Adaptation Animation

'Only Yesterday' Blu-ray Review: Studio Ghibli's classic withstands the test of time

July 11, 2016Ben MK

A film about love, life and the reconciliation of the past and the present, Only Yesterday marks a special collaboration between producer Hayao Miyazaki and writer/director Isao Takahata, two legends in the world of Japanese animation who not only co-founded Studio Ghibli, but who have also been rivals for many years. Now, a quarter-century since the movie was originally released in Japan, it has finally arrived on Western shores.

The year is 1982, and 27-year-old Taeko Okajima (Miki Imai) is an unmarried office worker who's about to leave the hustle and bustle of Tokyo behind for ten days in the countryside, where she'll visit her brother-in-law's family and spend her time helping them harvest safflower, a traditional Japanese crop. As she's about to embark on her journey, Taeko's memories of her childhood come rushing back to her, and she begins to reminisce about the experiences of her younger self; in particular, the events of 1966, when she was only 10-years-old.

As Taeko draws parallels between her past and present-day life, the film's narrative seamlessly alternates between 1966 and 1982, interleaving the memories of her fifth-grade self — her first pineapple, her first crush, and the ups and downs with her family — with scenes of 27-year-old Taeko's train trip and her subsequent arrival in the countryside, where she's greeted by her brother-in-law's cousin, an optimistic farmer named Toshio (Toshiro Yanagiba). As these vignettes from Taeko's life unfold, we begin to get a sense of the experiences that have shaped her as a person. And like many of Studio Ghibli's heroines, we can't help but identify with her.

Whether it's the original Japanese-language version, or the brand-new English dub featuring Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel, Only Yesterday proves just as emotionally resonant as it was all those yesterdays ago. Based on the manga, "Omoide Poro Poro," by Hotaru Okamoto and Yuuko Tone, the film delivers exactly what moviegoers have come to expect from Studio Ghibli. But just because the story abides by a similar framework as Ghibli's other projects, that doesn't mean it's any less worthwhile. Touching, relatable, and thoroughly beautiful to look at, Only Yesterday is as memorable as anything Studio Ghibli has ever produced, and it's truly a film that withstands the test of time.

Beautifully restored for its North American debut, Only Yesterday looks as charming on Blu-ray as one can imagine it did back in 1991, thanks to a 1080p image that reveals all the subtleties of the hand-drawn characters and hand-painted backgrounds. The movie also employs different color palettes and art styles, with scenes set in the narrative's present-day boasting richer detail and a blue-and-green-dominated color scheme, whereas scenes set in the past are characterized by sparser visual detail and pastel hues. Either way, the picture quality is excellent, which is the same thing that can be said for the disc's audio. Although on paper, the existence of only an English DTS 2.0 dub and a Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 sound mix may seem lackluster, bear in mind that this is a mainly dialogue-driven effort, with fairly minimal sound effects. You won't be disappointed.

Universal's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes a DVD copy of the film, plus the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Feature-Length Storyboards (1:59:15) - The film in its entirety, presented in storyboard form.
  • The Making of Only Yesterday (46:10) - Originally aired by Nihon Television in 1991, this Japanese-language TV special sheds some light on the making of the film, including the original manga, the teaming of Miyazaki and Takahata, the voice acting, the filmmakers' research, and the animation process and style.
  • Behind the Scenes With the Voice Cast (7:44) - English voice actors Daisy Ridley, Dev Patel and Ashley Eckstein share their thoughts on the film and their characters.
  • Interview With the English Dub Team (16:31) - Producer Geoffrey Wexler, actress Ashley Eckstein, English-language screenwriter David Freedman and director Jamie Simone talk about their work on the English-language dub.
  • Foreign Trailers and TV Spots (7:30) - Four original trailers, presented in Japanese with English subtitles ("Special Announcement for Theater 1," "Special Announcement for Theater 2," "Theatrical Trailer" and "Promotional Trailer").
  • US Trailer (1:46) - The film's 2016 North American trailer.

Only Yesterday is available from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment as of July 5th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English DTS 2.0 and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 tracks. The film is presented with English-Dubbed Audio, English and French subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 58 Mins.

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