Movie: From Up on Poppy Hill
Genre: Historical, Romance, School, Shoujo
Summary: The 1964 Tokyo Olympics represented a new start for Japan—out with the old Meiji-era buildings that reminded citizens of bad times, in with innovation that spoke to the future of a newly peaceful and increasingly prosperous country.
Umi, a shy teenaged girl, manages a boarding house on the Yokohama seaside. Her father was killed in the war and her mother travels constantly, so in addition to attending high school, Umi must also run the family business. Her classmate Shun, an orphan unsure of his lineage, lives with a few other students in the old high-school clubhouse, a French-style, mansion that's set to be demolished as part of the current modernization project. Shun and his schoolmates refuse to let this happen.
As much as they fear losing their shelter, they are also appalled at what they see as the erasure of their history. As the students organize a protest, Shun and Umi grow closer. What begins as a friendship develops into something deeper as these two lonely teenagers find a mutual understanding and trust. Yet when Shun starts to investigate his past, secrets emerge that threaten to tear the two apart.
From Up on Poppy Hill was directed by Goro Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki's son. I was pretty interested to see how much of Hayao's legacy he could carry on. This movie looked very promising, but it was simple. The outcome wasn't exactly what I expected, and this goes as a bad and good way.
The main plot for this movie is about two students: Shun and Umi. They have a story of family, love, and willpower that is so simple yet so sweet. To be quite honest, that's the word that really describes this movie the best: simple. Unlike past Ghibli movies, From Up on Poppy Hill does not have magical, supernatural creatures or beautiful dream-like lands. In fact, it takes place in 1960's Japan. The movie attempts a historical feel, which is a risk since it may sway the interest of their popular audiences of children and teenagers. But, perhaps it was the simplicity of the movie that made it so likable. The whole plot wasn't exactly exciting, but it was well done enough to keep me intrigued. The relationship between Shun and Umi and their relationship problems because of possible family issues is a mild story but it still creates a sweet innocence. Extremely simple, but the best kind of simple.
Ghibli animation has always been beautiful and From Up on Poppy Hill is definitely not an exception. The backdrops are extremely detailed with even the smallest, most colorful brushstrokes on the least important settings. Everything was breathtaking, and while the character design was rather plain, it still completely captivated me. The quality was not underdone at any point in the movie and everything still retained some sense of realistic-ness. This aspect of Ghibli films will, in my opinion, never change.
Comparing past Ghibli soundtracks such as Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro to this movie makes From Up on Poppy Hill's original soundtrack seem so... plain. Joe Hisaishi did not create any original scores in this movie, so the music didn't really make of an impact on me. However, even if wasn't as good as usual, the soundtrack was still pretty swell. Finely orchestrated music fit the era and settings nicely for a 1960-themed movie. The voice actors did pretty well; they made each character's emotions seem realistic enough.
Shun and Umi make up the most important characters of the movie, so their roles will be focused on the most. Umi's character is very realistic and human. She's a hard-working, responsible young woman who still copes with normal teenage issues like school and love. Her family past of her father contributes to her personality and makes her seem not as perfect, rounding her out nicely. Shun is at first shown to be a bit rash but later on is shown to be intelligent and caring. While they aren't the most interesting people in the world, both of these characters have an impact on each other, which entertained me and further built upon the plot.
Despite being plain and simple, From Up on Poppy Hill still interested me enough to keep watching and feel a sense of positivity. It was quite honestly a refreshing change from the usual exciting, magical Ghibli movie. But, parts of it still bored me and the ending made me upset and confused.
Goro Miyazaki is continually working hard to live up to the legacy of animation that his father created. While From Up on Poppy Hill shows that he's yet to reach that point, it also shows that he's getting closer. The movie's simplicity and innocence sent out a calmer vibe and perhaps that's what the man is aiming at. I wouldn't put this in my top anime movie groups, but I wouldn't put in my worst either. It's an average movie and the work of a growing man. That's all it is to me.