeko as she helps with the farming of safflower and her budding friendship with a young farmer named Toshio.

That's pretty much the plot of the film in a nutshell; the film is basically two slices of Taekos life and there really is no journey to speak of. Nothing really moves forward until the last scenes which I have to say was one of the sweetest heart warming ways to end a film. In fact heart warming is a good word for summing up the film. Scenes of Taekos child hood are wonderful to watch more so then her adult life. My favourite scene in the film is when young Taeko overcomes the restrictions placed on her while acting in a school play.

The film is not for everyone, it's not your typical anime, it's a drama based in the real world. The scenes of Taeko's childhood are funny and sweet while Taeko's adult life is serious but filled with the enjoyment of working hard and learning more about the world then what we see in our busy day to day lives. The film is based on a manga but this only dealt with young Taeko's life so the adult portion is completely original to Isao Takahata's film, the making of featurette goes into a little bit of detail in regards to this as Takahata had a problem with trying to make a story based on a manga about a young girl accessible to an adult audience, he overcame this with Taeko as an adult looking back over her time in the fifth grade.

The animation in the film is gorgeous as you would expect from Studio Ghibli, at times I was absolutely lost in the backgrounds, so much so I had almost forgotten that this was an animated movie. Just like everything else with this film realism is key and it shines through right down to the facial muscles of the characters. Music by Masaru Hoshi is beautifully calm and subtle and does not overpower the visuals, sometimes I almost forgot it was there.

In Summary:
Only Yesterday is an interesting film, it didn't hold my interest all the way through but young Taeko's story is cute, sweet and just fun to watch. Any feelings of boredom I had were made up for by the gorgeous animation and the dialogue throughout which flows really naturally, that is to say it doesn't feel like a script in a movie. The film has a way of making you start reflecting on your own childhood and the fond memories you have of that time. If you're a fan of Isao Takahata's work then this should definitely be in your collection.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language ,English Subtitles ,Making of "only Yesterday" featurette,Original Theatrical Trailer,Studio Ghibli Trailer Reel,Reversible Cover

Review Equipment
LG 32LX2D 32" HD LCD TV, Sony DVP-NS50P Progressive scan region free DVD player, Monster component cable, Yamaha TSS-15 Home Theatre Sound System



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 4 - Australia / South America
Released By: Madman Entertainment
MSRP: 29.95
Running time: 119
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Only Yesterday