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Only Yesterday
Reviewer: Rowena Lim Lei 12/31/2003

Taeko Okajima is a twentysomething office lady who's going on a vacation by the countryside. Memories of her childhood come flooding back as she boards the train, and Taeko remembers various events that took place when she was in the fifth grade. Eventually, Taeko's fifth grade self helps her realize what's most important in her life...
The few people I know who've watched Only Yesterday have tagged it as a bit on the slow side, but that did not keep me from getting it on DVD. After all, no Studi Ghibli production has ever disappointed me in all my years of anime viewing and I was confident that this would be just as good as the rest of their releases.
Only Yesterday is a nostalgia piece which exemplifies good old-fashioned storytelling. It unfolds from Taeko's perspective. Her present day life is interspersed with recollections of her past, such that you get to know her as a whole person and not just as the main character of a film. Taeko goes off to the province in order to try out a farmer's life for a short while, working on the fields and enjoying rustic pleasures such as eating fresh produce and taking in clean air. Taeko is soon torn as she thinks about her life in fast-paced and crowded Tokyo, more so when she finds what seems to be the perfect guy for her on the farm. Will she go back to her life in the city or stay and settle down in the country? Only Yesterday gathers a handful of vignettes from Taeko's life, with everything building up to the momentous climax when Taeko finally makes the most important decision of her life.
I never felt bored while watching Only Yesterday. Taeko fleshes out so well that I found myself concerned with what was going to happen to her. Taeko's past and present life experiences proved to be equally involving and entertaining, and the multiple transitions from then to now were incredibly smooth. Only Yesterday gives us a good glimpse of the Japanese culture, particularly how the typical Japanese family is structured and what values they instill in the young.
As can be expected of Studio Ghibli, Only Yesterday boasts of impressive and finely detailed art and animation. Each scene looked as if it was meticulously handpainted. I actually felt refreshed just watching the exceptionally smooth visuals unfurl. Character designs are simple but pleasant, albeit on several occasions I thought the grown-up Taeko looked much too old for her age. The soft and understated musical scoring also served to enhance the film perfectly.
Though simple in terms of plot and theme, Only Yesterday is an extraordinarily told story that many of us can relate to and derive something from. Although I'd wholeheartedly recommend it, it might prove to be a tad too languidly paced for those who prefer more action than interaction.
Only Yesterday is about 2 hours in length. It has not yet been released in the United States.

Only Yesterday
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Review Title:
Only Yesterday
Alternative Titles:
Omohide Poro Poro
120 Minutes
General Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Older Children
Drama, Romance, Slice of Life
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