Only Yesterday - (Import DVD)
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Jason, Bellville. 4 December 2009
Anime as an entertainment subgenre has gained fame - and in some cases, notoriety - for being, according to Merriam-Webster, "characterized by stark colorful graphics depicting vibrant characters in action-filled plots often with fantastic or futuristic themes".
Clearly they had not seen this title.
Unless one considers farming a form of action, then this film is devoid of such. Also there is nothing futuristic about it, barring maybe its timelessness. Fantasy? Only in the end titles where a convergence takes place between dream characters and reality. I'll admit there is a great sense of vibrance on offer here, though perhaps "whimsical" may be a better word than "stark" in describing the colourful graphics.
Clearly this title does not fit the profile. And really that didn't bother me at all. In fact what a delight it was, my viewing session with Only Yesterday. I simple tale it is, though thoroughly absorbing, of a bored office worker about to spend her 10 days of leave working on a farm. As part of her baggage, she brings with her selected childhood memories that could now change her lot in life, depending on what she makes of those memories.
The pace is leisurely, as I was shown the process of obtaining red dye from the safflower and also about the struggle that non-commercial farmers face in a heavily industrialized nation. Is such a bucolic lifestyle fit only to be admired from a distance, or can happiness be found in embracing it and eschewing the values that urbanisation has programmed into the larger portion of the populace? I don't know the answers, but it was a worthwhile experience watchind our leading lady search for her own answers.
I could be unkind and describe the animation as "good for its time" but really the techniques on offer here are trademark Ghibli in that they offer the best of what was available at the time of production. That being said, the animation of Only Yesterday stands up well enough to shame that of many contemporary productionst. There's a vibrance and whimsy in every cell that has managed to trancend the advance of animation technology.
Oh yes, I liked it. Even if it took me four years to buy it after first reading of it in a book on anime. And another three months to get around to watching it. I could wait longer for quality of this magnitude.