Film #87: Only Yesterday (1991)

only-yesterday_592x299aka: おもひでぽろぽろ (Omohide poro-poro)
director: Isao Takahata
language: Japanese
length: 118 minutes
watched on: 5 June 2013

I’m still filling in the gaps in my Ghibli coverage, and this is one of the final ones (although I still haven’t watched “Grave of the Fireflies”). Predictably, I had good reason to miss it out, because it really wasn’t anything special. Like the other Ghibli films I watched recently, it’s set in high school and deals with domestic situations a lot more than the other films, which are more magical (this has only a hint of metaphorical magic at the end).

The main character is a youngish woman, apparently 29, although she was drawn with lines on her face that made her look older than that. She goes on holiday to visit family somewhere in the countryside in Tohoku. Her problem is that she can’t stop thinking about her 5th-grade self, and comparing situations she finds in the countryside to what happened to her in 5th grade. So most of the film is sort of told in flashback.

I guess I just found it kinda boring in general. The segments about family life in the 70s were interesting (for instance, they buy a pineapple but nobody knows how to eat it, and then everyone finds it inedible anyway), but not very relatable for me. For some reason she’s obsessed with her little failures, like not understanding maths, and her father is so typically-Japanese in his emotional distance that it’s almost comical (and for some reason, being barefoot outside is the worst possible sin?).

The country setting, incidentally, reminded me a lot of “Wolf Children”. Japanese mountains all look the same, basically. The film does examine the main character’s tendency to romanticize the countryside, and I found that interesting. She considers living there, but then realizes she’s only ever seen it in the summer, and being there in the winter might be unbearable.

Also, I’m not sure what’s going on with the title – I’ve seen it written down as “omoide” rather than “omohide” following the hiragana… is “omohide” an old-style spelling? The Japanese title is more interesting, anyway: it basically means memories come tumbling down, or something like that.

From what I can tell, this seems to be typical of Takahata’s work – much more grounded in “reality” than Miyazaki’s – but in that case I prefer Miyazaki’s work. It also just didn’t have quite enough memorable moments – there’s one gif I’ve seen floating around on the internet, but it’s from the final closing scenes.

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