Based on the style of newspaper comics, the animation has unfinished backgrounds that fade away on the edges, reminding me (in a good way) of Ernest & Celestine. Married couple, older schoolboy, younger daughter and gramma appear in disconnected sketches, stories and fantasies. The most dramatic thing that happens is the daughter gets left behind at the mall and while the family is stuck in traffic trying to retrieve her, she’s taken home by a friendly neighbor – it’s very lightweight drama with an overall big-hearted feeling (the polar opposite of the previous film I’d watched).
The first animated work to make me consider trying animation because it looks like fun, even though I know plenty of animators so I should know better.
Maybe it felt more emotional because we watched it in memory of the great Isao Takahata, who increasingly looks like Ghibli’s secret weapon, a patient genius who never made the same kind of great film twice.
Thirty-ish Taeko is helping harvest crops with relatives in the country as a vacation, hanging out with a hottie neighbor who will obviously be a love interest. Meanwhile Taeko is reviewing her life to this point with extended flashback stories of when she was ten, the frequency of cuts between time periods gradually increasing until they blend wonderfully over the closing credits. In a few spots it’s overly slow or precious or obvious, but it also has 10-12 moments of magical beauty like that final scene.
Nice stylistic choice to make backgrounds in the memory scenes pale and faded at the edges, lacking the environmental details of the present-day. The highest grossing Japanese film of 1991, but poorly treated in the states… it wasn’t supposed to be The Menstruation Movie until Disney acted like the film’s third-graders and refused to touch it unless the icky girl stuff was removed.
Only Yesterday can sometimes seem a little too random in what it chooses to show, but it has a cumulative power as Taeko comes to understand that the past that shaped her needn’t define her. That’s a remarkably sophisticated theme for any film, let alone a cartoon. But then what else should we expect from a filmmaker so precise that he’d spend five minutes describing the exact texture and taste of a piece of fruit?
Gorgeous movie with an unusual look, like storybook illustrations in motion. Aging, childless couple get a baby, fine cloth and a ton of gold from bamboo plants. The girl grows rapidly, loves playing outdoors, likes a local boy called Sutemaru, but her dad decides all this gold should be spent to give his Princess a finer life so he has a palace built in the city, where she learns to sit very still and play music and not do much of anything except be courted by deceitful rich men. Then it turns out she’s from the moon, which is weird, but M. Schilling says it’s “based on the oldest-known Japanese folk tale, which dates to the 10th century,” also filmed in the 1980’s by Kon Ichikawa as Princess from the Moon. We watched the English version – only notably great voice was James Caan as the Princess’s foster dad.
One of the best scenes, where Kaguya is sitting still behind walls as others decide her fate, then she panics and flees, and the animation style panics with her.