Director: Goro Miyazaki
Company: Studio Ghibli
Original Release: July 16, 2011
Limited US Release: March 15, 2013
Summary: Yokohama in 1963 is brought to life in From Up on Poppy Hill, a sweet, nostalgic film written by renowned Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Goro Miyazaki. Two high school students, Umi and Shun, are caught in Japan’s struggle to rebuild after World War II as they prepare for the next year’s Olympic Games. Umi, Shun and their classmates work to save a run-down clubhouse fondly dubbed “Latin Quarter” from demolition. United in their cause, a romantic relationship between Umi and Shun blooms. Just as the nation focuses on moving forward from the past, they must face a secret from the past in order to confront the future together.
Review: Most Ghibli films are known for being extravagant and fantastical in their stories like classics My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle. However, From Up on Poppy Hill tells a sweet coming-of-age story that exudes a sense of nostalgia and magic in its own way. The simple storyline has a powerful emotional resonance, especially the sweet first love between Umi and Shun.
The visual appeal is incredible, with vividly illustrated seaside Yokohama, colorful gardens, and detailed streets lined with little shops. Stunning hand-drawn scenes are a trademark of Ghibli films, and Poppy Hill is no exception.
At its heart, Poppy Hill is the interplay between the old and the new. For Umi and Shun, there is a battle to save their beloved old “Latin Quarter” and for Japan, there is a struggle to move forward from memories of war and prepare for the 1964 Olympics. At times, the film succumbs to using melodramatic plot devices to convey this theme, though still to a satisfying end. Ultimately, Umi and Shun come to embrace both the past and the future. They learn the best way to face the future is to reflect upon and respect the past. For fans of Studio Ghibli’s other films, this is definitely a must watch.