Teenagers in love Post World War Japan is the setting for the latest Studio Ghibli home release. With Hayao Miyazaki-San ready to hand over the reigns of Japan’s greatest ever to younger hands is Goro Miyazaki’s From Upon Poppy Hill a worthy application for his father’s crown?
Set in 1963 Yokohama, From Upon Poppy Hill is a coming of age story that centre’s around Umi and Shun a friendship that’s blossoming into young love. As Tokyo starts to prepare for Olympics the young lovebirds are brought together to save their schools old ramshackle clubhouse from demolition to make way for the upcoming games.
From Upon Poppy Hill is a far superior film from Miyazaki Jnr’s debut Tales From The Earthsea which I’ll be honest wasn’t as bad as some critics made it out to be. Poppy Hill is evidence he has made progress but enough to call it a vintage Studio Ghibli.This film is not set in the fantasy realms of such Ghibli greats as Spirited Away but more at home with Whisper of The Heart grounded in reality. The film captures the post World War 2 era perfectly capturing a nation rebuilding as old traditions clash with the young. You get glimpses into the clashes from the village Umi & Shun lives in from the quaint traditional houses to the small dirty roads and vibrant, colourful but simple lifestyles. Compared to Tokyo’s sprawling crowed metropolis, with its new skyscraper buildings and a lifestyle that give you no time to saviour anything. If there was ever going to be an animated version of Ozu film, Poppy Hill could give some indication what it may look like. Tonally as well as the narrative is rich in homage to one of Japan’s true masters of cinema.
At times the film lets itself down by descending into melodramatics even suggesting the film even delves into some dark provocative subtext you wouldn’t expect from the studio, convulsing into a tragic a romance of incest. Thankfully at the last minute, things are saved but it could have been helped by a back story that hasn’t been constructed with great thought.
From Upon Poppy Hill may not be in the mould of the studios classic but there’s enough in the film for Ghibli purists to enjoy immensely, so if you’re looking for great creatures or mythical spirit you’ll a tad bored of this.The craftsmanship, the visual storytelling is essential Ghibli but what this film does do is remind us all that the traditional hand has drawn methods of animation are still alive and well been used in one of the world’s greatest animation studios. The attention to detail is sublime rendered masterfully which you can see in the scenes in the school clubhouse (which deliver some of the best scenes as well as keep a balance in the plot too) to preparing a meal at Umi’s house. Even the smallest of details are given the respect they deserve.
From Upon Poppy Hill maybe lightweight for some folks but life is one big fantasy, an adventure of discovery we all must take. A slice of life delivered in a warm, charming and intimate way that only Ghibli know how to do with great precision.
★★★★| Paul Devine
Animation, Drama, Family | Japan, 2011 | U | 23 September 2013 (UK) |Studiocanal |Dir.Goro Miyazaki | Jun’ichi Okada,Masami Nagasawa,Keiko Takeshita, Sarah Bolger, Chris Noth, Anton Yelchin |