Bluray Review – Only Yesterday (1991)

Only Yesterday Train

Earlier this year, Studio Ghibli released When Marnie Was There. It was celebrated as the final film of the critically acclaimed animation house. But the re-release of Only Yesterday on Blu-ray serves as another reminder of their towering achievement.

For various reasons, the themes of memory, specifically of self-discovery through memory, hit home. This quiet drama about a woman’s unbidden journey through specific memories is a work of simple parallels of change and growing up, of dreams and connections, and the sweet pastoral scenery depicted somehow heightens the experience.

Only Yesterday feels personal and real through detailed artistry, such as the safflower process of creating rouge, in combination with the subtle touches of history. The detail in the script too, towards organic farming and the agriculture industry, elevates the film entirely. That sense of balance between tradition and modernisation; history and the present, suddenly becomes acutely relevant. “People have struggled with nature to survive,” says Toshio, wistfully.

Written & directed by Isao Takahata, the plot keeps oscillating between the lead character’s childhood & adult life from start to finish and takes us through many events that’s easy to relate to, whether it’s early life crush, puberty, the insufferable mathematics, stubbornness of parents while growing up or that dissatisfaction with both career & love many of us feel at one time or another.

The bluray comes with an assortment of special features. The usual evergreen Ghibli features, the complete storyboards, the Ghibli trailer reel are both present and correct but also has a making of the film (nothing that much more than a basic EPK) and probably the highlight of the set, a brand new English dubbed version of the film. Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel (who I’m both pretty sure weren’t even born when this was originally released) are the 2 main characters. It’s an alright dub, it’s not as good as say, Spirited Away but it’s not as bad as Ponyo, Patel doesn’t quite nail the accent, which is pretty obvious in some parts. Clearly it’s preferable to watch it with the original language but it’s good to have the option.

This film has that Ghibli animation that is warm in tone, detailed but not necessarily realistic, emotive and charming, and in its best moments, it is breathtaking.

Peter Fletcher

Anime, Drama, Romance |Japan, 1991 | PG | Studiocanal | 15th August 2016 (UK) |Dir. Isao Takahata |Daisy Ridley, Dev Patel, Grey Griffin, Miki Imai, Toshirô Yanagiba,Youko Honna | Buy:[Blu-ray] [2016]

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