From Up on Poppy Hill is a 2011 Japanese animated drama film directed by Gorō Miyazaki, scripted by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, and produced by Studio Ghibli. It is based on the 1980 serialized Japanese comic of the same name illustrated by Chizuru Takahashi and written by Tetsurō Sayama. The film stars Masami Nagasawa, Junichi Okada, Keiko Takeshita, Yuriko Ishida, Jun Fubuki, Takashi Naito, Shunsuke Kazama, Nao Omori and Teruyuki Kagawa. Set in 1963 Yokohama, Japan, the film tells the story of Umi Matsuzaki, a high school girl living in a boarding house, Coquelicot Manor. When Umi meets Shun Kazama, a member of the school's newspaper club, they decide to clean up the school's clubhouse, Quartier Latin. However, Tokumaru, the chairman of the local high school and a businessman, intends to demolish the building for redevelopment and Umi and Shun, along with Shirō Mizunuma, must persuade him to reconsider. From Up on Poppy Hill premiered on July 16, 2011 in Japan. The film received positive reviews from most film critics and grossed $61 million worldwide. An English version of the film was distributed by GKIDS; it was released to theaters on March 15, 2013 in North America.
This was a day I didn't see coming. The latest film from Japan's Studio Ghibli, which sets the world standard for animation, is a disappointment. Directed by Goro Miyazaki, in his first collaboration with his father, the legendary Hayao, "From Up on Poppy Hill" (2011) centers on two likable and perfectly straightforward college students who do nothing very extraordinary and are in a platonic romance.
The film's hero is actually a ramshackle old mansion named the Latin Quarter. One of those structures much loved by Hayao Miyazaki, like those in "Howl's Moving Castle" or the floating bathhouse in "Spirited Away," it's a clubhouse unfolding in all directions into performances spaces, studios, laboratories, galleries, and other precincts favored by its bohemian members. A rattling chandelier looms above its grand staircase, which like everything in the building, is caked with dust.
For this English-language version, a high-profile American cast was recruited: Jamie Lee Curtis, Beau Bridges, Bruce Dern, etc. Up on Poppy Hill, above the town, Umi (voiced by Sarah Bolger) lives with her grandmother in a boarding house overlooking the harbor. Every morning, she rises early to hoist flags as an aid to her father, whose ship sank during the Korean War. He taught her the naval language of flags, and now she dreams this skill will reunite them.
This charming animated film is from the same director as Tales From Earthsea, the Ghibli Studio adaptation of Ursula Le Guin's fantasy stories for children. But it's a piece of romantic realism rather than sword and sorcery. The setting is Yokohama in 1963, the year before the Tokyo Olympics and a time of hope and social change for Japan. It focuses on an innocent love affair between two spirited high-school classmates, Umi and Shun. They're drawn together through a campaign to keep open their school's clubhouse for students' extramural activities, an institution run by the kids themselves that represents a link between fading traditions and the future. It transpires that their fathers, both seafarers, died in tragic circumstances, and this discovery proves a healing experience. It's a lively, touching story, full of sadness and optimism, drawn with an unaffected simplicity.
You don’t watch a Studio Ghibli film so much as sink into it like a hot spring, with groans of delight.
From Up on Poppy Hill, the latest film from this cherishable Japanese animation house, is directed by Goro Miyazaki, the eldest son of Hayao Miyazaki, the studio’s co-founder. The younger Miyazaki’s first film was the disappointing fantasy adventure Tales From Earthsea. His new work, co-written by his father, may be smaller in scale, but its heart is full to the brim.
We are in Yokohama, 1963: the long shadow of two wars still hangs over the Japanese harbour town, but for Umi, a 16-year-old schoolgirl (voiced in the English dub by Sarah Bolger), the air is prickling with optimism.
Umi’s father was a sailor, killed in Korea, and her mother is in America, studying medicine. Like Japan itself, which went on to host the Olympics the following year, she is caught between grief for the past and hope for the future. Umi develops a crush on her male classmate Shun (Anton Yelchin), and the two bond over the refurbishment of their school’s tumbledown clubhouse. But then an unexpected family connection emerges, and their relationship becomes more complicated.
“From Up on Poppy Hill” takes a gentle, nostalgic look at Japan in 1963, from the perspective of a schoolgirl who lives in the Yokohama neighborhood evoked in the title. Though it was written and “planned” by Hayao Miyazaki, perhaps the greatest living fantasist in world cinema (and directed by his son Goro), this movie, based on a manga by Chizuru Takahashi and Tetsuro Sayama, is a lovely example of the strong realist tendency in Japanese animation. Its visual magic lies in painterly compositions of foliage, clouds, architecture and water, and its emotional impact comes from the way everyday life is washed in the colors of memory.
Umi (voiced in the English version by Sarah Bolger) lives in a house overlooking the water. Her father, a ship captain, was lost at sea during the Korean War, and her mother is studying in the United States, leaving Umi to help her grandmother look after two younger children and a house full of eccentric boarders. The lonely girl is a staple of the Miyazaki universe, and Umi’s melancholy, thoughtful manner suffuses the atmosphere of “From Up on Poppy Hill.”
It is not altogether sad, though. Two entwined stories emerge from the routines of home and school. One involves the effort to save the Latin Quarter, a dilapidated mansion where Umi’s male classmates convene to conduct scientific experiments, expound on philosophical matters and indulge in other forms of endearing dweebery. After enlisting (along with her best friend) in the campaign to stop its demolition, Umi develops a crush on its least nerdy member, Shun (Anton Yelchin), though their family histories are connected in ways that complicate the romance.