Studio Ghibli would appear to have fallen on hard times, what with the retirement of studio godhead Hayao Miyazaki and the accompanying announcement that the popular Japanese animation studio would be taking a brief hiatus to ‘re-evaluate’ the company, which is supposed to sound innocuous, but creates the same stomach-pit as when someone looks you in the eye and asks, “Can we talk?” But the studio has produced some fine non-Miyazaki films as of late, including the enchanting The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and the comparably enchanting When Marnie Was There. What’s more, they’ve got another new feature coming down the pike. Though ‘new’ might not be the right word.
Daisy Ridley exclusively revealed to Entertainment Weekly that she will contribute her vocal talents to the American dub of Only Yesterday, meaning that Studio Ghibli’s lost 1991 classic has begun its journey to domestic cinemas at long last. Never released on home video in the U.S. or screened in American theaters, Only Yesterday has now received a scheduled DVD and Blu-ray release along with theatrical showings beginning Feb. 26. Ridley has signed on to voice heroine Taeko Okajima, a self-possessed and insightful woman who struggles through various family dramas in the film, which largely eschews the fantastical elements with which Ghibli has become so identified. The film was a smashing success in its native Japan, appealing to a broad audience of men and women, the latter category ostensibly relieved to see a mature depiction of the trials and tribulations women face, and in the largely children-oriented medium of animation.
Joining Ridley in the recording booth will be Dev Patel (most recently of Chappie, which, yikes) and Ashley Eckstein, a vocal fixture on the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The film freely shifts between Taeko as a 27-year-old and her remembrances of her melancholy girlhood; though it has yet to be specified, the smart money’s on Eckstein as the voice of young Taeko, and Patel as her lifelong friend — or maybe more! — Toshio. This is a rare treat, and a serious boon to Ghibli completists. There are no real duds in the studio’s 20-film filmography, and the opportunity to discover a gem forgotten by American exhibitors is a privilege. Finally, something to get us all through January.