Title: Only Yesterday (おもひでぽろぽろ)
Released: 1991

Director: Isao Takahata
Class Superlative: Sister from Another Mister

In a Land of Pure Imagination Historical Fiction

It’s 1982, and 27-year-old Takeo’s life is in stasis: she doesn’t care for her job, and her love life is nonexistent. Takeo is nostalgic for her childhood — back when she was full of hopes and dreams. As Takeo revisits her past, her present involves a break from city life with a visit to the rural countryside, which makes her reconsider her priorities. 

Adorable Child Alert

Young Taeko can’t be much older than Satsuki from Totoro, but those few years make a difference. These kids are a bit too old for adorable, but there are a few cute crushes.

Lovable Anthropomorphic Sidekick

None! I don’t even think there were any animals, except maybe some farm animals or something. 

Wait, WTF?

This remains the only Studio Ghibli movie that Disney has distribution rights to that has never been released on home video in North America. I kept this in mind as I watched it, which led me to this scientific conclusion: DAFUQ? The only mildly (and I mean mildly) pearl-clutching moments that I picked up on were a brief scene at a bath house (i.e., nekkidness, which we’ve established — and will establish again — that it doesn’t stop Disney from releasing a movie), a questionable parenting moment (slight spoiler: Takeo’s father slaps her once and only once, ever), and a storyline involving puberty. And by that, I mean OMG MENSES. Because it’s not like half the world hasn’t menstruated at some point. (Heck, some of you might be doing it right now!) Hasn’t anyone over there read Judy Blume!?

Only Yesterday was the highest grossing film of 1991 in Japan. It had no trouble attracting an audience — female or male. It has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. There is no good reason why this hasn’t been released on North American home video yet! Maybe there’s some closed-door worries about branding or profits or some shit. But a good movie is a good movie. Get Jennifer Lawrence to voice Adult Takeo, and, like, Prim as the child version, and call it a day. 

Famous Voices

No English dub, so I watched a sub that I procured via undisclosed means. Or maybe there are some Japanese celebs in the original cast, I don’t know. Pardon my ignorance of Japanese cinema. 

Class Superlative: Sister from Another Mister

Adult Takeo: oooh, I feel you. You’re single and 27, but your family’s like, “OMG SHE’S BECOMING A SPINSTER.” (Granted, you’re in 1982, so that’s like being 37 in 2013 — which is still freaking young.) You’d get my BFF charm for sure; I found you so incredibly relatable. (Minus the whole meeting-a-cute-boy-in-the-country thing. ‘Cause I’m soooo not a Country Mouse.)

Only Yesterday is pretty much an animated live-action movie about life, work, and love — and a really good one, at that. Because who says anime can’t be used to tell realistic stories? Who says anime can’t be geared towards adults? After all, the readers of this site like ours know better than anyone that there’s no age limit to the type of movies and books that we’re ‘allowed’ to enjoy. 

Exploring the Studio Ghibli Vault

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.