I came across Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday (titled Omohide Poro Poro in Japan) at a time of transition in my life. Having just having graduated from school and secured a job in my field, I had hoped that the path forward was secure, certain. The hours were nice and the pay was good, but as time went on I felt a growing dissatisfaction I could not dismiss but could not articulate. Catching the film by chance on television one late night, I connected with the protagonist’s own yearning for something more in life. This resonance spanned the gulf between gender, culture, and life experience; her fictional journey of self-discovery inspired me to reflect honestly on my own life. How does the past shape my present identity? Am I satisfied with the course of my life? Am I courageous enough to pursue what makes me genuinely happy?
After seeing the film again this year, I believe Only Yesterday is one of the finest animated films ever made. Quiet, intimate, and poignant, Isao Takahata’s masterpiece contains elements Studio Ghibli movies are renowned for – a well-rounded female protagonist, a deep respect for nature, insightful commentary on society – melding them all together into a captivating and deeply human story.
“Here, I’ll prove to you that there are no tiny moments, no dull moments, no little things, only a general failure on our parts to see the wild and amazing slather of miracles that come unbidden and will for each of us, too soon end..” (The Slather)
Published in the September/October 2012 issue of Orion Magazine, Brian Doyle’s incredible short story revolves around the small wonders that occur all around us, if only we can pause long enough to appreciate them. Continue reading
In ancient times, the land lay covered in forests, where from ages long past, dwelt the spirits of the gods. Back then, man and beast lived in harmony, but as time went by, most of the great forests were destroyed. Those that remained were guarded by gigantic beasts who owed their allegiances to the Great Forest Spirit, for those were the days of gods and of demons… - Introduction of Princess Mononoke.
I consider Princess Mononoke, a film by Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, to be one of the best environmental movie in history. Inspired by the tumultuous Muromachi era in Japanese history, Princess Mononoke explores the relationship between humans and nature in all its complex and tragic facets. Unlike many other environmental films but like so many of Miyazaki’s works, Mononoke does away with clear-cut dichotomies of good and bad; characters act with understandable motivations. Most of them are capable of change and in some cases, even redemption. The film’s unusual conclusion stresses the need for acceptance, integration, and reconciliation, even in the face of horrifying, unforgivable, and unforgettable tragedies.
I’m not sure I can capture all of the nuances and complexities of Princess Mononoke; I’ll provide a lengthier synopsis than usual, but the film is an epic in every sense of the word and really should to be experienced in its entirety. I will try my best to focus on some of the more intriguing themes and significant ideas I found throughout the movie.