This is the inaugural post for a new post series where Anime Instrumentality staff gush or prattle over a piece of anime music. There’s no set structure or format here: it can range from a melodic dissection to random musings about the emotions flowing within the piece. Either way, we hope you enjoy this change of pace as we share our thoughts and dive more deeply into a piece than a soundtrack review would normally allow.
Theme Variation Abe-kun
As I watched Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday, I found the transitions between past and present remarkably seamless as Taeko’s journey into the countryside turns into a journey of self-discovery, revealing the joys and frustrations she faced when she was younger and giving us insight into the relationship she has with her family and friends. Together, these memories make up the person she has become and the next step is for her to figure out who she wants to be.
The memories encompass a range of events: her first trip to a hot springs inn, her first experience eating pineapple, and her temper tantrum over a purse are just a few of the events shown in the movie. A childish sense of love also comes into play. The first instance of this is a fond memory; the second, not so much. “Theme Variation Abe-kun” plays in the latter scene and its poignant piano melody starts off with a sense of nostalgia before the quiet sorrow of Abe-kun’s loneliness and unrequited love for Taeko becomes apparent. In his awkwardness, he postures himself as a tough belligerent towards Taeko, sending her the wrong message and making her think Abe despised her. Taeko, for her part, is wracked with the guilt of behaving in a two-faced manner towards Abe and convinces herself that his behavior towards her was justified since he knew that she hated him the most.
When the older Taeko retells this story to her friend Toshio, Toshio makes a comment that puts this mismatch of feelings and behaviors into place, and has the effect of dissipating Taeko’s guilt. The piece responds to this dissipation with a buildup that erases the last traces of melancholia, leaving behind an aura of contentment as Taeko can finally leave this emotional burden behind and move forward with her life.