Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday The Movie That Once Again Nurtures Feminism and Search For Identity


Have you seen Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday? It’s an incredible animated film directed by Isao Takahata and produced by Studio Ghibli. Undoubtedly, it’s a beautiful and poignant masterpiece that explores themes of feminism and identity against the backdrop of Japan in the 1980s. The film is celebrated for its mesmerizing animation and well-crafted profound narrative.

But here we’ll dive deeper into some layers of feminism and search for identity showcased in the movie. We’ll see how Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday offers profound insights into the struggles and triumphs of women in society.

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Studio Ghibli's Only Yesterday Picture Credit Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday Adult Taeko On The Right Picture Credit Studio Ghibli

Unveiling Feminism In Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday

When you watch Only Yesterday, you’ll see feminism depicted through the eyes of Taeko Okajima, the protagonist. Her journey shows us what the broader feminist movement is all about.

She faces challenges and strives for our dreams as women living in a patriarchal society. From her childhood dreams to her adult aspirations, Taeko struggles with societal expectations, gender roles, and finding true happiness.

In fact, it’s one of the main themes of feminism in the film which is exploring gender roles and societal pressures. For instance not being married at 27, or one should not come out of the house without a shoe.

She was not supported by her family, and still, in her late 20’s her family played a vital role in controlling the typical life of this woman. For instance, Taeko’s mother is not happy with her, just like always because she is happily unmarried.

We also see that Young Taeko was offered a prospective role at the college theatre which was not supported by her father back then. She was so excited to become a young celebrity. However, her dream was shattered and the role was given to one of her classmates.

So, Taeko was forced to navigate the expectations placed upon her as a woman from her very childhood.

She was forced to conform to traditional roles within her family or society’s idea of what women should do and how they should behave. The movie beautifully takes a stand against these conventions, which encourages women to take control of their own lives and make their own choices.

We should also say that Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday showed us the importance of female solidarity and empowerment. Taeko worked in Tokyo and lived in a single-bedroom apartment, happily unmarried, taking a ten-day trip to the village as she desired. Her lifestyle is typical now, but still, the lifestyle inspired me.

Can’t deny her poor marks in maths were seen as a disease by her sister and her mother. However, her scorecard was not a reflection of her successful life at all. She was happy in her present which mattered to me the most.

The movie gives us glimpses of Taeko’s relationships with her family and friends at her school, that was not so bright. However, her colleagues at the safflower farming highlight the beautiful bonds that women should share, especially when facing challenges.

This reinforces the idea that when we should support each other. And why should we not? Because the more we support each other the more we can overcome patriarchal barriers and make progress collectively.

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Identity Exploration On Taeko’s Trip

Now coming to the topic of identity exploration, the movie shows how our gender, culture, and personal growth can intersect and shape who we are. The main character, Taeko, goes on a trip. She started taking this journey to rejuvenate and feel happy.

But this particular journey becomes a trip of self-discovery. She continuously faces her past, or what we can call her inner child, and how societal expectations and her inner desires were resisted growing up, all through this time.

Moreover, Taeko’s memories of her childhood while visiting the rural countryside play an important role in her identity exploration. The movie uses flashbacks to contrast Taeko’s happy experiences in the countryside with her current urban life.

This makes her reflect on her sense of self and where she belongs. The flashbacks highlight the transformative power of nostalgia and the significance of reconnecting with one’s soul.

We can deduce that Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday seamlessly talks about the importance of authenticity and finding true fulfillment. Taeko decides to leave her mundane job in Tokyo and embrace a simpler life working on a safflower farm at the end of the movie which requires guts.

This shows her search for authenticity and meaning in life was more important to her than anything else. By following her passions and being true to herself, Taeko embodies the film’s message of self-actualization. Through her, we also learn the importance of living authentically despite societal expectations.

Studio Ghibli's Only Yesterday Picture Credit Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday Young Taeko With Her Family Picture Credit Studio Ghibli

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While TOTT Concludes On Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday

Without a doubt, Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday is a beautiful movie that explores the struggles and triumphs of women in society. Through Taeko’s journey of self-discovery, the film challenges gender norms, celebrates the bond between women, and encourages us to be true to ourselves and our dreams. I think this movie is a wonderful reminder of how powerful storytelling can be in inspiring empathy, understanding, and social change.

What do you think?

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