Originally released by Studio Ghilbli in Japan on July 20th, 1991, Only Yesterday has been at times viewed as one of the studio’s best. During the time of it’s release, anime was largely viewed as being geared for younger audiences and males. With this movie, Director Isao Takahata (Graveyard of the Fireflies, Pon Poko, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) showed that this could not be farther from the truth. With a heavy sense of nostalgia and maturity, this movie brakes all aforementioned stereotypes. Deemed as being too unassessable to Western audiences, the movie never saw a Western release until this year.
Most of the movie’s maturity comes from the blending of Taeko’s past experiences and her present life. These sequences are what makes the movie truly shine. Takahata’s direction is nothing short of mastery. By witnessing Taeko’s past experiences, it is easy for the audience to relate to her present self. Throughout the duration of the movie, the audience is invited to join Taeko on a journey of reminiscing and self-discovery. Her past is also presented in a surprisingly relatable way. Childhood is painfully brought back to life through experiences of first love, sibling rivalry, puberty, making a bad mark on a test, and gaining parental approval. This relatability allows the audience to not only explore Taeko’s inner self, but also themselves. Through the duration of the movie, Takahata presents a notion that perhaps the past is not meant to restrict but should be seen as a driving force in a person’s everyday life.