Omoide Poroporo is the story of Taeko Okajima, a twenty-something woman currently working as an office lady for a large company in Tokyo. She decides to a take a break from her life in the big city, and takes a trip out to the countryside to visit her brother-in-law.
During her time there, she will have a completely different experience, becoming intimately familiar with the hard work of a farmer while spending time with friendly villagers and family members. This atmosphere will bring back nostalgic memories. She will begin to remember once more her life as a child: puppy love, the awkward stages of adolescence, and the challenges of dealing with boys and math class.
The time spent away from the everyday grind will make Taeko question the path she has chosen.
Now and again, I find I'm being asked why I like anime, and what's so special about it. One answer you hear given quite often to questions like this is "it's not just for kids, anime is for grownups too". I used to say this too, but in the case of much of what's out there, after much thought I realised that's not really accurate. Sure, there's anime out there that's full of sex and/or death and/or 'mature themes', and a lot of things that are more complex than children are thought to be able to deal with, but not much anime,
if we're being honest, deals with proper complex issues. Or at least, not in any more complex a way than your average US live action TV series like 24 or Star Trek; anime might not all be for kids, but precious little isn't primarily aimed at teenagers (which is an observation, not a criticism, of course). However, there are a handful that are; the odd thing that really stands out and can be held up as an example of how mature and subtle and truly notable anime as a medium, a style or a genre (call it what you will) can be. I'm happy to now be able to add Only Yesterday to that exclusive group.
First of all, Ghibli. I don't really believe in brand names as a rule, but if there's one name that I feel like I can safely and consistently associate with the highest standards and best quality, it's Studio Ghibli. In this case, the famous Hayao Miyazaki is producer rather than in charge, and Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) is director. In this combination, they are as good as one can expect, but not quite in the way one expects.
The resulting film isn't really as child-friendly as other Ghibli films, in that it's not full of the fun characters and exciting situations that kids will love as they do My Neighbour Totoro or Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds. A glance at the tags area will show you that "slice of life" is the most popular description of this film, and this is even more accurate than the label usually is; it's simply 27-year-old office worker Taeko's mixing of her working holiday on a farm with her reminiscence of her 10-year-old self, and the way this experience makes her question the direction her life is taking. It's also among the best implementations of such an approach I can think of; this slice of life is gripping, and pulls no punches, in its own domesticated but quietly gut-wrenching way. But it's a rare child that appreciates the drama of family relationships, and will stay glued to explorations of the niceties of urban versus rural ways of life and adult versus child ways of thinking. What I'm trying to say is, you may well bore your kids if you mistake this for typical Ghibli and stick them in front of it, but you yourself may be too wrapped up in it to notice.
For those who are striving to convince a sceptic that anime isn't just huge-eyed, twinkling Majikal Girls, spiky-haired swordsmen, giant robots, cutesy animal caricatures and the odd smattering of tentacled obscenity, this is a prime counter-example of "for grown-ups" anime. The acting is superb; Miki Imai as the adult Taeko, Toshiro Yanagiba as her friend Toshio, and Youko Honna as the young Taeko are all natural, believable and thoroughly excellent, and the rest of the cast all just about as talented. The script is possibly the best I've ever encountered in anime, one that's so good it makes scriptwriting look easy. It manages to use naturalistic dialogue to communicate a masterful grasp of the power and impact of memory, of the way tiny things stick in your mind like thorns years down the line, of the way things you learn now can change your personal history utterly at a stroke. This is very much a film that strikes a chord for me; I may be male, English and hate gardening, but as a 26-year-old, I see myself in Taeko, in that I too have memories of childhood that, for some reason, just won't go away sometimes - I think everyone with a little life experience does.
The visuals, too, are of a usual stellar Ghibli standard, with an interesting twist. As I watched, I was partly slightly bothered and partly wondering at the faces of the characters; there's something different, something out of the ordinary, just a bit odd about their depiction, and it wasn't until I watched the DVD's 'making of' extra that it fell into place. What Takahata and crew have done is concentrate on muscles; all the adult characters have realistically sculpted cheekbones and other facial contours that aren't usually present even in the most exactingly drawn anime. It manages to pick up tiny nuances of facial expression that give characters a much wider and finer emotional range than normal. The effect is one of hyperrealism; in this very rare instance, I found I was able to read faces as if I were watching live action, and I was forgetting this was hand-animated. Other details, such as the incredibly fine use of colour, are more like standard fare for Ghibli but none the less impressive for this. One standout scene is a sunrise over the field in which Taeko is working, which is both gorgeous and technically amazing. The slight but notable use of faded earthy colours and reds for scenes from Taeko's past and the bright, predominantly green-blue scenes of the present-day are very well executed; it's never unclear when we are seeing.
Music by Masaru Hoshi is, while not astounding, entirely pleasing, peaceful, and highly appropriate, but here to steal the scene from left field, please welcome the Hungarian folk choir! This odd, odd choice is...just right. It's haunting stuff, full of undertones implying the hidden, benign but huge power of nature (another often-encountered Studio Ghibli calling card) and even though it's not really relevant in any logical way, it simply works. The ending song by Harumi Miyako is a lovely bit of music, and for once, it really fits the film it's attached to.
You could conceivably criticise the film simply for being anime; even in 1991, making a live-action Only Yesterday would not be hard; there's no fantastic landscapes or technology, no gravity defying costumes or hair, nothing out of the ordinary in the film at all. But once again, part of the reason that this is impressive is because it's something of a risk that was taken and which paid off; because it would be easy to do as live-action doesn't necessarily make that a better stylistic choice, but that it works as animation by showcasing novel animation ideas mixed with great talent can do nothing but improve it. Also, the way anime creates its entire world gives an animation some advantages. Firstly, a story like this, all about details, draws attention to those details more effectively if you're watching with half an eye on the look out for art style, as many anime fans do - film a woman picking a flower and it's pretty, but animate one that truly compares, and it's stunning. Also, the way viewers suspend their disbelief constantly for animation allows the impossible to seamlessly integrate into the commonplace. This only happens once, at the end, but in practice it's so naturally and gracefully done, and so basically right, that instead of going "yeah, that was a nice idea", the impact of the scene and the emotional lift it gives you are much more pronounced.
If the film has any weaknesses, it would be pacing; for a film that's by it's nature leisurely and gradual, it is perhaps a touch too leisurely and gradual in places, and while almost all of Taeko's recollections are relevant, perhaps one or two are a bit spare and peripheral. While I'll admit I am sort of blown away by it, I also recognise that it's not perfect, hence a mark knocked off; and yes, you need to be in the right mood to get the most from this film. I've been waiting months since I got it for the right moment; this morning was finally it, and it delivered. Other than that, well, the only way you'll have any criticisms of the film is if, having read this, you decide it's not your sort of thing, then watch it anyway, expecting explosions, car chases or gritty hard-boiled action. That's not this film's brief. What Only Yesterday does is subtlety and maturity and real, proper grown-up drama in anime.
If you want in any way, to see a family eating a pineapple and simply have an intense emotional reaction, almost cry by quietly staring at the characters just moving, if you are tired of the laziness among animators these days in general then I cannot recommend anything other than the remarkable underrated masterpiece:
The reason why Only Yesterday might be the most realistic anime movie of all time is that, they did, care about the smallest things, the characters' movements, their eyes, their mouths, how the whole cast reacts to an action, how they gave everyone enough space to experience their opinions without being
repetitive, how they completed the puzzle and at the same time they focused on our protagonist herself, this is important simply because it prevents predictability, generally helps you breathe with the characters, and doesn't make you feel -disconnected- with their world. Another important reason, if not the most important one, something you might find surprising and was barely done, is that, the audio was recorded before the animation itself which means the movements of the characters would fit their speeches perfectly. The script itself was, without any doubt written by someone who clearly put his soul on this project, to give such attention to the responses and interactions, you might ask what are you talking about but I find it rather simple that scriptwriters these days are lackadaisical.
The movie defines the word "seriousness" in a higher new level, there might be no movie as serious as Only Yesterday, no matter how they try to be, they'll never achieve its level because the most essential way to make a great movie is to never try to be what you want to be, in other words, Only Yesterday's story is so simple, a story about a young girl who travels to the countryside and recalls her memory while she's surrounded with people who love her. The concept is straightforward, but the idea is how to use every detail you have to create something far greater from what you initially started with.
The nostalgic and heart-breaking movie knows how to draw the characters very well with a variety of lines, colors and shades, if you could take a second from your life to stare at one of the characters' faces, I think that would be great and even though I noticed the movie has received countless criticisms about how in some way or another the characters look very similar except for their hairstyles and colors, look no further, to how 'us' look identical, and so I say that the movie has yet achieved another level of realism.
Only Yesterday has never failed to draw a smile on my face the whole two hours thanks to Isao Takahata's great directing skills. The movie is very mature and was released when the word "mature" had no meaning in such films, most anime were filled with blood and action or family oriented or purely directed to kids, I don't think you can give this film to a child expecting to see him knocking at your door the day after explaining how the film has changed his life or anything like that or even expect him to even like it, this was different from Isao Takahata's other works including "Akage no Anne" or "Heidi" for instance cus here, our protagonist is old and in that case, kids didn't get it or appreciate it as much as we did, it was very risky and the idea could have easily been done as life-action.
This movie has realized that it's a butterfly and finally found its wings, but looking back now, maybe it was just flexing them pointlessly.
Only Yesterday, for the people who want to realize that the movies they're watching nowadays are utter shit.
We can notice that there is a tendency to overrate average productions when it comes to their true value. It is probably caused by TV and the fact that the best selling anime are being watched by kids raised on sex and violence occuring in the Internet. Anime based on those two things (sex & violence) shows that it is much easier to make such anime insted of trying to show people something important and valuable. Only Yesterday is one of those "depper" and underrated productions, which can appear on endangered species list soon if that tendecy mentioned before won't be stopped.
First, I have say
that I simply love that kind of storyline. Not only that. The tempo of action is great (in my opinion). Main character (Taeko, if I'm not mistaken) starts her travel (which is actually a travel to reach and understad her real needs and feelings). She is in her 30s, probably. At that piont in life, one must recollect his/her hopes and choose his/her path in life. So, Taeko decided to have a break and go to country. All movie is filled with her remembrances from her childhood. Her younger self (which often appears in her mind, as the action goes on) is personification of her apprehensions and also her childhood dreams filled with innocent and simple thoughts about world, and herself. Story is going slowly but it's just like the way normal life is moving forward, so it's ok. The best thing about the plot is that it's peaceful (but not boring - don't get it wrong) and belivable at the same time.
Landscapes are qutie artistic. Move was aired in 1991, so don't expect graphics on Makoto Shinkai's level. Characters appearance is simple along with all visual aspects, but you can feel this Ghibli magic till the last minute of movie. All I can say, is that my eyes were satisfied.
I have to admit that I don't remember any of background music. So it must have been good (I think I would remember if it was awful). Voice acting is on above-average level. The same when it comes to the ending theme. It summarizes the whole fellings you get while watching this movie. (hint: remember to watch anime till the last chord of ending song !).
Characters are complex, but like everything in Only Yesterday, not too much. Just like they should be. Taeko motives are belivable and you can fell that you fully understand her childhood problems - first love, test results, and all this grwoing-up struggle while she is still a kid. Everyone had to go through those things. Other thing - nowadays we often deal with people who live till 8am to 8pm. Work absorbs all of our strength and youhtful passion. Taeko decided to take a break. What about you? Don't you feel the same way?
In the end, I have to say that we don't have so many animes that we can truly rely on. Only Yesterday shows us the simple matter, but beutifully executed. Daily life with it's problems and enjoyments. Only Yesterday impressed me with it simplicy and serenity. We have a romance motive in here, but it is not a heroic and "die-for" emotion (which we saw sooo many times already) but simple affection that is froming between two people in relationship. For me, it is the most artistic vision of our daily life. No guns, no swords, but remembrances and uncertainty about tomorrow. I enjoyed every minute spent with this magical production, and I reccomend it to everyone who look for some great piece of anime, which Only Tommorow undoubtedly is.
There are plenty of films that can impress you the first time you watch them, but there are only a few that impress you more and more with every subsequent viewing. Only Yesterday is just such a movie, one so rich in depth that the first viewing is only as good as a passing glance at the painting of an old master.
Taeko Okajima is a twenty seven year old office worker in Tokyo. Summer holidays are fast approaching and Taeko is doing what she normally does, and will travel to work on a farm in the countryside. During the course of her journey she experiences
an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and memories of her childhood. It is an effective plot device that allows us to witness two characters developing simultaneously and the influence one has in the formation of the other. Neither are exceptional in the conventional sense either; both of them are quite ordinary and on the face of it, unremarkable. However they are portrayed in such detail that they become fascinating.
The careful selection of a few key moments in a lifetime, many quite mundane in themselves, and weaving them into a solid depiction of a person that could be real and yet still maintaining the intrigue and direction of a complete story is an incredible achievement. One example is a scene in which the family gather to try Pineapples for the first time: on the face of it an unremarkable experience which most wouldn't care to mention. Yet in this one sequence we can learn so much about the characters: Taeko's father merely sighs, completely isolated from the rest of the family (of which he is the only male). Finding the taste bitter, Taeko and her sisters express their disgust. It symbolises the extinguishing of youthful optimism as one enters the stream of disappointments in adulthood. The transition into puberty is the driving theme behind Taeko's younger self, and the pineapple scene is only one of many illustrations of that difficult period of life.
Even though as adults we have all gone through that stage of life, when it is depicted in cinema it is often hard to take it seriously, and often characters of that age come across as simply bratty. Taeko’s character has these traits too but there is a balance to her character that prevents them from becoming overwhelming. When contrasted with the difficulties one faces as an adult, the problems of pre-teens seem inconsequential; so dwelling on them in cinema usually comes across as insignificant or even worse, just meaningless whining. This problem is alleviated in Only Yesterday by having Taeko’s older self to put them into balance, with her downplaying them after her reminiscence. What is truly masterful though is the way the audience can see their significance to the grown up Taeko, despite her modesty and our internal prejudices. This is what gives her character a sense of realness which I consider unmatched in film.
The overarching plot of the film is a fairly simple love story, unremarkable in itself, but built up by so much and portrayed so convincingly that one cannot help but weep at the beauty of it. Taeko meets a farmer called Toshio and feels quite smitten by his quaint, country ways; his eccentric taste in music, his dutiful politeness that exceeds into awkwardness. He is a representation of what Taeko finds so endearing about country life without being a crass characterisation of it. Yet as her time in the country goes on and her return to Tokyo looms, Taeko is faced with an internal crisis about whether the realities of the country life can match what she has fantasised about for so long, and if she really has what it takes to leave the comforts of Tokyo office life for one which, as she gradually begins to realise, faces a great deal more hardship for much less material reward. The love story is a touching and satisfying one, and it manages to achieve this for its own sake while still having a complexity which is often lacking in romance stories.
While one would be content to say nothing more about this film than the fantastic story and characters, it feels unfair to avoid discussion of the animation and artwork, which is also astoundingly innovative. Studio Ghibli of course have a reputation for the very high quality of the animation they produce, but one can’t help but think of their work as a touch conservative. Beautiful though it is, it often lacks the experimentation one can find in other animation studios. Only Yesterday is an exception to this in two regards- first the difference in styles between the past and the present and the seamless integration of the two, and the clever approach to speech animation.
To provide a visual clue as to the era portrayed in a particular scene, the animation style changes. Taeko’s childhood is depicted in a style similar to a manga of that period- cheerful, simplistic and less defined. Not only does this seem fitting for the time period it also emphasises that these scenes are memories. Areas that Taeko is very familiar with, such as her family home, are depicted more clearly than the places that lack any special significance, like streets in the area. Yet this is subtle, and something one only notices if paying close attention. On the other hand the present day is portrayed in a well defined and realistic manner, with an eye to portraying even the most seemingly trivial details in a true to life form.
The animation of speech in Only Yesterday reversed the typical process, and instead of attempting to match the dialogue to movement of the mouths of the characters, the voice actors recorded the speech first, and animation staff paid close attention to the mouth movements of the voice actors as they recited their lines. This means the characters facial expressions are far more representative of real human emotions than in other animated works, and are not exaggerated or comical. It is further testimony to the realism of the picture that its producers went to such great lengths to integrate these qualities into areas, even defying convention in the process.
Only Yesterday is a work of fiction, with animated characters instead of actors. Yet there is more humanity here than in most cinematic works. It is a work of such wonder and intellect, that it is impossible to escape an overwhelming sense of awe every time you retrace your steps along this magnificent journey into the countryside, and to feel the tears welling up inside when it comes to an end. It is the very essence of all that is beautiful.
It is easy to say that the most beautiful anime are those produced by Studio Ghibli. For sure, Ghibli’s films set the bar for what is anime art. However, although five of their films populate this list of the 20 most beautiful anime, other examples from the past four decades are just as impressive.