Top critical review
One person found this helpful
One of the weaker Ghibli films, but a welcome re-release
on 26 November 2016
*Minor spoilers ahead.*
I can't say I didn't enjoy 'Only Yesterday', but like Takahata's other films it suffers from being too long and from back-loading content in order to deliver an unsurprising but emotional climax (in this case during the final credits!)
The plot, based in 1982, tells of 27-year old Taeko traveling from her home in Tokyo to the countryside to pick safflowers. On the way she starts to reminisce about her childhood and the film jumps between 1966 and 1982. The first half of the film concentrates on her youth, the second half on her time picking safflowers and bonding with new friends found in the country. Unfortunately very few of the themes established in the first hour help us make better sense of the second hour. The girl we meet at the age of 10 in 1966 doesn't feel like the girl of 27 and major events of 1966 don't seem to have any bearing on the action of 1982. In fact, as the film draws to a close we get an entirely new plot and character from 1966 introduced who seems to serve no other purpose than to be a deus ex machina for the decisions Taeko takes in the final minutes of the film. The net result is that her relationships as an adult feel artificial and if there's a message I took away from this film is that you can never relive the magic of your youth, but that won't stop you pretending you can.
As with Takahata's other films there's an interesting ecological message underpinning the main drama and there won't be a dry eye in the house as the film draws to a close, he also has a great eye for cotidian detail. But as with Pom Poko, Princess Kaguya and Grave of the Fireflies, the individuals scenes, while strong and often very emotional and sensitive, do not come together with the effortlessness of a Miyazaki.
Happy to have it on Blu Ray at last, but I couldn't care less that it has a new overdub, these films deserve to be seen in the original Japanese.