Posts Tagged ‘Studio Ghibli’

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.


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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Between my trip to the Kyoto International Manga Museum in September and the Studio Ghibli Museum in December, I’ve had a lot of time to think about Miyazaki Hayao and my current lifestyle.

Late autumn/early winter: Camellias near my home


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When I was 15, I was just getting into Japanese animation. Of course, as it was the early 2000s and the internet was still kind of, well, pre-Youtube, my options were basically dubs of Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z. And, as bad as it was/is, I loved Sailor Moon, and it held my interest for a long time because I realized something about the dub was…off. So I started reading this website that had summaries of all the episodes, and found out things like some of the characters were gender-swapped in the English dub so they wouldn’t be gay. As in, gay male characters were given female voices and were attempted to be passed off as biological women. Yeah. Way to go, America.

But I digress.

Because of my budding interest in Japan and anime, my parents, who have been supportive of my academic pursuits (if not a little baffled by them at times), actually introduced me to the research subject with which I spent the most time: Miyazaki Hayao, and, by extension, Studio Ghibli. The English-language dub of Mononoke-hime, or Princess Mononoke had a small (mostly art) theater release in 1999, and my dad had seen a review of it in the local paper and thought I might want to see it. So he very graciously drove me downtown to see it the day after Thanksgiving.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this movie changed my life.


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