Ghibli's Young Ones
Umi is a hard working young girl, she is up at the crack of dawn each morning to start the cooking and raising the flags, jobs her mother would do if she was not in the States working as a lecturer. It is hard for Umi as each morning when she raises those flags she looks over at the harbour where her father died a long time ago. On the other hand there is Shun, the school bad boy who loves to flout the rules and put himself in danger by doing daft stunts which gains him plenty of fans although Umi is not one of them. But when news that a cherished school club house is to be demolished it brings these two strangers together as they join forces to try and save the club houses. But as their friendship blossoms a secret from the past involving an old photo could threaten their future happiness.
The first review I read for "From Up on Poppy Hill" focused on just two things; one that this was directed by Goro Miyazaki who is the son of Hayao Miyazaki and the other that this was a story about two school children who are chalk and cheese trying to save the club house. In truth it didn't sound like much as I have lost count of the number of movies about a club house or hall under threat of developers and I thought that even if this featured the beautiful animation work you expect from Studio Ghibli it still would struggle. Happily there is more and "From Up on Poppy Hill" is a simple but beautiful romantic tale which draws you in by being so charming and certainly not just another save the club house movie.
Now the thing about "From Up on Poppy Hill" is that for the story to sound more I would have to divulge what the big deal is about the photo and I just can't bring myself to do so despite others offering up what happens online. What I will say is this twist which comes along is not something new and other movies have explored the same sort of storyline, some times with a different outcome. But let me just say the way the storyline is handled with plenty of wholesomeness is what makes this such an appealing movie.
So on to the subject of wholesomeness there is a simplicity to the story which makes it easy to follow and a beauty to the characters which make them easy to warm to even if you do watch "From Up on Poppy Hill" in its native Japanese with subtitles. In fact the characters makes you remember what it is to be young again and combined with what to me sounds like 60s Japanese songs, I could be wrong, makes this feel all the more nostalgic.
But the animation is where this is amazing and not only does "From Up on Poppy Hill" have the beautifully drawn characters and backgrounds you expect from a Studio Ghibli movie but the way the image moves as if it was being tracked by a camera on a dolly is simply mesmerising. A scene where Umi and Shun are walking down a road together with the various layers of background moving past at different rates is simply stunning and makes this feel more than just an animation.
What this all boils down to is that "From Up on Poppy Hill" is right up there for me with the best of the animations which have come out of Studio Ghibli. It has everything from beautiful animations through to an intimate way of drawing you in to the story which is simple and simply beautiful. The more I watch it the more I believe that "From Up on Poppy Hill" is the perfect movie to show others who have not watched a Studio Ghibli movie before because it is the easiest to understand and appreciate what others go on about when they talk about Studio Ghibli anime with such warmth and passion.