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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on From Up on Poppy Hill

uponpoppyhillFrom Up on Poppy Hill is the latest film released by Japan’s Studio Ghibli.  This is the second film by Goro Miyazaki, who is the son of famed anime director Hayao Miyazaki, who co-wrote the film.  The film focuses on Umi and Shun, who are students in 1964 Yokohama.  Their school’s historic “Latin Quarter” clubhouse is in danger of being demolished, as Japan moves forward in advance of the Tokyo Olympics.  Shun is one of the main voices in protest of the clubhouse being demolished and Umi befriends him and helps with the cause, which includes suggesting that they restore the building to prove that it doesn’t need replacing.  In addition, Umi and Shun learn that they have a shared connection with Umi’s father, who died in the Korean war.

If you are a fan of Studio Ghibli’s more fantasy-based films, such as Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle, you might end up being mildly disappointed by From Up on Poppy Hill.  The film is very much a “real world” story with a somewhat ordinary plot involving student protesting the demolition of the clubhouse.  However, despite this more mundane subject matter, I found I enjoyed the film.  There is certain charm with Studio Ghibli’s anime films and they are a joy to watch, no matter what they are about.  Plus, there are still plenty of odd characters that show up in the clubhouse (the head of the Philosophy Club comes to mind).

I have to admit that it took me a while to figure out the period setting of the film.  The 1964 Tokyo Olympics are mentioned early on in the film and posters for the event can be spotted throughout.  I’m not the most familiar with how the political situation was in the Japan on the 1960s, so I did not fully understand why the film was set at that time period.  One of the arguments made against demolishing the clubhouse is that Japan should embrace the past, instead of focussing only on the future.  This overarching theme is apparent in not only the quest to save the clubhouse, but also in how Umi and Shun learn more about Umi’s father and he relates to both their lives.

Overall, even though it features a much more “real world” premise than Studio Ghibli’s other films, there is still a lot to like with From Up on Poppy Hill.  The film is both funny and touching and I would recommend checking it out if you can.

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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).