Sunday, March 30, 2014

From Up on Poppy Hill

Miyazaki's second-to-last film (or is it?), From Up On Poppy Hill premiered in the summer of 2011 and was scripted by Miyazaki Senior while being directed by Miyazaki Junior. It is based off the 1980 manga of the same name, and follows a high school girl named Umi in the 1960's as she comes to terms with aspects of her family life while helping her classmates clean up and save a prolific old building on their school's campus.

Ships play a big role in this movie. (Also, I love Ghibli's habit of working their name into the background.)

Matsuzaki Umi is a 16-year-old who lives in a boarding house on top of a large hill in her town. Due to absentee parents, she takes on many duties in the house, such as preparing breakfast for the residents (including her grandmother and younger siblings) and getting her brother and sister ready for school. Her deceased father, a ship captain, taught her about signal flags in her youth, so before school every morning she raises some in the back yard. This captures the attention of her classmate, Kazama Shun, who is the editor of the school newspaper and writes a poem about her and her signal flags. After a publicity stunt by him leaves her with a negative impression, Umi's friend wants to get Shun's autograph, and Umi accompanies her to the old Quartier Latin building which serves as a hub for the school's many extra-curricular activities. After this encounter, Umi and Shun strike up a friendship and eventually team up (along with many of the other students) to clean up the Quartier Latin building in an attempt to save it from demolition.

I will never understand why she doesn't just put on her school uniform first thing in the morning.

I didn't expect much out of From Up on Poppy Hill, but (due in large part to owning a local theatre's poster of it) was still excited for the movie. I was blown away from my initial judgement of it; it may appear slow and sedate on the surface, but inside is something colourful, alive, and multi-faceted. It's a very refreshing addition to the Ghibli roster.

Yay, friendship!

The artwork is impressionistic, which isn't something commonly seen in Ghibli films, and it compliments the loud, bold nature of the parts it's featured in. The mixed representations of colour in certain scenes comes together with the jazzy soundtrack and the solid linework to paint a distinct picture. it uses a much wider pallet than you would expect out of a Showa school story, leaving you with a bold, crisp visual.

It may look like a hot mess, but the Quartier Latin has a rich history worth saving.

The story behind From Up on Poppy Hill is a solid one. I haven't read the original manga, so I don't know how faithful it is to the original story, but the movie is a fine example of Ghibli's work. The main, overarching plot is interwoven with subplots, resulting in a rich, engaging story that kept me hooked until the end. The subject matter, while not risqué, may go over the heads of younger viewers a bit, but is otherwise easy to enjoy as well.

Yay, liquor!

From Up on Poppy Hill is available from Toho in Japan, GKids in the US and Canada, Studio Canal in the UK, and Disney worldwide. A google search should find you a torrent pretty easily.

It sort of helps the Impressionist vibe that one of the characters is an Impressionist painter

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