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Takahata Isao’s Only Yesterday (1991) (Omoide poroporo) had its US nationwide theatrical release on Feb. 26, 2016. It’s one of a handful of Ghibli films from the 1980s and 90s that I hadn’t seen on VHS/DVD as a teen.

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Image via IFC. 27-year-old Taeko sits on a local train with her 10-year-old self and 5th grade classmates.

Set in 1982, the film follows Taeko, a 27-year-old office worker who loves the countryside but grew up in and still lives in Tokyo. She uses her vacation time to travel to rural Yamagata prefecture to visit her older sister’s in-laws and help out with the safflower harvest on their farm. On her trip, she reflects on the events that happened in her family and at school when she was ten, in 1966: her first inclination to visit the country, tension with her older sisters and parents, the onset of puberty, her first mutual crush, math trouble, and how those experiences shaped who she is.

Containers major spoilers. Please note that I saw the English subtitled version of the film with the original Japanese audio.

Part of me is glad I saw it first my early 30s, because being close to the age of the protagonist, I understood her point of view much more than I would have at 16, particularly in the sense that I’ve also spent a lot of time reflecting on the past in the last few years and trying to figure out my relationships to my friends and family. But in chatting with my partner about awkward teen times and internalizing problematic romantic narratives, I wish, in a way, that I had seen this as a teen.

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