Like “Kaguya,” it functions as a highly sensitive and empathetic consideration of the situation of women in Japanese society—but it’s also a breathtaking work of art on its own.
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With Only Yesterday, Takahata not only succeeds in transmitting how years can flash by, but also the way that passage of time makes clearer the moments that define our character, and go on to influence how we choose to live later.
Only Yesterday is a little-seen gem in the crown of Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli.
Small moments take on larger meaning in this exquisite memoir. That’s as true of the plot — in which nothing terribly significant happens, except life — as it is of the visuals.
Only Yesterday is unabashedly modest, but in its twin dialogues between the past and the present, and the undying lure of the country and the city, it’s a singularly specific story whose message echoes decades later.
Mr. Takahata’s psychologically acute film, which was based on a manga, seems to grow in impact, too, as the adult Takao comes to a richer understanding of what she wants and how she wants to live.
Only Yesterday is animated, but rarely cartoony, in either its design or its storytelling.
It uses the trappings of the family melodrama to reveal the subtle social constraints that inhibit people, particularly women, from attaining full self-realization.
It's both an important part of Ghibli's history and a gem in its own right.
Takahata and his animators balance aspects of nostalgia and the present day, urban modernity and rural timelessness, love and regret with a visual and aural sensitivity that draws a viewer in from the first frames.