While it isn’t as narratively bold and exciting as some of Studio Ghibli’s best works, there is still an emotional story about family and complicated pasts lying within.
Cast: Masami Nagasawa, Jun’ichi Okada
Plot: A group of Yokohama teens looks to save their school’s clubhouse from the wrecking ball in preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Awards: Official Selection (Toronto)
Source: Studio Ghibli
Subject Matter: Moderate – Personal Histories
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
The second feature by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, after the more decidedly mixed Tales from Earthsea (2006), From Up on Poppy Hill is a stronger work though it is far from the best that Studio Ghibli has produced over the years.
Co-written by his father, Goro Miyazaki brings to life the film’s period setting—it is 1964 as Tokyo gears up for the Olympics—which is one of the best things about Poppy Hill.
Depicting daily life in a town next to a harbour with the kind of visual poetry associated with the famed animation studio, we become acquainted with a teenage schoolgirl who along with her crush—a boy who is tremendously active in the extracurricular affairs of the school—try to prevent an old clubhouse on campus from being demolished to make way for the Olympics.
“There’s no future for people who worship the future and forget the past.”
While the plot might focus on whether this is ultimately successful, the filmmakers are more interested in the stories of these characters as their pasts intersect in complicating ways.
I feel that it is this deeper layer of connection as the theme of shared history comes to light in illuminating ways (at least from their point of view) that elevates what could have been a generic piece of work.
The much more boisterous scenes depicting the activities in school aren’t that interesting to me; in fact, the strongest scenes occur when both boy and girl traverse the streets on a bicycle, or simply walking together along the coastline as night falls. These are beautiful, romantic moments that I wished the Miyazakis had developed further.