From Up on Poppy Hill (Kokuriko-zaka Kara) is the latest Japanese animated film from Studio Ghibli. The film, directed by Gorō Miyazaki, takes place in 1960’s Japan and tells the story of Umi Matsuzaki who attempts to save her school’s clubhouse from demolition.
Umi Matsuzaki is a young girl living in a boarding house. She helps with cooking and looking after her siblings while her mother is working abroad. Throughout the movie we are revealed information of Umi’s father who was killed in the Korean War. Umi befriends a boy named Shun who writes for the school’s newspaper. With the approach of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the school’s clubhouse is set to be demolished so together they set out to renovate the building and convince the school’s education board to prevent its demolition.
The film explores the relationship of Umi and Shun as they bond through their time together. The movie concentrates more on the exploration of this relationship between characters rather than the plot itself. The film sets a very gentle mood and deals with issues of young love and enduring hardships. The setting and characters feel real which is what makes us connect with them.
As with every Studio Ghibli film the audience is treated to beautiful animation and environments and characters we can connect with. While From Up on Poppy Hill does have the Studio Ghibli charm to it, but due to the nature of the story the true imaginative and magical worlds the studio is known for creating are absent from this. Instead we are shown a more realistic 1960s Japan and an experience of the culture around that time.
The director, Gorō Miyazaki, is the son of Studio Ghibli’s co-founder and acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki. His directing début was Tales from Earthsea, an adaptation of Ursula K. Le Quin’s Earthsea book series. However this film was met with mostly negative reviews. From Up on Poppy Hill does make up for that and shows he has the potential to make good movies and perform well as a director.
While this is not the best Studio Ghibli film I’ve seen it still performs well as a movie and would recommend it to those who like a gentle paced, feel good film.
From Up on Poppy Hill was released in Japan in July 2011, an English dubbed version was released in the US on March 15, 2013.