A while back I went to see a UK preview of the latest anime feature-length film from Studio Ghibli, From Up on Poppy Hill (コクリコ坂から, Kokuriko-zaka kara). In Japan, it ranked as the highest-grossing film of 2011, managing to make around $56 million (£35m), and was also the second directorial effort of Goro Miyazaki, the son of the legendary co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki.
Goro’s first foray into anime directing, an adaptation of the ‘Earthsea’ novels of Ursula K. Le Guin called Tales from Earthsea, didn’t go particularly well: in the Buschun Raspberry Awards 2006, Goro was named “Worst Director” for his work on Earthsea, and the film itself picked up the title of “Worst Movie”.
Poor old Goro had a lot to live up to, so this time around with From Up on Poppy Hill ,Hayao Miyzaki pitched in to help as a co-writer.
The film is an adaptation of a Shojo manga of the same name from the 1980s, created by Tetsuro Saymaya and Chizuru Takahashi, a classic story of young love, set in the run up to the 1964 Olympics.
In the run up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, two teenagers are brought together in the battle to save a decaying but beautiful school clubhouse from demolition.
After performing a wild stunt in front of the entire student population in protest to plans to knock down the beloved ‘Latin Quater’ (seemingly all-boys) clubhouse, Shun Kazama, the charismatic editor of the school paper, attracts the attention of a studious girl named Umi Matsuzaki. Umi begins to take interest in Shun’s campaign to save the clubhouse, and begins to help out with the cause. As she becomes more involved, she inspires the girls of the school to also get involved and soon, the entire school is working to save the Latin Quarter from destruction.
Alongside this collective project, which brings together the students of the school, the film also contains a very personal plot-line. As we see Umi becoming more involved with Shun and his clubhouse project, her feelings for him develop and we begin to learn more about the two characters, their families, their inner-most thoughts, fears, and desires.
I personally really enjoyed this film, it was lighthearted and funny, with it’s fair share of heartache too. It also has an interesting soundtrack made up of European 1930s-style jazz pieces, which I thought was perhaps a strange choice considering time and place but, on reflection, it worked quite well with the comedy, and the overall lighthearted feeling of the film.
Certainly, ‘From Up on Poppy Hill’ is not a stand-out anime like some of the Hayao Miyazaki classics and it does fall into the same bag as other overly sentimental romance anime such as Ocean Waves and 5 Centimeters Per Second, however, it has enough charm and heart to make it a film that I could certainly watch again.
I must say, the trailer presents a quite sickly-sweet image of the film, give it a watch if you like but don’t let it put you off!