Only Yesterday review - usenet rec.arts.anime - 16 April 1992

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Only Yesterday review - usenet rec.arts.anime - 14 April 1992

Omohide Poroporo - review

By John W. Yung

16 April 1992

To get an idea of how good "Omoide Poro Poro" [ Only Yesterday, ed.] is, one could start by looking at the fact that it was the number one animated movie in Japan for 1991. The next fact to consider is the presence of Hayao Miyazaki as the film's producer. The director, Isao Takahata, is a former student of Miyazaki, but as this movie (and his previous project, "The Grave of the Fireflies") shows, Takahata is well on his way to becoming a master, if he isn't considered one by now.

There are signs of Miyazaki's artistic influence in the character designs and backgrounds Takahata uses in "Omoide Poro Poro." The clean, simple faces of the characters are reminiscent of Miyazaki's style, and the colors used in the production are subdued. However, the difference is that Takahata's work appears even more detailed than Miyazaki's because Takahata's direction tends toward realism. The attention to details is reflected in various places throughout the film from subtle human motion like the slight shake of the head to nostalgic displays like Beatles posters and old TV shows to ordinary physics like the reflection of buildings in a swinging car door window. The sum of the effects is astounding and enhances the world presented to us in "Omoide Poro Poro."

Takahata focuses on personal and inter-personal relationships in this tale of a woman's reunion with her family. The movie's blurb, translated as "I am going on a journey with myself," hints at the poignant scenes in "Omoide Poro Poro," most of which are flashbacks to the childhood of the main character, Taeko. Taeko's memories have strong emotional contents which is communicated to the viewer through common experiences from joy and love to sorrow and disappointment. The characters break the language barrier with crafted responses filled with hints from subtle, natural gestures and from voice intonations that is often taken for granted. Knowledge of the Japanese language is certainly helpful, as usual, but ignorance does not completely interfere with the enjoyment of the film.

"Omoide Poro Poro" may have been aimed toward Japanese adults, but it certainly carries appeal for people of any age and language. There are no giant robots nor monsters wrecking destruction upon Tokyo in this story, just a woman discovering herself and her place in the world. At the end of this entertaining movie, one may wonder if there's a child in all of us, ever hopeful of the decisions we make based upon our experiences in the journey of life.