From Up On Poppy Hill

From Japan’s legendary Studio Ghibli comes a sensitively rendered heartwarming love story directed by Goro Miyazaki, the eldest son of animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki.

Set in the spring of 1963 Japan, the story, co-written by Hayao Miyazaki, is narrated by a school girl, Umi,  on a coming-of-age journey to discover her family’s past while the country prepares for the 1964 Summer Olympics. 

Gone are the fantastical creatures, spirits and fanciful flights of childhood fantasy that have become a hallmark of Miyazaki’s films, replaced here by a straight forward historical biography of two students who meet under serendipitous circumstances and find that they have a surprising connection.

There is a genuine complexity about the characters that is believable and the realistic serious nature of the situations make it feel more like a true-to-life live action drama.

In the aftermath of past wars, construction is everywhere as old buildings are being torn down, making way for the future. One such building is an old rundown school clubhouse being used by teen students who have grown attached to the space and want to save it from being demolished. 

The picturesque, artfully drawn animation is as detailed and lushly realistic as you would expect from a Studio Ghibli film, living up to its world class reputation while we get to see in detail the atmosphere and daily activities of village life in a small Japanese coastal town.

Umi, living with her adopted family in a hillside house overlooking the ocean, still holds out hope that her father, who disappeared during the Korean War, will return one day. Every morning she puts up signal flags for passing boats to see in case he returns. One day Umi discovers that somebody is answering the flags with a cryptic message in the papers. 

Jazzy songs from the 1960s and French bistro music gives the film an added layer of authenticity and a nostalgic melancholy feel typical of Miyazaki’s films.

While the male students are organizing protests to convince the school board that their clubhouse is worth preserving for future generations, Umi finds herself suddenly caught up in the enterprise when she meets one of the passionate young organizers, Shun, and volunteers to help the cause.

Having recently announced his retirement after completing his last project The Wind Rises (2013), Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, being releases soon in cinemas, is similarly a biographical account and a love story that takes place in Japan just before the start of W.W. II. 

As Umi and Shun work together they become close as they get to know each other. But their attraction for each other is complicated when they make a surprising discovery about their families.

Working together, father and son have created a mature heartfelt story that hits all the Miyazaki noted traits. If From Up on Poppy Hill is any indication, Studio Ghibli appears to be in good hands as its legacy is passed on to a new generation.



jacquie said...

I haven't heard of his studio but it sounds like a good film

Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) said...

I assume you watched this film with subtitles. Sometimes that interferes with my enjoyment of a film because I find that rather just surrendering to reading the dialogue, I try to match up the speaking with the words. It's especially bad if I'm relatively, but not completely, fluent in the language. Then, I'm totally distracted if I don't think the translation is quite accurate.

Oksana Frewer said...

Japanese film...I have to watch it ! They are quite different than our films, it seems like it's about people from a different planet.

alemap said...

I've never watched any Japanese animated films but from your description, this one sounds like a good one to start with.

Michele Harvey said...

Although I like Japanese animation, I wouldn't ordinarily go to the movies to see it. That said, your review of this film has caused me to want to go see it and I shall. Thank you. I almost felt as though I were in that coastal town.

20Pat said...

This sounds like a coming of age film with multi-layered characters using anime style filming. It's not one I've heard of before but it sounds very good. I'll be looking for it now!