With things not working out with her boyfriend, twenty-something Taeko decides to have a holiday from the office and leave Tokyo for the countryside. It is a trip which makes her reminisce about her childhood in the late 60s, her first crush, her favourite band as well as school and her childhood friends. As Taeko thinks about her childhood she begins to wonder whether she has really been true to herself and the dreams she once had.
I have never been a little Japanese girl and as such I will say that "Only Yesterday" doesn't connect with me as well as it probably does with Japanese women. But what this movie does as Taeko reminisces about her childhood is make you think about your own experiences in your formative years; I thought about the girl I had a crush on during secondary school, my first kiss at junior school, the bullying which went on as well as bunking off school one afternoon two drink beer in the park with a mate. But at the same time it makes me think about what my dreams were back then and how vastly different my life is over a quarter of a century later and whether I really tried for my dreams. That is one of the strengths of "Only Yesterday" because whilst it may not connect with you directly it still manages to connect with you in a different way.
The other thing of course is that it is a Studio Ghibli movie and a beautiful one at that with gorgeous animations be it an intentionally beautiful scene in an alley way as the sun goes down or just the look of a roof at night, blue lit by the moon. And it has such a gentle look about it with many a scene featuring soft edges and almost a tint of sepia to distinguish between Taeko's past and present. Add to the mix some simply beautiful musical accomplishment which aids in creating the tone and again "Only Yesterday" ends up a minor masterpiece.
What this all boils down to is that not only is "Only Yesterday" a beautiful created animation with layers of detail it is a movie which connects with the audience even if they haven't shared the past of the character of Taeko because we all have had those experiences in are formative years we look back on as well as those dreams of what we expected are life to be when we were older.