Departures is the winner of the 2009 Academy Award in the category of the Best Foreign Language Picture. Loosely based on a memoir by Shinmon Aoki titled Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician, it tells the story of Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), an ex-cellist who comes to his home town and finds a very undesirable employment as a nōkanshi, a traditional ritual mortician in Japan. The profession attracts strong societal criticism and prejudice, and soon Kobayashi has to justify his choice not only to his wife and those around him, but also to himself, while finding the courage to finally face the most hated man in his life – his own father. Departures is a wonderful film full of humour and touching moments. This film about one man’s journey of self-discovery and finding forgiveness is also an admirable attempt to challenge and to help alleviate the nonsensical and unfair discrimination faced by people who work in this very difficult and challenging profession in Japan.
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“…What drives animation is the will of the characters” (Hayao Miyazaki).
“Only Yesterday” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service” are two completely different in plot animations, but both were produced about the same time by famous Japanese Studio Ghibli, an animation film studio known worldwide for the quality of their animations. While “Only Yesterday” focuses on grown-up concerns and largely targets teenager/adult audience, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is a completely child-friendly movie, which also has important messages to deliver.
Only Yesterday (1991)
“Only Yesterday” has a plot filled with highly emotional undercurrents and intelligence: a 27 years old unmarried woman, Taeko, from Tokyo, visits countryside while reminiscing over her childhood of when she was a shy and creative fifth grader at school. Through her nostalgia, we get to learn about many situations which have had the biggest impact on her up until her present life, and get to understand her past choices, hopes and regrets. Directed by Isao Takahata (“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” (2013) and “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988)), “Only Yesterday” is a beautiful animation which touches upon such often overlooked in films/animations topics as the “grip” of persistent childhood memories and their traumatic or positive impact on one’s later life and development, the benefit of re-discovering oneself in a different setting, the importance of staying true to oneself no matter the circumstances, and the imperative of letting go and forgiving “one’s former self”, as well as people from one’s past, to be able to carry on and lead a happy, fulfilled life. Continue reading Studio Ghibli: “Only Yesterday” (1991) and “Kiki’s Delivery Service” (1989)