Writer for Front Towards Gamer. Host and Producer of Comic Station. I talk about Video Games, Comic Books, Tech and Inane Daily Life.
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Studio Ghibli has been creating some of the most beautiful and immersive animations since 1986′s Castle in the Sky, with plenty more counting their pre-Ghibli formation. By simply hearing its name, Studio Ghibli evokes images of imagination and draws attention from even those who wouldn’t consider themselves fans of anime. Their work stands alone in its category, and in no small part stands the man who has been called “The Walt Disney of Japan,” Hayao Miyazaki.
Not since Whisper of the Heart in 1995 has Hayao Miyazaki stepped back from the director’s chair to solely act as a writer for a film, but as his son starts to follow in his footsteps it seems only fitting that he does so in From Up on Poppy Hill. Goro Miyazaki took his first directorial steps in Tales from Earthsea, which garnered mixed reviews. In From Up on Poppy Hill, it feels like we’re finally seeing the true ascension of the next generation, and this father-son team-up is a bridging of these times. It’s a fitting sentiment given From Up on Poppy Hill‘s message of accepting forward progress with deference and respect to the past.
From Up on Poppy Hill, a budding romance between two school children is set against the backdrop of 1963 Yokohoma, Japan as the country prepares to host the Summer Olympics the next year. In true Studio Ghibli fashion, the story and action take place over a sub-plot which holds a significant moral or cultural message. In this case, the sub-plot focuses on the desire to move into the modern age in a post-war Japan, epitomized by the struggles of the Quartier Latin (Latin Quater) - essentially The Clubhouse for the boys clubs in the school. This ancient and overrun building represents the past, one which many in the community are all too happy to demolish in the name of progress. There are subtle hints to this progress, such as buses and “Coke” signs overlaying traditional markets and neon signs dotting the horizon, never calling attention, yet contrasting the classic Japanese culture in the foreground. This sub-plot is important to the main plot, but not the crux of From Up on Poppy Hill; though for the majority, the focus is set on the tale of Umi Matsuzaki.
Umi Matsuzaki manages running the Coquelicot Manor boarding house for her grandmother, while her mother studies medicine in America. We’re introduced to Umi through a her daily routine, which besides cooking breakfast and other chores includes the curious action of raising ship flags in the backyard overlooking the Yokohama river. While a slow scene, this sequence subtly sets up From Up on Poppy Hill for its storyline, with fleeting mentions of the increased river traffic preparing for the next years’ Summer Olympics and never directly mentioning the flag raising, despite its obvious importance. The message of importance and the attention of the viewer is conveyed in large part thanks to the stunning artwork and complimenting music that manages to convey the gravitas and mood while remaining time period appropriate.