I recently saw From Up on Poppy Hill, the new studio Ghibli film to be released. Studio Ghibli is commonly referred to as the Disney of Japan, creating amazing stories and maintaining a high level of quality in their animation. From Up on Poppy Hill has a limited released so I was very fortunate to be in a city that had showings while it was out. The film was direct by Goro Miyazaki.
Synopsis- A young girl named Umi is living with her grandmother, her younger brother and sister and a couple others in Yokohama. Umi’s mother is studying abroad in America and her father died in the Korean war when the cargo ship he was on struck a mine. The film is set in 1964 when Tokyo was preparing to host the Olympics and a transitional period between old and new.
While at school, Umi meets a boy by the name of Shun, who works on the weekly school paper from the Latin Quarter clubhouse. Shun jumps off the top of the clubhouse and into the school pool as a stunt to promote the paper. The next day Umi’s younger sister wants to travel to the club house to get Shun’s autograph.
While at the club house Umi and Shun become friends and Umi starts helping with the paper. News starts to travel about the club house needing to be torn down and Umi comes up with a plan to clean up and restore the club house.
Throughout the process, Umi and Shun become even closer. While at a gathering Shun sees a picture of Umi’s father during the war. Shun has the exact same picture and starts to piece together his childhood. Do Umi and Shun share the same father and how does it effect their friendship?
Review- Studio Ghibli continues to make great films and this is no exception. The film revolves around the relationship between Umi and Shun who become friends after a crazy stunt and a purposed demolition of Shun and friends clubhouse.
The story is well paced and doesn’t have any drawn out areas and considering the film is 90 minutes that is a good thing. You could possibly argue that the start of the story is bit slow, but it is building the world that Umi is in. The story is set in 1964 Yokohama, Japan is still rebuilding from the war, it is post-Korean war, and they are preparing for the Olympics. We are also shown more of a glimpse of Umi’s everyday life, which consists of cooking the meals for the house, buying groceries and also taking care of her younger brother and sister. It depends on your attention span, I personally thought the beginning had some of the best composed shots of the film and enjoyed the beautiful artwork in the process.
The artwork adds the characters personality and emotions in crucial scenes as Umi and Shun’s relationship goes on a bit of a roller coaster. The relationship between Umi and Shun do not feel like a typical up and down relationship story. The time period combined with the animated aspect and the reasons why their relationship is up and down are a very unique combination. There is a bit of comedy in the film as well, ranging from witty one liners to exaggerated expressions on characters.
Production Quality- Poppy Hill had very well done animation with a few scenes that I would have to see again before I can decide if they were done in 3D or not. The environments are very well painted and have both nice daytime scenes, dusk and even night scenes. Scenes are painted with great detail and seem to be very layered at times.
The character animation is really well done, there are a few scenes of the kids running and walking into school that really help the kids come off as playful. There are a handful of other shots that are animated from an interesting perspective.
There isn’t really any kind of effects in the film since it is based in reality, the visual effects that are applied are used as accents in subtle ways. If you are a fan of well drawn 2D animation without a lot of heavy effects, Poppy Hill is a must see. As an animator, Studio Ghibli films are always must see.
Music- Very light hearted, fit the story of the film well. The choir scenes were a little awkward but that is also in part f the gap between audio and lip movements which is to be expected when dubbing a song for animation.
Dub- Very well done. There are a couple scenes with the students of the school singing as a choir and the singing not matching up that closely with the lip movements, but that is to be expecting in a song dub.
And of course there was no extras since it was in theaters. Check out their Facebook to see if it is coming to a theater near you.
1964 Tokyo Olympics picture from the Edo Tokyo Museum. From my trip to Japan last summer, this is the period of “From Up on Poppy Hill”.