For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – High School/Teen Romance Movies, here’s a review of From Up on Poppy Hill (2011) by S.G. of Rhyme and Reason
Thanks again to Kim of Tranquil Dreams for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Reut of Sweet Archive. We will be reviewing our favorite dark comedies. Please get me your submissions by the 25th of July by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org Try to think out of the box! Great choice Reut!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
She sails sea flags by the seashore;
He’s devoted to his cause,
Rescuing the high school clubhouse
From Japan’s progressive laws.
When she joins his club’s endeavors
And a romance seems to start,
New unfortunate connections
Loom to keep the pair apart.
As the fight to save the clubhouse
Gives them something to defend,
Shun and Umi must sort out
If they’ve found love or just a friend.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son Goro, From Up on Poppy Hill is a sensitive period piece that is worthy of Studio Ghibli, even if it is far from their best film. While most animation visualizes fantasy elements and things that can only now be done with CGI, a few rare examples (mainly anime) feature storylines that could easily have been produced with live action, perhaps even more cheaply. My personal favorite anime is one such film, 1995’s Whisper of the Heart, a high school romance between two young artists, and in many ways, From Up on Poppy Hill follows the same quiet tone and simple but endearing characterization.
Whereas Whisper of the Heart was set in modern Tokyo, Poppy Hill is set in 1963 in Yokohama, a unique seaside environment of tugboats, hilly ocean views, and early-morning sea flags. Umi is a responsible girl caring for her grandmother’s boarding house, who ends up becoming a key player in student efforts to save the school clubhouse. This ancient, dilapidated building called the Latin Quarter is home to the philosophy club, astronomy club, archaeology club, and all other manner of geeks, who just want a place to meet and revel in their geekdom. Amid debates about valuing the past or progressing into the future, Umi falls for a school newsboy named Shun, and while the romance seems easy and unhurried, some unfortunate information surfaces and threatens to make their romance impossible. Despite this complication, the film still manages a happy ending that balances the importance of old and new and offers closure to the lovebirds’ emotional struggles, though the resolution is a bit hurried, as is typical with anime.
While high school movies almost inevitably entail youthful rebellion and angst, Poppy Hill shows unusual respect and deference toward authority figures and history. All the young people show complete courtesy to their elders, and some of them are fanatics about typically unpopular subjects like solar flares and Diogenes. You can call it unrealistic or chalk it up to Japanese culture or the bygone esteem of yesteryear. Either way, it’s refreshing that high school romance and conflict can still be presented as innocent and sweet, if only in animation.
For all its good points, From Up on Poppy Hill is far from my favorite Ghibli film, which is puzzling due to its similarity to Whisper of the Heart. Compared with Shizuku and Seiji, Umi and Shun are rather bland as characters, and their relationship less engaging. Perhaps the writing and musical aspects of the earlier film just speak to me more. Regardless, Poppy Hill is still an appealing slice of life with enough visual interest and realistic charm to deserve a thumbs up.
Best line: (male student, pointing out a girl in the clubhouse) “Check it out. X chromosome.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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