Yesterday wo Utatte struck me as quite a good anime, all things considered. Animated by studio Doga Kobo, it’s a slice-of-life romance story that takes its time with character development and letting the important themes unfold. It often seems to have a gloomy atmosphere, but certain characters and humorous moments bring the cheer level back to normal. I don’t watch many romance anime series, but I believe Yesterday wo Utatte is a fine example of one. Below are some of my specific thoughts.
I enjoyed the art-style in Yesterday wo Utatte with its realistic look, faded lines, and good character designs. The face expressions in this anime are great. All the backgrounds are detailed and realistic. Because this show such a slice-of-life with less than exciting character designs, more attention is paid to details like clothing and cooking. In particular, there are so many kinds of Japanese foods introduced that I’d have to make a list to keep track of them. There also is a ton of focus on smoking scenes and cigarettes; this is not such a great thing since it makes me want some. (Former smoker here.)
The instrumental music in Yesterday wo Utatte is subtle but beautiful and fun if you pay attention to it. There is no opening song, but there are three different ending songs. The first is, “Kago no Naka Ni Tori” (meaning The Bird Inside The Basket) by Yourness. The second is “Aoibashi” (Blue Place) by Sayuri, and the other is “Yesterday wo Utatte” (Sing Yesterday). All three songs are moving and emotional. This anime also has a voice cast that I love, so let me ramble about that for a bit.
I recently heard Chikahiro Kobayashi for the first time when he played Legoshi in Beastars. His voice and acting ability impressed me, so to hear him again playing Rikuo in Yesterday was awesome. Yume Miyamoto voiced Haru Nonaka, and in many ways carried the show. Her voice is unusual and captivating, and it portrays well a character who is upbeat, energetic, and confident. This was my first time hearing her.
I immediately recognized the seiyuu playing Rou as Natsuki Hanae. He’s extremely talented and best known for his performances as Kaneki in Tokyo Ghoul and Tanjirou in Kimetsu no Yaiba. This was a great role for him since it challenged him to tone down his usually hyper-dramatic acting and portray a normal teenager.
Two of my favorite female seiyuu appeared in supporting roles in this anime: Eri Kitamura (playing Yuzuhara) and Maaya Sakamoto (playing Kyouko the bartender). It’s always a treat to hear these two veterans. And speaking of veterans to voice acting, Kana Hanazawa voiced Shinako, a central character in the story. She has acted in hundreds of different anime series of all sorts. I don’t always like the characters she is cast as, but I always love her gentle voice nonetheless.
The setup is a little predictable, where the eccentric girl loves the one dude, but he likes the gentler and mature girl. But there is also a fair share of originality. For instance, you don’t usually have it added in that a much younger male character has his own story and his love for an adult woman. There aren’t as many tropes and silly scenarios like you see in anime romantic comedies. There were also little interesting elements like the teacher-student dynamic between Shinako and the younger main characters, or the way the atmosphere can be gloomy but never entirely depressing.
This show may be a bit boring for those seeking something more light-hearted or something more sensual. For me, Yesterday was just entertaining enough to keep me watching, thanks to my attachments to the characters, and the presence of themes and problems very relevant in real life. The small doses of humor here and there helped keep this anime balanced. Sometimes there were pacing issues; episodes 6 and 9 in particular dragged and slowed the plot somewhat. The duller parts of the show, however, can be overlooked thanks to the lively central character Haru.
I liked the returning themes in episode 7 of Rikuo’s insecurities and hesitation about committing to things (in this case, photography). Sometimes it feels like everything is working against you, so you wonder if there’s any point in expending effort. Lack of confidence and commitment are major motifs in this show. That’s why the scene in the last episode, with Rikuo’s internal dialogue, is so important. It shows how far he’s come in finding and accepting himself– not that it’s perfect by any means. He’s also improved immensely in terms of being able to take action.
In episode 10, Rikuo remembers when he fell off his bike into the trash the previous spring. He says, “I don’t understand life.” That was quite meaningful. Sometimes life throws you into the garbage even after you’ve been brave and done something outside your comfort zone. It’s not fair, it sucks, and this show gets it. Other themes explored include moving on from the past, issues with low confidence, attachments and emotions, and various difficulties faced both as adults and as teenagers.
The last two episodes felt a little bit anticlimactic to me at first, but on further thought, I prefer this “real” atmosphere to some extremely dramatic finale that breaks the tone of the show. Everything that really needed to be said was covered just fine. The surprisingly happy ending and the hits at the end about where the characters are headed were quite refreshing. There’s no guarantee that things will stay stable or be easy. Life will continue to be complex and full of hangups and obstacles. But if you don’t even try take action, you’ll end up even more burdened by problems than before. I think that’s the central message to this anime.
Yesterday wo Utatte pulled me in right from the get-go with its relatable male lead (Rikuo) and adorable female love interest (Haru). I like all the characters, even the unconsciously arrogant photographer, Minato. Yuzuhara was fascinating and understandable, as well as very attractive, in my opinion. I found it easy to connect with each character even when their actions were annoying. Now let’s look at the four main characters.
Haru is that kind of bouncy, larger-than-life character that might be a bit annoying if she wasn’t needed to brighten up a series like this. There are nice nuances to her personality, like the way she’s often contemplative and pensive when alone. That’s an interesting contrast to her usual lively, expressive self. Haru has an unusual, small family which she doesn’t worry or care too much about in her day to day life. This show isn’t preachy about Haru’s relative detachment from her family, and I appreciated that. Like her pet crow, this girl is loud, persistent, and bit of an outcast; but she’s also beautiful and cute in her own way, with an air of mystery.
Rikuo is a character I find easy to relate to. We are similar in many ways. After college, there was nothing he really wanted to do, and he didn’t feel like branching out or searching for different jobs and experiences. He simply works at a convenience store, but he isn’t happy there. He constantly berates himself for being “a loafer.” The long and the short of his issues are emotional obstacles to taking forward action. However, over the course of Yesterday, Rikuo develops and changes quite a lot.
Rou’s character was quite well written and presented. He’s an artist and has a somewhat romanticized view of things. His personality is quite a stubborn one, and he’s doing everything he can to pursue the one he loves. The interesting thing about Rou is that, compared to many of the characters, he is action-oriented and goes straight for what he wants even if it might backfire.
I found myself frequently annoyed with Shinako, but I believe it’s because I’m infuriatingly similar to her. Often, the characters who annoy you are showing sides of yourself that you don’t like. For example, in my case, I can somewhat relate to the way Shinako mourned for someone for six entire years. She pursues a productive and helpful life in terms of working and being practical, but in terms of her emotional and mental life, she puts it off for years at a time. I’m not any better. Anyway, Shinako is kind and caring, reserved and polite, with a strong desire to help and serve.
Personal enjoyment: 7/10
A few times, I found myself getting bored, or frustrated with the characters. But I still had a good time watching. As mentioned under audio, I loved the voice cast. The humorous moments were not too frequent and not done over-the-top, which was also enjoyable. The characters were all wonderful. Check this show out and I think you might be surprised with how entertaining it can be.
Total Score: 7.4/10 Good
That’s a great score for a slow-paced romance without any action or overly dramatic parts. Yesterday wo Utatte impressed me considerably. Anyway, thank you so much for reading through my review today. Come back and visit Anime Rants sometime soon!