Screening date: Sunday 10th February
Director: Gorō Miyazaki
Starring: Masami Nagasawa, Junichi Okada, Shunsuke Kazama
The latest film from the house of Ghibli is the second film to be directed by Gorō Miyazaki has already received some premature criticism from doubtful fans. Fortunately, From Up on Poppy Hill is as delightful as it is beautiful and the cheeky light jazz soundtrack does a lot to maintain a feeling of fun but never undermines the drama. While slow to start, the final push is so fast paced, your heart will be racing right alongside the star-crossed protagonists.
Based on the manga of the same name, Poppy Hill returns to the familiar seaside pallete, set by the real life Port of Yokohama. Everyday, 16 year old Umi Matsuzaki raises signal flags in memory of her deceased sailor father as part of her morning duties in running a boarding house. At school, she meets Shun Kazama as he jumps from the clubhouse, a publicity stunt to bring attention to the planned demolition of said building. The pair become friends as they continue to collide and soon those feelings begin to grow into something more. Unfortunately, Shun becomes distant after he finds out the identity of Umi’s father leaving her confused and hurt. However, the two characters can’t avoid each other easily as they are united in the school wide project to preserve the clubhouse which takes them to Tokyo to seek out Tokumaru, the school-board chairman who can stop the demolition.
The animation is the same beautiful spectral of colour and detail audiences have come to expect from Ghibli with certain objects and settings that evoke the memory of earlier films. The dirty yet whimsical clubroom looks remarkably similar to Howl’s castle both in design and as a focal position. Even the female students are brought in for a mass cleaning a la Sophie’s rampage. However the clubroom manages to hold it’s own power as its safety becomes an important side-plot.
As always, the music proves to be a strong feature. Satoshi Takebe’s light jazz score lifts the action from the screen, lightening the heart with its cheeky bounce. It may not be as iconic as the music from Princess Mononoke but ticks all the boxes in accompanying the film. As the tension rises and the pace changes, the score is there to raise your heartbeat keeping the viewer in tune with the lively characters.
From Up on Poppy Hill is not a game changer for Ghibli’s repertoire but more of an homage to the company’s extensive catalogue and a visible improvement from Gorō’s previous film, Tales from Earthsea. A delightful watch for any rainy day that feels familiar and new all at once. Heartily recommended.