Umi lives at a boarding house with her grandmother. Her father’s been presumed dead since the Korean War and her mother is off in the United States studying medicine. It’s up to her now to take care of her younger siblings and to assist her grandmother in the running of the house.
She has no trouble balancing her chores and her school work until she gets caught up in the drama surrounding the Latin Quarter clubhouse. The school board wants to tear the Quarter’s building down, but the boys meeting there want it to be saved and renovated. Thanks to her friend, Umi meets one of the boys’ ringleaders, Shun, and forms an attachment to him.
Things get complicated, however, when secrets about their past begin coming to light.
Some of these Studio Ghibli films remind me of how little I learned in World History classes as a kid (and even as a young adult in college). I know a very little bit about what was going in Europe and North America in the 20th century but next to nothing about what was happening in Asia during that same time. It’s interesting to watch some of these historical anime films because they make me so curious about Japanese history. From Up On Poppy Hill is set in the early sixties right before the Tokyo Olympics. It’s a neat time to set a film, and I wanted to know more about what was going on in the world outside of Umi’s school.
I need to start tracking down non-fiction about Japan to get a better basis of understanding for these films. I feel like there’s an entire level I’m missing in both the fantasy/scifi films and the ones set in the real world. After I’m done with “The Great Studio Ghibli Watch Through” I might have to assign myself some homework!
Back to the actual film though, From Up On Poppy Hill is a very, very strange children’s movie. It was adorable and fast-paced, but it completely threw me that one of the main plot points had to do with two people–who are *maybe* brother and sister–falling in love. That sort of thing doesn’t generally happen in kid’s films. What was worse was that I genuinely was made to feel sad that the boy and girl can’t be together. . .because they were probably related! I don’t know. This movie reminded me a lot of Whisper of the Heart, but there was just this added ick factor that From Up On Poppy Hill had that Whisper of the Heart didn’t.
That’s not to say I didn’t like From Up On Poppy Hill. I genuinely enjoyed it. Umi and Shun were adorable together and the story was perfect–except the brother/sister fake-out. I loved the dynamic between the women living in Umi’s boarding house and the eccentric characters from the Latin Quarter were a hoot. I’d love to see the further adventures of these characters, and it sort of makes me sad that that will probably never happen.
As for the animation, it was a little rough considering the movie was made in the last decade. The scenery was nice and the clubhouse was amazingly detailed, but the characters moved stiffly and their faces would have an off appearance every once in awhile. The dubbing was also imperfect, but I wonder if that had to do with a production company other than Disney handling From Up On Poppy Hill’s release. I could be wrong, but this was one of the first times I noticed more than the occasional discrepancy in the dubbing.
Like with Whisper of the Heart, this movie made me want to immediately track down all the cutesy, teen anime I can find, but I’ll hold off for now because I still have seven Studio Ghibli films to watch this year and very little time to do it. (The actual reviewing of the films will stretch into January, I’m sure, but I’m trying to watch them all before December 31st. Good luck, right?) It’s funny to me that since I officially started this “Watch Through” I’ve only liked every other Studio Ghibli film I’ve watched. I wonder if I’ll keep up that track record until the very end.
I definitely recommend checking out From Up On Poppy Hill if you haven’t already. It’s a lot of fun to watch. . .in spite of the brother/sister thing!
My Current Studio Ghibli Movie Rankings
- Howl’s Moving Castle (Review)
- Whisper of the Heart (Review)
- The Cat Returns (Review)
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Review)
- Spirited Away (Review)
- Porco Rosso
- From Up On Poppy Hill
- Kiki’s Delivery Service (Review)
- Castle in the Sky (Review)
- The Secret World of Arrietty
- My Neighbor Totoro
- When Marnie Was There
Who’s your favorite animated film couple?