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HTS Moderator , Reviewer
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Discussion Starter #1

Title: Only Yesterday

Movie: :4.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :3.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:85

I’m honestly shocked. It’s been 25 years since Isao Takahata’s 2nd feature length Studio Ghibli film was released over seas and the FIRST time it has ever made it across the pond to the states. For some reason the powers that be felt that one of the greatest Studio Ghibli films in existence was relegated to pricy imports and a complete snubbing at every turn. For years the only way fans could get ahold of the movie was at some arthouse theaters who would display an imported DVD, or else importing the disc from Japan or England yourself, and finding it on the black market. For years fans have banged at the doors begging for “Only Yesterday” to come to the U.S. and after 2 and a half decades of begging, we finally are able to enjoy it for the first time on a professional U.S. disc.

Not only is “Only Yesterday” one of the prized (and much snubbed) gems of the Studio Ghibli library, but it also marks one of the FINAL Studio Ghibli films to hit Blu-ray over here as well. In fact I’m almost 100% certain that “My Neighbors the Yamadas” is the last and final one of their releases for us to complete our Blu-ray collections. To make this even better, Universal and Studio Ghibli have gone and created the very first English dub for the movie and released it in limited form across the states before the Blu-ray comes home to roost. So, you can bet your sweet tushie that this Anime nerd was nearly frothing at the mouth to review the disc when it hit my doorstep.

As much as I hated the fact that “Only Yesterday” was snubbed by distributors I can KIND of understand why, as it’s not as easily marketed as many of the rest of the movies in the studio lineup. Instead of filled with mystical powers, talking raccoons and pigs, or little children witches, “Only Yesterday” tends to be very much a coming of age drama. A film that almost is live action in its execution, despite the very traditional Studio Ghibli animation style. In fact, that’s one of the best aspects of the entire film. Being the most mature and grounded film in the franchise, it acts as being the most unique, and one of the most special as well.

It’s very difficult to write a synopsis of the plot, as main character Taeko doesn’t have an end goal in sight. There’s no overarching plot point ending that we are looking forward to, but rather we watch as 27 year old Taeko looks back over her life and contemplates what in her past has influenced the person that she is today. Much of the film is in a very nonlinear format and jumps back and forth from 5th grade Taeko, up to 27 year old Taeko in no particular pattern. Each time jump will spend just as much time in that period as the story feels is necessary, whether that be 5 minutes or 20 minutes, allowing the story to unfold at a very natural pace depending on what section of her life is being studied.

The basics are that Taeko is a 27 year old single woman, who is going out to the country to visit friends for the 2nd time in her life. Along the way she nostalgically remembers all of the instances of her young life that influenced her formation, and the dreams and desires that she had as a young girl. She always thought of herself as being in a Chrysalis as a child. Dormant and just waiting for when she could grow up and bloom into her full self. However at 27 years old, she finds that she is technically still in that Chrysalis faze. Her growth is not yet complete and Taeko strangely feels a little empty and fake. Meeting her friend’s cousin, Toshi, the 27 year old is now confronted with the reality of herself. Her emotions and in limbo stage that has haunted her for some many years is finally confronted, and the last stage of growth that she’s been waiting for is finally allowed to bloom. That is if the young girl allows herself the development that will allow the process to complete.

“Only Yesterday” is simply fascinating. Despite the nonlinear storytelling and the laid back storytelling, you can’t take your eyes off the screen. Watching Taeko grow up as a young girl in the 60s we watch a normal childhood unfold. Taeko has crushes on boys, tries to hide the fact that she’s never had a period from her female classmates, whines and cries about her father not buying her things, and other instances that every one of us can relate to growing up. However, it’s the adult portions of the movie that really draw you in. Watching Taeko as an adult it’s clear that she is so much different than her childhood self, but also so very much the same. Those flaws and insecurities that plagued her youth are still there today, and still holding her back from blooming into the young woman she’s destined to be. The relationship and romance is minimal, but still very vital to the story as it acts as the litmus test for her blooming into a well-rounded person by the end of the movie. With that being said, I firmly believe that the ending is not some message of BECOMING your true self, but that it is just the next step. “Only Yesterday” very firmly portrays the fact that coming of age stories don’t happen and end in childhood. It’s a lifelong process of changing and adapting as we mature and age. It’s a process that is never ending.


Rated PG for thematic elements, some rude behavior and smoking

Video :4.5stars:
I have waited for decades to see “Only Yesterday” in some other format than the old bootleg DVD I was scammed into getting as a teenager from Ebay, and I was not disappointed. The Blu-ray looks simply magnificent, with a fantastic looking color palette, and striking detail that has never been seen before on home video. There’s a nice layer of grain that manages to be noticeable but never obtrusive, and the fine detailing in the cel animation is near flawless. The BD-50 appears to be CRAMMED to the gills as the bitrate is maxed out and there is over 3 hours of HD extras as well. I think only a few hundred megabytes are left unused on the whole disc. Colors are bright and warm, with a few contrasts in tones depending on which time period we’re in. The young Taeko scenes tend to be a bit softer and filled with pastels, while the more modern period shows strikingly deep colors and fantastic detailing. Although there ARE a few scenes that lose clarity every once in a while (look at the scene where Taeko and the rest of the family are picking Safflower blossoms, as it gets really soft all of a sudden on a long shot). Also there is some mild haloing that is noticeable if you know what you’re looking for. Still, blacks are intensely deep, and the new master for the classic film makes it the best I have ever seen the film in. Top notch from beginning to end.

Audio :4stars:
Since “Only Yesterday” has never been released in the U.S. before there was never an older dub lying around, thus Gkids had to go strike a new one with actors from this generation (including Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel). Thankfully the studio has not gone the old and lazy route with the English subtitles and just copied the English dub over into text, but rather given us the option for BOTH. Subtitles that mimic the English dub as well as literal translations for fans of the original Japanese track. Both audio track appear to be rather good, but a definite push to the original Japanese track comes in the form of the English track being only a 640bps DTS 2.0 track, while the original language track gets the full 2.0 DTS-HD MA lossless experience. Voice acting also goes to the Japanese track, as it sounds more natural and fitting with the time period (and Daisy Ridley sounds like she’s forcing it just a bit too much with Taeko). Clarity of vocals is crisp and clean, and the fidelity in the front soundstage is more than pleasing. There’s not surround capabilities or intense bass, but it is still a very effective and clean recording of the original 2.0 source material.

Extras :3.5stars:

• Feature Length Storyboards
• The Making of Only Yesterday
• Behind the Scenes with the Voice Cast
• Interview with the English Dub Team
• Foreign Trailers and TV Spots
• U.S. Trailer

Overall: :4stars:

“Only Yesterday” is a sweet and compelling adult coming of age story that transcends gender and age. It’s a crime that this film has taken 25 years to come to the states, but I’m truly happy that Universal and Gkids finally decided to bring this masterpiece over. Being the most grounded and earthy of the Studio Ghibli lineup, I think it’s less of a kids movie and much more a film for the rest of us who grew up in that time period. That’s not to say some kids won’t get it, but the film is very obviously pointed directly towards later teens on up rather than the usual younger generation targets that Ghibli is known for. The audio is solid and the video and extras are great, which leaves me with the simple recommendation of BUY IT! If you’re a Ghibli fan. If you’re not, then this very well may be the one that converts you as it is the most different out of the studio’s lineup.

Additional Information:

Starring: Miki Imai, Toshiro Yanagiba, Youko Honna
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Written by: Hotaru Okamoto (Managa), Isao Takahata (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS 2.0, Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG
Runtime: 118 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 5th, 2016

Buy Only Yesterday On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Must Watch

More about Mike

2,072 Posts
Thanks for the review. As a fan of Studio Ghibli, I will have to get this one. The trailer looks good as well. I am also surprised that it took 25 years for it to come to North America. I guess better late than never. :)

HTS Moderator , Reviewer
5,742 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
for some reason it was the ugly duckling of the Ghibli lineup. Most likely because it was so down to earth vs. the more fantastical elements of the rest of the studio's works. Takahata has always been a bit more serious in his moods and directing style, but besides "Grave of the Fireflies" this is easily the most serious
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