Screenwriters: Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Starring: Masami Nagasawa, Junichi Okada, Shunsuke Kazama (Japan) / Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin, Charlie Saxton (US)
Release Date: July 16, 2011 (Japan) / March 29, 2013 (US)
Based on コクリコ坂から (Kokuriko-zaka kara) by Chizuru Takahashi & Tetsurō Sayama
Studio Ghibli’s From up on Poppy Hill is set in Yokohama, Japan, the year before Tokyo is about to host the 1964 summer Olympics. It tells the story of a girl named Umi Matsuzaki who runs a boarding house while attending high school. She meets Shun Kazama, a member of the school newspaper and together they face the challenge of keeping the school clubhouse “Latin Quarter” from being torn down as part of the Olympic “Clean-Up Japan” movement. Along the way, they both must also confront the budding emotions that they each begin to feel.
True to Ghibli, the movie is bursting with beautiful details in each of the scenes. From the bustling marketplace to the clutter of the Latin Quarter, there’s no shortage of color and detail. The thought put into all the scenes is what really brings this movie to life. It’s as if you’re in 1963! It adds an air of nostalgia and realism as you watch Umi go through her daily life. Ghibli has really put thought into the day to day activities, and I can see where some may call the movie slow paced, but to me, it was really a treat to experience the period. A beautiful jazzy soundtrack further emphasizes the bustling era and draws you in.
In terms of storyline, there isn’t too much drama or rising action. This film really is a slice of life, and the drama that does happen seems to be paced rather oddly alongside other events. All of that seems to tone down what is really important to the characters. Being Gorō Miyazaki’s second film, it’s a big improvement from his “Tales of Earthsea,” but he still has much to learn in terms of pacing his story. The animation is also a little lacking, but seeing as this is a slower paced film, you really don’t get to see much in terms of beautiful, flawless animation like you see in “Spirited Away” or “Ponyo.” From up on Poppy Hill seems to be missing the classic Ghibli sense of magic you see in many of its better known films and instead tries to capture the essence of the post-WWII era in Japan. However, even then, it doesn’t quite seem to capture the emotional turmoil that the characters should be going through. In fact, a majority of the movie is quite upbeat, only when they visit Tokyo does the viewer really get the sense of Japan during this era of change.
Altogether, From up on Poppy Hill is an enjoyable movie and definitely has its moments. The attention to detail really pays off in their scenes, but Gorō Miyazaki still has a bit of a ways to go to truly capturing the Ghibli magic that captivate movie goers. While people may not find it as memorable as other Ghibli films in terms of that magical feel, it’s still well constructed and worth a watch. If you’re a fan of Ghibli’s “Whisper of the Heart” and “Only Yesterday,” then From up on Poppy Hill might just be down your alley.
7.1 out of 10
Review by: Jenny Lin
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