Going into last season, we were immediately intrigued by Yesterday wo Utatte after seeing the first episode as it seemed to be the type of serious seinen slice of life involving adult characters that we enjoy and aren’t seen too often. It also specifically reminded us of Welcome to the N.H.K. which is one of our favorite series, with some clear similarities between Haru and Misaki and having conventionally unsuccessful male leads.
Having recently completed the anime series, including the bonus ONA extra clips, we’ll discuss explaining our final impressions of the series, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses along with our opinion on how everything turned out. Please bear in mind that we have not read the manga so we will base this review entirely on the anime experience. Let’s get into the review!
Yesterday is Gorgeous
Right off the bat, the art style and visuals of Yesterday wo Utatte impressed us quite a bit and we also dug the character design. Doga Kobo has a reputation for creating both carefully crafted slice of life and romance series along with silly moe comedies and we feel like Yesterday is a good balance that plays to the studio’s strengths and puts them in a more serious direction. We particularly appreciated the amount of detail packed into things like the small gestures in the character animation; like how Shinako twirls the phone cord around her finger as well as the detailed backgrounds that really capture the world well.
Speaking of the setting, for us, there was definitely something sublime about this pre-cellphone, late 1990s-early 2000s Tokyo that had us feeling nostalgic. That’s probably a bit amplified by the Covid-19 craziness of the world today, but it also brought us closer to many of the characters who themselves are frequently looking as deeply back as they are moving forward. Yesterday wo Utatte is very much a story about that trepidation between times and relationships and the wistful and sullen moods that often go along with them. Admittedly, we sometimes wished that the characters would move along with their lives a bit more rapidly on certain things but the pace, overall, felt right for the atmosphere they were trying to create.
A Solid, Albeit Somewhat Uneven Cast
Going along with those great character animations and designs are, well, the characters! We wouldn’t say that we found the main cast super relatable personally, despite their mostly realistic depictions, but to some extent, we think we could all at least get where they were coming from, outside of some contrivances like why Haru likes Rikuo so much which we suppose is easily explained by love not making sense and, for lack of a better word, PLOT!
Regarding our main dude Rikuo, we’d say that he feels pretty authentic but is also kind of scummy if you think about it. He’s definitely the type of guy that isn’t really actively negative but can easily hurt others—and himself—through his passivity, as he does multiple times in the story, especially with Haru. He’s also just kind of generally unreliable but falls upward thanks to others which we suppose could be a bit of a self-insert and that just rubbed us the wrong way. By the end of the story, he’s definitely grown a bit but we can’t help but feel like he doesn’t go through enough low points or put in the personal effort to justify where he ends up from a story perspective.
Enough about Rikuo, though, we definitely like a lot of the supporting cast and think the show did a great job of showcasing their personalities, like Rikuo’s jovial co-worker Kinoshita, who is definitely way cooler than he is and maybe should have his own show, and Milk Hall’s kind-hearted owner Kyouko. We also absolutely loved how they worked in the side love story between her and Izawa “Kuma” as well as Rou and Haru’s chance meeting when she made a delivery to his art school. Even one-episode exclusive characters like Rikuo’s ex Yuzuhara and short-term coworker Minato had pretty interesting little character arcs that we really enjoyed. Likewise, with the Fukadas and their matchmaking efforts, those two are champions!
With regard to the rest of the main cast, we quite liked Haru despite her sometimes over-the-top quirkiness and wish we were given more varied character interactions to express her personality. We found Shinako’s extreme indecisiveness irritating at times and would have liked to have seen more scenes connecting her and Yuu like the eraser flashback to better explain their closeness but otherwise thought her character was fine enough and liked her teacher co-worker drinking scenes a lot in particular. As for Rou, we think he was good in pretty much every situation where he wasn’t with Shinako...
Bonus Bits and Bobs
Some other things worth noting with Yesterday wo Utatte are the bonus little ONAs which we definitely recommend tracking down. Although they’re mostly fluff, we think they added a surprising amount to how we experienced the characters and story and were generally fun and well done. While we were a bit disappointed that this series just doesn’t have an OP, the music is solid overall and fits the series well, and we did get 3 different EDs which was interesting. We definitely liked the second one, “Aoibashi”, with the retro arcade machine in the background. Haru’s pet crow Kansuke was also a fun addition!
As a complete package, we have to say that Yesterday wo Utatte is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s beautiful and technically impressive and we really enjoyed the setting, voice work, and some of the characters and their interactions. On the other, we have some fairly serious issues with the main character, thought the conclusion felt rushed, and think some of the underlying messages might be a little questionable.
If you’re generally interested in its genres, Yesterday wo Utatte is certainly worth a try and has a lot going for it but might not be the masterpiece that you want it to be. In our opinion, it’s definitely no Welcome to the N.H.K. but that’s fine as long as you’re coming in with reasonable expectations. Also, Christmas Haru is cute and we want a pet crow too.
Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment below with your own thoughts on Yesterday wo Utatte and be sure to stick around Honey’s for more of our inane ramblings about anime and more! Until next time, see ya~!