Watch While You Can: Only Yesterday by Studio Ghibli

image-1This beautiful, nostalgic film is in select US theaters, and if you like Studio Ghbili’s work and anime that captures the magic in the quotidian, you should seriously consider seeing Only Yesterday (おもひでぽろぽろ). I love the way the film immerses viewers in Japan of the early 80s and mid 60s to reveal the quiet unfolding of protagonist Taeko’s quarter life crisis in connection to seminal moments of her childhood. This Studio Ghibli gem has a way of capturing that feeling of 物の哀れ (mono no aware)—the transience of things. Whether it’s work in the safflower fields or conversations with family, scenes of Taeko’s present and childhood (the latter shown in pastel shades as if faded with time, sometimes playing out amidst almost dreamy watercolor backgrounds) have so much… presence and immediacy, yet everything is ultimately in flux, including Taeko’s seemingly timeless, idyllic vacation helping her extended family with their farming.

On the one hand, the story presents Taeko with a contrast (then choice) between urban and rural lifestyles, and on the other hand, the story affords an attempt to reconcile past and present selves. On all levels, it’s splendid storytelling that I’ve been able to further appreciate with successive viewings.

If you’re comfortable reading subtitles or willing to push yourself to do so, the subbed version is the way to go.

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