“From Up on a Poppy Hill” is an animated movie that released in 2011. Directed by Goro Miyazki , the eldest son of Hayao Miyazaki, who scripted this movie. This being Goro Miyazaki’s second directorial work, It received many accolades worldwide. Ghibli studio, founded by Hayao Miyazaki, always has focused on picture quality and kept the plot simple and enjoyable. It is also based on a manga that goes by the same name, written by Testuro Sayama.
From Up on a Poppy Hill: The Sweet Plot
We see a 16-year-old girl, Umi Matsuzaki, living in a boarding house along with her siblings, grandmother and other tenants. Umi is a soft-spoken, well-behaved girl who doesn’t let herself a shred of happiness and lives looking after the house. Then she meets a boy who spoils his first impression in front of her by his loud stunts, Shun Kazama.
Sounds cliché enough for any movie. But it grasps your interest as the story unfolds to reveal things that make you wish a peaceful ending for them. Set in the post-Korean war Japan era in the 1960s, it makes you face the realities and results of war while keeping it light on the heart. One of Ghibli’s magic.
Our Main Characters
In the times where unnecessary heroic acts and student protests were all the rage among school children, We see Umi Matsuzaki hoist flags every day that convey the message “I pray for safe voyages” which overlooks the sea with tugs and ships to give them luck.
She changes the message according to the occasion, something she learnt from her father. Umi lost her father, who was a ship captain, to a sea mine and made it a point to carry on hoisting flags every day because he once had told her that it shows him the way home. A very sweet sentiment.
The uptight Umi who doesn’t stray from her house and schoolwork find herself in the “Latin Quarters” of the school, A pre-war club activity building, to get the sign of the school heartthrob and senior, Shun Kazama, for her sister.
The said heartthrob, Shun Kazama successfully fails to make a good impression with Umi when he jumps from the school roof into the pool in protest of tearing down the Latin Quarters, which houses various clubsthat have made a warm place for themselves in that nest.
He, along with his suave friend in glasses Shiro Mizunuma, leads this protest to get supporters in the school so they can save the building from demolition. He also is in the literature club which prints the school newspapers and is the brain of it.
A snippet of the story for your thoughts:
The story of Umi and Shun is no simple teen crush story. They go through a rollercoaster of emotions as they find themselves in a very complicated situation due to doubts about who their parents are. Their story almost seems forbidden and wrong and a burden too heavy for the high school kids. Yet they strive on and good things happen to kind people. It has a happy ending.
The movie also focuses on the students getting together to stop the demolition of their beloved club building and all that they go through for it. They put in their utmost efforts for it. They removed the boxes filled with memories left by generations of students-their treasure, peeled the dust off the corners and painted it afresh. And as I said before, good things come along to kind people. The demolition was called off, thanks to the protest led by Shun and Shiro. Honorary mentions to Umi as Shiro considers her a sign of good luck.
At the end of it you are left with thoughts of results of wars that is hinted in the movie, about children who lost their parents, children who probably did not have the mercy of finding a family, and the memories of those who passed on that remain. And how life goes on in ways you can’t predict in spite of it all.
Why From Up on a Poppy Hill feels so good!
Living in Latin Quarters:
As soon as Umi sets foot in Latin Quarters for the first time, she sees it housing boxes filled with things stored over years collecting dust in every corner of the building. The entire visual of the building, where the boys send each other things using a basket on ropes and have chosen their rooms, making doors out of curtains and setting telescopes for viewing stars. They made it their home. It made me yearn for school days which were set in a different era where I could form a coven with my comrades and spend my time making memories there instead of having my nose in textbooks.
Having a teen crush in the 60s:
Now you might take me for a sap, or a romantic but this movie has a tasteful show of feelings and how it’s conveyed. Umi put her messages out through flags and Shun wrote a poem for her in the school newspaper. Calling it romantic would be overkill but it is warm and innocent. I would choose that over everything that has been replaced within this day.
As you watch the move, the score composed by Satoshi Takebe playing in between takes you right to the scene and drops you in it. As Aoi Teshima’s mellow voice sings a soft song about loneliness and goodbyes, you take in the lives of the characters and flow with the story as one with it. It calms your system and lets you experience the bits of small happiness as your own.
Why you should watch From Up on a Poppy Hill
Hayao has sprinkled his magic in this story as he has brought you another slice of life that isn’t intense yet gently touches on very real scenarios from an era you can only imagine. It is a day out of a 16 year old’s life yet every emotion is tangible. It is stories that you can get lost in easily and you find yourself sit back and relax and make the story your own.
The animation and voice actors
Ghibli studios is known for its tedious process of animation. And it bears fruit wonderfully each time. The easy on the eyes palette and colours used and the not so exaggerated voices of the characters will bring even a non-fan to watch it. The extremely talented cast of voice actors makes the characters all the more believable and present. The smooth and flexible animation makes you live the story.
A final Impression!
Although the movie does not stand out among other Ghibli movies, it is certainly enjoyable. Popular opinion being there could be more to the movie, I personally feel the pace of the movie and its content makes it more believable and relaxing. The movie isn’t hugely dramatic and ebbs slowly to the climax., keeping it simple.