This post is gonna blabber about how much I adore Only Yesterday (1991), one of Isao Takahata‘s work, featuring the adaptation of a manga by Okamoto Hotaru + Tone Yuko entitled おもひでぽろぽろ (read: omohide poroporo; literal meaning: memories trickle down). So, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. And oh, I love and recommend both the movie and the manga (you can buy the original manga in Japanese, ibooks version here).
Without further ado, I would like to praise Only Yesterday (1991) to my heart content: it is a masterpiece. It is simple, but breathtaking. Quiet, but deep. Old, but never gets old (like those vintage postcard). Slow, but that kind of movie you will enjoy its every dialogue (well, if and only if you have similar taste in movie with me though – just so you know, lots of friends found some movies or books I do enjoy to be boring, lol).
The story follows Taeko Okajima, a 27 years old single office lady lives in Tokyo in 1982, who decided to take a few days off from her work to visit her sister’s relatives in countryside. To harvest safflowers. On her way there, she started to recall events from her childhood (so those events were the omohide poroporo, the memories that trickle down part, or so I think). She used the phrase: bring her fifth-grader with her when she recalled her memories. There are some hilarious and cute moments in her childhood like the story with her crush, and the story of confusion Taeko and her friends had about first menstruation. But most of the moments she recalled are sad and disturbing. One story left me an incomplete feeling, about Taeko and her friend Abe-kun. Abe-kun was a transfer student moved to her class, and every girls in her class bad-mouthed him since he looked poor and dirty. This Abe-kun happened to have his seat beside Taeko in the class so he often threated and disturbed only Taeko. She hated sitting near him. She hated holding hands in the dance class with him. Nevertheless, Taeko was the one never to talk bad about him, because she thought it was terrible to talk behind someone’s back. And then, Abe-kun had to transfer again and their teacher made everyone in class shook hands with him. When Taeko held out her hand to shake hands with him, he said:
「お前とは握手してやんねーよ！」I ain’t shaking hands with you!
That’s when Taeko knew (or thought) that on all of those time, Abe-kun had been aware that she hated him the most.
I bit my lips watching the story with Abe-kun. I think it’s very disturbing. It tells the human nature of hypocrisy, pretending to have a virtuous character that someone does not really possess. The dirty and disturbing thoughts about others that we tried so hard to hide, only for them to have a chance to be exposed. And I cringed at the thought that people might actually feel them.
It disturbed me so much I had to doodle this, as my own personal closure of Taeko’s story with Abe-kun, lol.
In my version, finally Abe-kun offered his hand and Taeko shyly accepted it. (^^)
The ending is perfect. The OST is great (check it here). Simply said, Only Yesterday (1991) is my number one among Ghibli movies. It’s the cutest. The deepest. So meeee.
The manga itself was told in the form of memoir, like a compilation of stories about Taeko’s daily life. Unlike its manga which has no plot connection between one story to another, the movie is an entirely different tale: Takahata had meticulously crafted a new idea of bringing up adult Taeko in the movie, and beautifully pictured her anxiety (or unsatisfaction?) toward her life through her recalling memories, one by one, falling down like a teardrops. And how he connected the moments from Taeko’s childhood memories into adult Taeko’s current life, the real main character of the movie. And that what was beautiful about it.
P.S. Only wrote this after watching the movie for about 5382573836 times (?). Thanks for reading!
Update: Only Yesterday gets US release this year! Here is the trailer: