Omoide Poroporo Review

Title: Omoide Poroporo / Only Yesterday
Length: 1 x 118 minute movie
Genre: Slice of life
Year of release: 1991

Studio Ghibli are typically more known for their fantastical, imaginative movies that have put them, not only in league with Disney, but close enough to the Mouse’s brand image that Disney are their distributor, too. However, the few times the famous animation studio have gone beyond this childlike wonder has been due to the craft of writer and director Isao Takahata. Works like Grave of the Fireflies eschew the convention that Ghibli set for themselves, and, not long before the gentlemen’s death, Disney rereleased his extremely mellow, countryside-longing Omoide Poroporo – Only Yesterday – with a fresh batch of voice actors in lieu.

Taeko is an unmarried office lady in her late 20s, and the movie unfortunately grapples with cultural feminism in a clumsy manner at this juncture. Japanese society ranges from subtly to adamantly demanding that women be married by the time they are about 25, as their beauty is said to quickly diminish, and Taeko, approaching 30, is rendered with unflatteringly ageing around her cheekbones and a gruff voice – in any other anime, her age could be inflated into the 50s. However, she wasn’t always uncharacteristically battling with social structures, as she takes a summer holiday out of her job to make her childhood phantom proud of herself by going to the countryside. And on this holiday, she reminisces, intensely, about her childhood, to the point that it is hard to truly enjoy it.

toshio.jpg

Daisy Ridley, of Star Wars fame, voices the adult Taeko in Disney’s English dub, and brings a dull murmured neutral American accent to the woman who says such lines as ‘I didn’t expect to bring my 5 grade self along for this trip’. As she remembers back to her middle school years, Studio Ghibli bring an interesting use of watercolour and pastel backgrounds to emphasise the dreaminess of it all; she is, indeed, looking back with rose tinted glasses, as she sees the stressful and frustrating times of falling in love for the first time, and all with a seasoned (though perhaps too seasoned) smile, as mirages of her school mates run around the carriage out of her sight.

At the train station, she meets her brother-in-law’s elder brother’s second-cousin (that was a mouth full), Toshio, who instantly charms with Dev Patel’s smooth British accent (I’m not sure why Disney cast the British Daisy Ridley into an Americanised role, while allowing Dev Patel to bring such a charismatic well-spoken voice, though I am, quietly, extremely happy that Dev Patel can secure roles with his London roots, rather than typecast as one of the only Hollywood regulars of Indian descent). Toshio and Taeko attempt to strike up a rapport in the long car ride to her digs, but the conversation is mostly Toshio explaining the wonders of local safflower farming and how he left city life to pursue organic farming. Toshio’s smoothness registers several layers above Taeko’s mild depression and leaves little chemistry between the pair.

And thus the holiday begins! Much of Only Yesterday is centred on montages, as Taeko explains the uniqueness of the manual labour and the occasional throwback to middle school. Most notably is how she brings up the time she bonded with some ‘early developers’ learning about periods, or how she compares the time she wanted a new bag with the way Naoko (a teenage farmhand) wants new shoes to bond (though the bonding itself feels a little forced). The montages of either are beautifully rendered with Ghibli’s stunning background art and realistic animation, and the scenes in the past, too, have a strong sense of teenaged melodrama and reside thickly in their historical context.

toshiotaeko.jpg

Near the middle of the movie, all the threads begin to move together. Taeko begins to find herself attracted to Toshio and is urged by her family to quit her office job and stay with him, while in the past, her inability to do math leads to her mother mic-dropping with the line ‘Taeko isn’t like other kids, though!’ Sadly, this idea is henceforth untouched, and sends us into the next dredge along memory lane as Toshi is confused by Taeko’s random musings on a boy who picked his nose.

The romance works as the core of the movie, but it doesn’t really make sense. Even I found myself swooning at Toshi’s aura, but Taeko? Taeko is along for the ride, to experience the country environment and get woo’d by it all, but she’s far too stuck in the past to meaningfully relate to any of it. The country sure is lovely, and Ghibli make sure it is with the gorgeous scenery, but for Taeko, the message she is gradually delivered is so preordained that it doesn’t resonate with much worth. In fact, her city life is so hazily developed to the point that the choice she makes at the end – to go home or to stay – is entirely relegated to a childlike dream and liable to a depressed mistake. I appreciate the attempt at glorifying following your dreams with a feministic viewpoint, but outside of an atmospheric rural landscape, Only Yesterday could do a better job.

oyverdict

9 thoughts on “Omoide Poroporo Review

    1. Thanks 🙂
      I’ve seen a lot of people talk very fondly of this one, but then again, I’m no Ghibli fanatic (of the handful of classics I’ve seen, the only one that resonated with me was Princess Mononoke). If you like rurally set anime, I think this one’s definitely worth checking out for sure.
      It is possible that the original Japanese version is far superior to the dub, so maybe my perception was a little clouded!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No problem!

        Yeah, I heard some good reviews about this movie. I wouldn’t call myself a Ghibli fanatic either, but I certainly liked more movies than not (my favorite is Grave of the Fireflies). Rurally set anime works just fine. That doesn’t surprise me with the Japanese version. Haha!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Semi-Ghibli fanatic here.
    This is acutally one of my favourites. I like the reminiscing- to the point that I prefer her moments as a child rather than the scenes with her as an adult.
    I felt like I was actually experiencing someone else’s childhood. It is slow-paced and very slice-of-life.
    So it is a film that tackles more the little blurps you might remember growing up- from petty fights, first crushes, disappointments, embarassment and more.
    Totally different here, but it made me think of Joy Luck Club scenes of the two girls that were competitive- from the chess champion to the piano lessons.
    If you are looking for adventure, or wonderment, this is not one of those films.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really did like the selections of things that were picked. The reminiscing is a good concept, and many of the scenes in the past were executed really well. Irregardless, I think it needs to be said that a 7/10 is a good score (there’s a brief explanation of my numerical rating system at https://spacewhales.home.blog/reviews-by-score/)! What was needed to move it up a notch was just a bit more meaning in the present; Taeko’s musings were a little too punctuated to be pertinent, and a little too bland to be so directed.
      Of course, as you pointed out, things might get better with a watch of the original Japanese. I’m generally pretty kind to dubs, but I did have to bring up the dichotomy of performances, with both casting and performances seeming a weak area.
      I still enjoyed the movie, but a touch of negativity seeped into the review because I feel it was close to being a much stronger experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awww, I actually wasn’t expecting a reply. Thank you so much!
        Hmm… it is true, the present scenes did seem weak. And as you said, her sudden decision to live in the country based on her childhood wish to have vacation in the country seemed kind of weak.
        This was actually my first dive into your blog- I arrived here from Irina’s site. I love your layout and the name is gold!
        Thanks for responding back! I do not have access to a lot of anime right now, but I like reading reviews so I can have a list available as soon as I can get ahold of it.
        Thanks

        Liked by 1 person

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