Parents' Guide to

Only Yesterday

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

Classic Studio Ghibli drama focuses on Japanese girlhood.

Movie PG 1991 119 minutes
Only Yesterday Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 11+

A stunner of a film!

Yes to ALL OF THIS! A wonderful film that vacillates between whimsical and introspective. Handles the complexity of being a young girl and a lost soul well and with tenderness and love while at the same time taking her agency very seriously. A film that accurately portrays the sensation of childhood memories and the importance we give them in our lives. A shame that we had this in 1991 and that it took so long to come to the US. A stunner of a film.
age 10+

Really good!

I seen this years ago subtitled on Turner Classic Movies back in 2006 when they had the Month of Miyazaki. I haven't seen it since but I still vividly remember this movie despite being years since the only time I watched it. It's beautifully animated and a pretty good coming of age tale. There's no violence that I can recall and the language is very mild. There's a discussion in one scene in subtitled version where the kids (mostly boys) talk of "catching a period" when the girl hits puberty. Otherwise there is nothing truly offensive I can recall. There is a romance subplot between the main female and her male chauffeur but it's not the main focus. It's a really good movie and has the honor (as of the time of this review) of being the first and only anime film to have a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and it truly deserves it. The only reason I have the slightly higher age range is due to the story and how it might bore small children. It's definitely more for older anime fans, teenaged girls, and women.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3):
Kids say (4):

There might not be a better promoter of girl empowerment than this classic 1991 film. Only Yesterday is a lovely tribute to how girlhood dreams and disappointments impact a woman's life. Taeko's flashbacks are in many ways more exciting than her present life, which consists of going to her brother-in-law's family farm and helping with the harvest. Her fifth-grade self experiences the tumult and humiliation of early puberty: crushes, friendship, and school issues; struggles with math; sibling rivalry; and out-sized daily dramas. She practices for hours to say one line ("villager number one") in her school play, and she's crushed when her father (Masahiro Itō/Matthew Yang King) icily forbids her to accept a role she's subsequently offered in a university production.

The animation is lovely and realistic. Tiny details like the cross-hatches and colors that appear on faces when they're ashamed or blushing are brilliantly evocative. Too much nostalgia can be tiresome in a story, but in Only Yesterday the reflection is a perfect vehicle to propel Taeko on to her future. As an adult, Taeko seems happy but is quietly still dealing with the hurts of her past. It's in the countryside that she shines. The movie sensitively explores how difficult it could be for a single Japanese woman in the early '80s (and early '90s) to find her own way -- an issue that will still resonate with many viewers today -- but it's also about how love and happiness can bloom in the most unexpected ways.

Movie Details

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