Studio Ghibli is note-worthy for consistently being the vehicle of some of cinephiles best loved animated movies. Producing the same worth of magic and warmth that Pixar does but with a greater sense of adventure and a much stronger grasp on empowering young girls, their films are always worth a watch.
Set in Yokohama in 1963 the film centers on Umi and Shun, two students who are trying to save their clubhouse with the preparation of the 1964 Olympics as the backdrop. The two protagonists are in a movement to try and change pre-conditioned attitudes and revolutionizing ideas. Umi and Shun discover, amongst Umi’s burgeoning feelings for the latter, a halting secret that could derail their romance before it’s even begun.
Written by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, the script initially promises an exertion similar to the former’s simpler-but no less exciting- outings such as Whisper of the Heart. Sadly, around two thirds into the film, the momentum wans. While it still holds the charm of a typical Ghibli film, it lacks the spark that manages to so thoroughly engage audiences for each and every ride they take with the creator.
This may largely be due to director Goro Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki’s son. There is a true spirit of rebellion and youthful ambition that seemingly loses its course of direction when the secret of Umi and Shun’s fathers are brought to light.
Despite its faults, this film is still one to see if you’re a fan of the studio. Studio Ghibli has yet to produce a truly disappointing film, and they always promise an inspiring tale and beautiful imagery.
Such as with other Ghibli films before it, From Up on Poppy Hill is a master class in how to create such immersive scenic images that allow the mind to forget it’s watching an animated tale and simply allow one’s self to discover yet another world created for their eyes to feast on.
Heavy in Japanese culture and overflowing with earnest characters whose only wishes are to be able to enjoy adolescence, despite the grievances along the way, it’s a film that lands short of its own personal ambitions but still manages to capture the attention of an ordinary viewer. It’s not as action packed as Princess Mononoke, isn’t as whimsically stunning as Spirited Away and doesn’t touch the magical atmospheres of Porco Rosso or The Cat Returns. What it does is solidify Studio Ghibli’s place amongst the most exceptional in producing well thought out animated pieces that refuse to speak down to its audience.
Go for the writer, stay for the energetic atmosphere of the clubhouse and characters, and enjoy a watered down Ghibli film that still doesn’t disappoint.