Director: Goro Miyazaki
I swear Studio Ghibli will be the death of me because all of the hope that is welling up inside of me is threatening to spill out of every orifice in my body. How’s that for a mental picture? 😀
“From Up On Poppy Hill” is another ace in the hole for the prestigious animation studio founded by Hayao Miyazaki which was directed by his son Goro Miyazaki and it really does go to show that talent runs strong in the family. While this is not the first film the younger Miyazaki has directed (“Tales of the Earthsea” has that distinction), it will no doubt become seminal in the years to come because true to Ghibli style, “Poppy Hill” displays heart-warming sensitivity, likeable characters, stunning visuals and has a tale to tell that we can all relate to. Whether Ghibli elects to set a story in a mythical land with sorcerers and magic or in our reality, or at least a version of it, what it all comes down to is encouraging the audience to find goodness in the world and a view to heal it rather than be pessimistic and turning their back on it and its people.
It is the summer of 1963 after the Second World War and Japan has started to rebuild itself from the devastating previous years. The Tokyo Olympics is one year away and culture has come to a crossroads- it has the potential for a new and prosperous future but it still retains its old traditions. Amongst this process of renaissance and rejuvenation in the Port of Yokohama, two high school students, Shun and Umi, both without fathers, both who conscientious about taking care of their families, who find a warm connection with each other (though not without some incidents of Lizzie Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy proportions to begin with with a huge dosage of “Uh ohhh” for good measure). What unites their interests however is when the government desires to take down an old communal clubhouse in the Latin Quarter that has been a part of the tradition of youths in the area. Rallying friends and supporters together, Umi and Shun passionately strive to rebuild and reignite interest in the clubhouse in order to show that the past can unite with the future all the while exploring their personal relationship with each other in the advent of this new dawning era they are now a part of.
The entire film really is a metaphor for how the traditions of generations before really should not feel threatened by the generation of what is to come and vice versa- time, as far as the concept of dynasty is concerned, is subjective and there is no reason to fear change and feel as if you are betraying the past by embracing it. This film does not preach, it merely states a truth that can be universally felt and appreciated if your mind is open- no matter what generation you are a part of, you are also its hope and not a burden. It goes without saying that this film looks absolutely stunning- lush visuals, a poignant and appropriate soundtrack that clearly echoes the world at the time, beautifully-realised production values and on the yen voice acting from both the native Japanese performances as well as the English dub (which boasts Anton Yelchin, Gillian Anderson and Christina Hendricks but to name a few). “From Up On Poppy Hill” an intimate yet simultaneously openly affecting and infinitely charming story with characters you will remember most fondly. In a way, I somehow feel that the message in this movie is a clever echo of the fact that the father is making way for his son to lead a change in Ghibli’s future when he departs but without sacrificing what has made the studio so admired and its stories so beloved. If my projections are true, then Studio Ghibli will be in very safe, very capable and very creative hands. There is hope for the future indeed.
I honestly can’t find any glaring fault in this film in terms of what it is. However, there may be some discontent felt by those who are passionate about the historical time period this film takes place in. Given Yokohama mostly likely did not look so colourful and teeming with life historically as it does here, this wasn’t done as a means of slight, but to stylize the visual content of the story. Goro Miyazaki himself has said that he initially did want to set the story in a more historically accurate surrounding, but then he realised, and I quote, “simply re-enacting something of the time may seem real enough but may not necessarily be beautiful.” He then went on to reason that the story takes place through the eyes of Umi and Shun who see the world in this light due to their youth and vitality. We could go on for hours with this controversial point, but ultimately, Miyazaki’s intention was never to offend, but to offer another point of view.
This may not be considered ‘classic’ material now, but hey, who knows, maybe “From Up On Poppy Hill” may join the ranks of “My Neighbour Totoro”, “Princess Mononoke” and “Spirited Away” in the next decade. Who can be certain? What matters now however is that this movie is a delightful experience that certainly left me once again in bright-eyed awe at Studio Ghibli and if you The only thing that causes me discontent is the fact that this movie came out in Japan in 2011, only for us Westerners to receive it a good two years later- it sucks being a Westerner sometimes.
The Australian DVD
We got ourselves a nice little bag of goodies with the Australia Blu-Ray edition thanks to Madman in the form of …
Making of Featurette with the English dub cast members
Original Japanese trailers and TV spots
Press conference – Theme song announcement
Music Video “Summer of Farewells – From Up On Poppy Hill -” performed by Aoi Teshima
Hayao Miyazaki’s speech after the staff screening
Interview with Goro Miyazaki
The Studio Ghibli Collection trailers (just in case you wanted to see more)
Yokohama – Stories of Past and Present
Review written by Bea Harper
Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.