From Up on Poppy Hill

Goro Miyazaki
Masami Nagasawa, Junichi Okada, Keiko Takeshita
"Nostalgic Whispers of a Bygone Era: `From Up on Poppy Hill` Charms with Simplicity"

Posted Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023 108

Studio Ghibli`s `From Up on Poppy Hill`, directed by Goro Miyazaki and scripted by his father, Hayao Miyazaki, is a tender portrayal of youth, memory, and the evolving landscape of post-war Japan. Set in Yokohama in 1963 as the nation prepares for the Tokyo Olympics, the film follows high school students Umi Matsuzaki and Shun Kazama as they work to save their school`s clubhouse from demolition. Alongside this endeavor, Umi and Shun navigate the waters of friendship and family history, cultivating a gentle tale of love and perseverance.

The film weaves themes of preservation—of buildings, of history, and of personal connections—against the backdrop of a country on the cusp of transformation. Its tone is poignant and reflective, filled with the warmth of nostalgia and the bittersweet recognition of change, embracing the subtleties of everyday life and the quiet strength of community.

The characters are rendered with heartfelt sincerity, their animation imbued with the spirit of innocence and determination. The voice performances, in both the original Japanese and the English dub, are natural and compelling, bringing depth and relatability to the young protagonists.

Goro Miyazaki directs with a respect for the Studio Ghibli tradition, favoring a measured storytelling approach that allows the characters` relationships and the historical context to breathe, effectively drawing the viewer into the film`s gentle pace and emotional cadence.

From Up on Poppy Hill movie review

The score by Satoshi Takebe elegantly complements the film’s narrative, infusing scenes with a period-appropriate and sentimental ambiance that underscores the movie`s nostalgic charm.

While traditional cinematography principles do not apply to animated films, `From Up on Poppy Hill` possesses visual storytelling that captures the beauty and detail of the Showa era, utilizing the animation medium to create picturesque, detailed backdrops that serve as a love letter to a bygone Yokohama.

The production design meticulously recreates the Japan of the 1960s, capturing a moment in time with thoughtful attention to the architecture, technology, and daily life of the setting, showcasing Studio Ghibli’s signature attention to detail.

Straying from the fantasy elements often associated with Studio Ghibli, `From Up on Poppy Hill` remains grounded in realism, using animation to create a vivid and immersive world without the need for overt special effects.

From Up on Poppy Hill movie review

The editing of the film is seamless, weaving together the dual narratives of personal and historical change, providing a smooth rhythmic progression that allows the film`s emotional beats to resonate.

The pacing is unhurried, reflecting the film`s commitment to character-driven storytelling and the unfolding of quiet, yet profound, transformations within the heart and the society.

The dialogue flows with a lyricism and sincerity that is characteristic of Studio Ghibli. Conversational and poetic, it captures the internal contemplations and aspirations of a youth standing at the threshold of the future.

Some may find the film’s lack of fantastical elements and its focus on everyday drama a departure from the more adventurous Ghibli offerings, with its subtlety and simplicity potentially viewed as an understatement amid its more vivid counterparts.

As a critic, `From Up on Poppy Hill` stands as a beautifully understated piece from the renowned animation studio, a narrative painted with the hues of memory and the gentle strokes of budding romance. It’s a film that revels in its calm, offering a serene exploration of a time teetering between past and present, an evocative reminder of youthful days and the enduring heartbeat of tradition.