Monday, May 16, 2011

“Time Flies By” – Only Yesterday (anime) – 9/10 Flowers

Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what's to come. But that night, I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come. The thing is, we didn't have to hate each other for getting older. We just had to forgive ourselves... for growing up. ~ The Wonder Years

Genre: Slice-of-Life/Romance

Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

Licensed: No, this anime is not licensed in the US

Art/Animation: It’s very Ghibli. The characters have babyish, rounded faces and designs. The colors are fairly bright. The animation is fluid and smooth, almost astonishingly so, with a large amount of detail in the tiniest of movements and expressions.

Summary: Taeko Okajima is a typical "office lady" in a big company in a big city. When she takes a sabbatical to the countryside in Yamagata Prefecture, the hometown of her brother-in-law, the journey recalled her memory of her 5th grade year. During her stay in Yamagata, she works hard and happily as a farmer and is surrounded by friendly relatives and villagers, bringing up more memories. Their hospitality makes her to reconsider her choice of life. (

Review: At some point in our lives, we look back and ask where it’s leading. Where are our lives going? And we look back to see how we got there in the first place. Taeko is in such a position, loving her vacations out to the country. This particular trip, starting out with a discussion on how she had turned down a marriage proposal, brings back memories that she can’t seem to shake. From memories of first loves, to how spoiled she’d been, everything brings up a particular point in her life- all happening when she was ten years old.

This film weaves past and present beautifully, with people from her past (including her younger self) running through the present, or signaling that the memory has ended. It’s not as smooth as I’ve seen in other movies, but nonetheless is charming to see the symbolism they present. The memories that are brought up also fit wonderfully with the scene that triggers them. The discussion about the marriage proposal is followed by thoughts of her first love. Hearing a girl talk about how she wants Puma sneakers brings to mind her selfishness. They flow together in a smooth narrative that is a joy to follow.

All the memories make her think about how she was back then, how she loved life. They make her think about where she is in life right now. Things brought up or mentioned in the beginning come into play later on in the story as she makes her important life decisions. The only thing that brings down the score is that, while the ending is very fitting, it almost seems too abrupt or rushed- you see how she and her relative-by-marriage go through mild courting, but the romance in it feels a bit forced in the end. This might be due to cultural differences, since marriage in Japan is treated differently from here in the West, and the way it’s treated today in Japan has changed a bit from twenty years ago.

Regardless, there are few flaws to be found in this film. It’s a rare look at how a woman comes to maturity. The Seiyuu did an outstanding job. The music in the background is used judiciously- about half the film is merely silence and sound effects, while the rest contains various folk music songs that range from the exotic (one is pointed out to be a Hungarian group that plays traditional farmer’s music), to merely upbeat and sweet to listen to. This movie has aged incredibly well, with the issues and themes that it deals with as relevant today as it was twenty years ago, and connects to those in countries across the world.

Overall, this is a wonderful film about growing up and finding yourself.

Recommended: Yes. Goodness, yes. 8+, though this age does depend on how open the family is about the reactions the characters have about learning about periods. Really young children will probably be bored, as there are no magical animals or wild adventures. There’s also one use of the d-word.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Whisper of the Heart (anime)
Ocean Waves (anime)
ARIA (anime or manga)
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (anime)
Planetes (anime and manga)
The Color of Earth/Water/Heaven (manhwa)
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (manga)


  1. I admit, I didn't actually read this review (beyond your rating). I want to keep it as fresh and new to me as possible when I watch.

    I've been wanting to watch this for years and years and years, and have been hoping for Disney to release it here. I don't think it'll ever happen, so I may need to watch it in some other manner...

    I'm glad you enjoyed it, though - just further confirmation that this is a wonderful film.

  2. This is a movie that I think will connect more with females, and is a superb work (every time I watch it, my opinion of it rises). I love it a lot.

    I'm a pessimist when it comes to this movie being released, though. Not only has it been a decade since Miyazaki first made a splash with American audiences (and that would have been an ideal time to release it if they were ever going to), but it deals with themes and subjects that makes it very niche even within the anime community. It just wouldn't sell enough to justify it.