From Up On Poppy Hill Review
Studio Ghibli’s latest isn’t as magical and fantastical as what many have come to expect from the studio. From Up On Poppy Hill establishes its own amazement as the creative team work on a title that is a little more grounded. With a script by master Hayao Miyazaki and directed by his son Goro Miyasaki, From Up On Poppy Hill excites in its simplicity and from its cast of characters.
The hand-drawn From Up On Poppy Hill is set in Yokohama in 1963. It’s an important time for Japan as it is recovering from the disastrous World War II and its preparing to host the Olympics. Umi Matsuzaki (played in the English version by Sarah Bolger) is a typical high school student, but she has a ton of responsibility. Since her father never returned from the Korean war and her mother is studying abroad, it is her duty to keep the boarding house running. Each morning she prepares the meals and makes sure all the tenants are ready to start their day. Umi also raises a set of signal flags that when translated read, “I pray for safe voyages”, in the hopes of hearing a sign from her father who was lost at sea.
The high school Umi attends is getting ready to make some changes to its campus. Japan has mostly taken the belief that they need to do away with the past and build towards a brighter future. That means an uncertain future for the student bodies’ club house, the Quartier Latin. In order to raise awareness for the club house, the president of the student body newspaper Shun Kazama (played in the English by Anton Yelchin), pulls a daredevil stunt that leads to his chance meeting with Umi.
As Umi becomes more fond of Shun, they work together uniting the student body to save the Quartier Latin. While many of the students are on board to save the historic building, the administration isn’t so easily convinced. The relationship between Umi and Shun seems to be more than a friendship, but unfortunate circumstances might pull them apart.
The english language version is being handled by GKIDS this time around. From Up On Poppy Hill features performances from Gillian Anderson, Sarah Bolger, Beau Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis, Aubrey Plaza, and Anton Yelchin. Luckily, Sarah Bolger completely embodies the spirit of Umi and is the highlight among the impressive choices. Overall American audiences couldn’t ask for a better English dub, as most of the cast works fantastically. On the negative side, GKIDS has gone ahead and translated the school song that appears in two significant sequences in the film. The beauty of the song translates poorly and while its understandable why they had to dub the songs, it diminishes the quality of them.
From Up On Poppy Hill is missing some of the magic that Studio Ghibli is known for, but that doesn’t hurt it in the least. It’s a completely solid effort from Goro Miyazaki and can stand next to some of the studio’s better works. Studio Ghibli films are like treasures and there can never be enough of them. Luckily, From Up On Poppy Hill retains the rich history of Ghibli while telling a very personal story that should resonate with plenty of viewers.