What if you woke up in a world where The Beatles’ greatest works didn’t exist? No ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Yesterday’ or ‘Let It Be’. To top off that insane premise, what if you were the only person who had any knowledge of the band at all? Would you pass off their songs as your own? That’s the conundrum Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a struggling musician in Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, finds himself in.
When he wakes up after an accident, Jack discovers that’s he’s lost two of his teeth while the rest of the world has collectively lost its memory of The Beatles. It’s a world in which John, Paul, George and Ringo have either never met or decided to form a band – the trailer hints at the latter – and their songs are ripe for the picking. He plagiarizes their work to create “the greatest album of all time” but all may not be as well as it seems.
It’s an intriguing premise, and amid a sea of remakes, reboots and sequels, stands out as fresh, something the internet was quick to point out. “Wait, what is this? An original concept that actually looks engaging and piques my interest? Hm, that’s quite rare,” read one of the comments on the trailer.
Another comment, however, mentioned that the premise sounded similar to that of Boku wa Beatles (We Are The Beatles), a five-volume manga created by Tetsuo Fujii, illustrated by Kaiji Kawaguchi and published between 2010 and 2012. A search for the movie brought up more references to the manga:
man I don't know if it's on purpose but that "Yesterday" movie is basically a less interesting version of Kaiji Kawaguchi's manga Boku wa Beatles
— Meredith (@animemoms) February 13, 2019
#YesterdayMovie #Beatles Isn't this movie kinda ripping of Boku wa Beatles? A manga about a Beatles Tribute Band going to the past before The Beatles ever took off? Or is it an adaptation? pic.twitter.com/yXNDRg480C
— dipshit supreme (@nurhakimrozmi) February 13, 2019
that new beatles movie yesterday or whatever is literally just a modern rehash on boku wa beatles i am astounded
— matt 👾 (@skelterheiter) February 13, 2019
Japan, where The Beatles played five shows between June 30 and July 2, 1966, has a special fondness for the band. A three-page comic by manga writer Naoki Urasawa envisions what a reunion concert could’ve looked like had the group returned to Japan 50 years later. According to another manga, Boku wa Bītoruzu, the band’s music is Japanese in origin.
Boku wa Beatles falls into the Isekai subgenre of manga, in which ordinary people are transported to or reborn in a parallel universe. It follows four members of a Beatles tribute band in their 20s. A scuffle at the train station leads to three bandmates falling on the tracks, sending two of them, Makoto and Shou, back in time from 2010 to 1961. That’s one year after The Beatles formed in Liverpool, but still the year before their first big hit ‘Love Me Do’. Reasoning that they’re better musicians than the band was at their age, they decide to steal the band’s songs. They aren’t as guilt-stricken as Jack is though, convinced that The Beatles’ will come up with an even better discography when it’s their turn to break onto the scene.
The protagonists of both the manga and film first have an inkling that they’re in a Beatles-less world when their covers of ‘Yesterday’ aren’t recognized. Shou plays the song at a bar and claims credit for it, which no one disputes. Jack’s friends and family also assume he’s composed the song when he plays it after his accident. “I didn’t write it,” he says, “The Beatles wrote it, Paul McCartney wrote it.” “Who?” asks his friend. Another interesting similarity is that it’s the first song they play after getting new guitars. Jack’s is a gift, while Shou and Makoto hunt for and buy a Rickenbacker 325, John Lennon’s preferred guitar.
Boku wa Beatles gets quite bleak by the end, delving into darker themes such as identity and loss, while Yesterday, written by Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill), seems to be a more sunny, lighthearted take on the premise. In the manga, The Beatles split up and are never heard from again after failing to find success. By contrast, The Yesterday trailer teases the appearance of two men, likely to be Ringo and John (If The Beatles never got together, he wouldn’t be assassinated) who claim Jack’s songs are really theirs. We’ll have to wait till June 28 when the film releases to find out who they are.