From Up on Poppy Hill
Fans of Japanese animation house, Studio Ghibli, have been left reeling after the recent announcement that Hayao Miyazaki has retired from film making. Miyazaki co-founded the animation house in 1985, and his extensive career includes directorial credits for cult films such as Princess Mononoke, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Spirited Away, as well as more recent box office hits such as Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo. Scripted by Miyazaki and directed by his son Gorō, From Up on Poppy Hill is the studio’s latest film to receive a cinematic release in the UK.
As the opening credits state, From Up on Poppy Hill is based on a 1980s comic series by Chizuru Takahashi and Tetsurō Sayama. It follows Umi, a character typical to Ghibli in her age, gender and absent parents as well as her structured life that begins to free-fall with new coming-of-age relationships. The 60s setting allows director Gorō Miyazaki to create extremely sexist and classist caricatures that poke fun at the Japanese society of the past. At times, this feels awkward in a way that other Ghibli films with social or political concerns do not.
The film centres on Umi’s attempt to save a beloved school clubhouse, Quartier Latin. The building becomes the heart of the film as the audience are introduced to the societies that use it and the movement away from a boy’s club to a social space (albeit one that the girls single-handedly clean in a scene that is as insulting as it is comedic in its presentation of gender roles).
Unlike earlier Ghibli releases that used fantastical and futuristic elements to transport the viewer to a parallel world, From Up on Poppy Hill remains rooted in post-World War II realism. In comparison, this could seem prosaic at points, but judged as a stand-alone film it is a rich and enjoyable journey. At points it is nostalgic but marked with humour, adorns an excellent soundtrack and, of course, the trademark beautiful animation of Studio Ghibli.
From Up on Poppy Hill was released in the UK on 2nd August 2013.
Watch the trailer for From Up on Poppy Hill here: