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Only Yesterday (1991 film)

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Only Yesterday
Japanese name
Revised HepburnOmoide Poro Poro
Directed byIsao Takahata
Screenplay byIsao Takahata
Based onOmoide Poro Poro
by Hotaru Okamoto
Yuko Tone
Produced byToshio Suzuki
CinematographyHisao Shirai
Edited byTakeshi Seyama
Music byKatz Hoshi
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • July 20, 1991 (1991-07-20)
Running time
118 minutes
Box office¥3.18 billion (Japan)[2]
$525,958 (overseas)[3]

Only Yesterday (Japanese: おもひでぽろぽろ, Hepburn: Omoide Poro Poro[n 1], lit.'Memories Come Tumbling Down'[4]) is a 1991 Japanese animated drama film written and directed by Isao Takahata, based on the 1982 manga of the same title by Hotaru Okamoto and Yuko Tone.[5] It was animated by Studio Ghibli[6] for Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network and Hakuhodo, and distributed by Toho. It was released on July 20, 1991. The ending theme song "Ai wa Hana, Kimi wa sono Tane" (愛は花、君はその種子, "Love is a flower, you are the seed") is a Japanese translation of Amanda McBroom's composition "The Rose".

The film was a surprise box office success, attracting a large adult audience and becoming the highest-grossing Japanese film of 1991 in the country. It has also been well received by critics outside of Japan—it has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

To celebrate the film's 25th anniversary, GKIDS released the film for the first time in an English-language format on February 26, 2016,[7] featuring the voices of Daisy Ridley,[8] Dev Patel, Alison Fernandez, Laura Bailey and Ashley Eckstein.[9]

On August 31, 2020, it was announced a live-action special based on the manga would air on NHK's subchannels BS Premium and BS4K in January 2021. The special follows a 64-year-old Taeko with her daughter and granddaughter.[10]


In 1982, Taeko Okajima is 27 years old, unmarried, has lived her whole life in Tokyo and now works at a company there. A workaholic that has always liked visiting the rural countryside, she decides to take another trip to visit her eldest sister Nanako’s in-laws to help with the safflower harvest. While traveling at night on a sleeper train to Yamagata, she begins to recall memories of herself as a ten-year-old schoolgirl in 1966, and her intense desire to go on holiday like her classmates, all of whom have family outside of the big city. This precipitates a series of memories from the same school year, including how she met her first boyfriend (a baseball star in an adjacent class), the first time she and her family ate a pineapple, and how she learned about and indirectly dealt with puberty.

When Taeko arrives, she is surprised to find that her brother-in-law's second cousin Toshio, whom she barely knows, is the one who came to pick her up. Toshio himself moved back from the city to become a farmer and help his family, but became passionate about farming and decided to stay. Taeko continues to experience memories of her ten-year-old self, and decides to tell her family about them. When she sees a young cousin unsuccessfully ask her mother for Puma sneakers, Taeko tells her about how she once similarly wanted a purse. She was eventually granted a hand-me-down from the family middle sister Yaeko, but when she refused to give it to her, the ensuing confrontation led Taeko’s father to hit her. Taeko reflects that she was partially in the wrong herself for begging, convincing her cousin to move on.

Later, when having lunch with Toshio, Taeko recalls about how she always struggled with the concept of fractions in school, and asks him if he ever similarly struggled with something. Toshio mentions his compulsion as a farmer has troubled him due to the industry dying out, and muses how the entire rural landscape was built by farmers in spite of this. Seeing how they all connect with each other, Taeko realizes that the rural country is making her nostalgic, and that her past memories are wielding a tapestry for her present self to reminisce on. With this, she recalls to Toshio and her cousin about how she once discovered a talent for acting and was nearly cast in an university play, only for her father - thinking she would get harassed as an actress - to shut the idea down, breaking the rest of the family’s hearts; Taeko eventually moved on by high school, however.

On the eve of Taeko’s departure, Toshio’s grandmother - sensing Taeko wishes to stay - suddenly suggests that Taeko stay in the country and marry Toshio, flustering her. As she runs out to get fresh air, she recalls an incident where she declined to move her seating assignment away from a poor kid, only for him to reject her anyways. Toshio soon finds Taeko in the rain, and she tells him about the same kid as he drives her back. Toshio bluntly suggests that he may have liked her, while also implying his own feelings for her. Realizing how easy it is to talk with Toshio, Taeko starts to realize her own feelings for him.

Taeko leaves the next day, promising to visit again in the winter. As she sits on the train, however, she is approached by the memories of all her classmates including her past self, who wordlessly convince her that what she really wants is to stay. She gets off the train and meets with Toshio, who - after the two affirm their feelings for each other - drives her back as her past self looks on happily.

Cast and characters[edit]

Character Japanese voice actor English dubbing actor
Main cast
Taeko Okajima (age 10) (岡島タエ子, Okajima Taeko) Yōko Honna Alison Fernandez
Taeko Okajima (age 27) Miki Imai Daisy Ridley[8]
Toshio (トシオ) Toshirō Yanagiba Dev Patel
Young Taeko's classmates
Tsuneko Tani (谷ツネ子, Tani Tsuneko) Mayumi Iizuka Hope Levy
Aiko (アイ子) Mei Oshitani Stephanie Sheh
Toko (トコ) Megumi Komine Ava Acres
Rie (リエ) Yukiyo Takizawa Madeleine Rose Yen
Suu (スー) Masashi Ishikawa Jaden Betts
Shuuji Hirota (広田秀二, Hirota Shūji) Yūki Masuda Gianella Thielmann
Taeko's family in Tokyo
Taeko's Mother (タエ子の母, Taeko no haha) Michie Terada Grey DeLisle (as Grey Griffin)
Taeko's Father (タエ子の父, Taeko no chichi) Masahiro Itō Matthew Yang King
Nanako Okajima (岡島ナナ子, Okajima Nanako) Yorie Yamashita Laura Bailey
Yaeko Okajima (岡島ヤエ子, Okajima Yaeko) Yuki Minowa Ashley Eckstein
Taeko's Grandmother (タエ子の祖母, Taeko no baba) Chie Kitagawa Mona Marshall
Taeko's farm relatives in Yamagata
Kazuo (カズオ) Kōji Gotō Matthew Yang King
Kiyoko (キヨ子) Sachiko Ishikawa Sumalee Montano
Naoko (ナオ子) Masako Watanabe Tara Strong
Granny (ばっちゃ, Baccha) Shin Itō Nika Futterman


Studio Ghibli co-founder and the film's producer Hayao Miyazaki was intrigued by the original Only Yesterday manga, believing there was potential value in depicting the type of children's story it told. However, he felt he was not up to the task of adapting it into a film, but the idea remained in his mind as he directed other children's films such as My Neighbor Totoro, and he eventually brought the idea to Takahata.[11]

The story takes place within the Takase district of Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture.[12] The Takase Station (and also Yamadera Station) of the JNR (currently JR East) Senzan Line is featured prominently; though it has since been rebuilt, the scenery remains mostly unchanged. During the course of the film, characters visit prominent locales, including the resort destination of Mount Zaō.

Unlike the typical Japanese character animation style, the characters have more realistic facial muscles and expressions due to the dialogue being recorded first (the tradition in Japan is to record it after the animation is completed) and the animators fit the animation to the spoken dialogue. Takahata also had voice actors record some of their lines together, using footage of their performances as a guide for both design and the animation.[11] However, the scenes of Taeko's childhood past were animated before the voices were recorded, giving a subtle contrast between the anime style of her childhood and the adult "reality" of the framing story.[11]

Those scenes set in 1966 with the 10-year-old Taeko are taken from the source material. Takahata had difficulty adapting the episodic manga into a feature film, and he, therefore, invented the framing narrative wherein the adult Taeko journeys to the countryside and falls in love with Toshio.[5]

Taeko recalls her childhood favorite puppet show Hyokkori Hyotan Jima (ひょっこりひょうたん島, "Floating Gourd Island") which was an actual puppet show that aired every weekday on NHK from 1964 to 1969.


There is a repeated Eastern European theme in the film, particularly in the soundtrack reflecting the peasant lifestyle still present in the area and the parallels this draws with Japanese rural life. Folk songs from the area repeatedly occur in the film. For example, "Frunzuliță Lemn Adus Cântec De Nuntă" (Fluttering Green Leaves Wedding Song) is a Romanian folk song written by Gheorghe Zamfir and occurs in the film repeatedly during the landscape shots, for example arriving at the farm. Instruments used include the prominent nai played by Zamfir himself, cimbalom and violins.

There is also Hungarian music in the film, using pieces of music such as Brahms' "Hungarian Dance No. 5" in a scene where Taeko is eating lunch, and making references to Hungarian musicians when she is in the car with Toshio ("Teremtés" performed by Sebestyén Márta & Muzsikás. Adaptation from a Hungarian traditional folk song). The music of Márta Sebestyén with Muzsikás is used in several scenes as well.[13] Bulgarian folklore music is also used in the soundtrack. When Taeko is on the field, one can first hear Dilmano, Dilbero, followed by Malka Moma Dvori Mete. These are typical Bulgarian folklore songs and the lyrics of both are connected to topics mentioned in the film – the life of farmers and marriage.


The film released in Japan on July 20, 1991 by Toho in theaters. Despite the movie's success in the Japanese box office, Only Yesterday was not released to other Western countries for over a decade. Germany was the first country to release the film on June 6, 2006, dubbed in the German language.[14] Australia and the United Kingdom would follow suit in 2006 and distribute the film in their region under Madman Entertainment and Optimum Releasing respectively.[15][16]

In North America, the film held the longest distinction of being the only theatrical Studio Ghibli feature not yet released on home video. Walt Disney Studios, which had then owned the North American distribution rights to Studio Ghibli's catalog, refused to release it because of its candid treatment of menstruation in the flashback sequences. A subtitled version of the film was aired on Turner Classic Movies in January 2006, as part of the channel's month-long salute to Miyazaki and Ghibli.[citation needed]

In 2015, GKIDS announced it would release the film in theaters in North America in 2016 along with an English dub, with actors Daisy Ridley, Dev Patel, Ashley Eckstein and Alison Fernandez confirmed to lend their voices.[17] The film premiered in New York City on January 1, 2016, with a wider North American release on February 26, 2016.[8][9] It was later released on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 5, 2016 by GKIDS and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, earning $1,780,357 in sales revenue.[18]


Box office[edit]

Only Yesterday was the highest-grossing Japanese film on the domestic market in 1991,[19] grossing ¥3.18 billion at the Japanese box office.[2] The 2016 English-language release later earned $525,958, including $453,243 in the United States.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received widespread critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 100%, based on 59 reviews, with an average rating of 8.40/10. The critical consensus states "Only Yesterday's long-delayed U.S. debut fills a frustrating gap for American Ghibli fans while offering further proof of the studio's incredibly consistent commitment to quality."[20] It has a score 90 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 19 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[21]

Roger Ebert gave the film a very favorable review in his essay regarding anime and the other work of Studio Ghibli calling it "a touching, melancholy meditation on the life of the same woman at ages 10 and 27."[22] Nicolas Rapold, of The New York Times, gave the film a positive review, saying, "Mr. Takahata's psychologically acute film, which was based on a manga, seems to grow in impact, too, as the adult Taeko comes to a richer understanding of what she wants and how she wants to live."[23] Glenn Kenny of RogerEbert.com awarded it a similarly positive review, saying "Like Kaguya, it functions as a highly sensitive and empathetic consideration of the situation of women in Japanese society—but it's also a breathtaking work of art on its own."[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The film title uses the historical spelling おもひで omohide, instead of the modern spelling おもいで. For either spelling, the word is pronounced omoide, with the "h" sound omitted.


  1. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on August 12, 2018. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Only Yesterday AKA Omohide poro poro [Blu-ray]". DVD Compare. September 4, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Only Yesterday (2016 re-release)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on January 18, 2017. Retrieved December 25, 2016.
  4. ^ Team Ghiblink. "Only Yesterday: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Q: What does "Omohide Poroporo" mean?". Nausicaa.net. Archived from the original on January 7, 2007. Retrieved July 13, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Team Ghiblink. "Only Yesterday: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Q: Is it based on a manga or a book?". Nausicaa.net. Archived from the original on January 7, 2007. Retrieved January 9, 2007.
  6. ^ Byford, Sam (February 24, 2016). "Only Yesterday is an intensely relatable blast from Studio Ghibli's past". The Verge. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  7. ^ "Ghibli's Only Yesterday Film Trailer Previews English Dub With Star Wars' Daisy Ridley". Anime News Network. December 30, 2015. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c "Star Wars' Daisy Ridley Talks About Ghibli's Only Yesterday Role". Anime News Network. December 29, 2015. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Unreleased Studio Ghibli feature finally receives English dub, dated for January". Polygon. December 4, 2015. Archived from the original on December 7, 2015. Retrieved December 5, 2015.
  10. ^ "Only Yesterday Manga Gets Live-Action Special After Inspiring Ghibli Film". June 26, 2023.
  11. ^ a b c The Making of Only Yesterday. 2016 (DVD).
  12. ^ Team Ghiblink. "Only Yesterday: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Q: Where did it take place?". Nausicaa.net. Archived from the original on January 7, 2007. Retrieved January 9, 2007.
  13. ^ Team Ghiblink. "Only Yesterday: CD Guide". Nausicaa.net. Archived from the original on June 6, 2009. Retrieved July 13, 2009.
  14. ^ "Tränen der Erinnerung – Only Yesterday" (in German). Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved July 13, 2009.
  15. ^ "Release Information: Only Yesterday". Archived from the original on October 13, 2006. Retrieved July 13, 2009.
  16. ^ "Optimum Releasing: Only Yesterday". Archived from the original on October 26, 2006. Retrieved July 13, 2009.
  17. ^ "GKids to Release Ghibli's Only Yesterday in Theaters in N. America". Anime News Network. August 24, 2015. Archived from the original on February 19, 2016. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  18. ^ "Omohide poro poro (2016) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved September 2, 2019.
  19. ^ "Kako haikyū shūnyū jōi sakuhin 1991-nen" (in Japanese). Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved February 6, 2011.
  20. ^ "Omohide poro poro (Only Yesterday) (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on March 31, 2016. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  21. ^ "Only Yesterday (1991)". Metacritic.com. Archived from the original on January 5, 2016. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  22. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 7, 1999). "Only Yesterday (2016)". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  23. ^ Repold, Nicolas (December 31, 2015). "Review: Only Yesterday, Isao Takahata's Time-Jumping Anime". New York Times. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  24. ^ Kenny, Glenn (December 31, 2015). "Only Yesterday (2016)". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital. Archived from the original on January 25, 2016. Retrieved February 9, 2016.

External links[edit]