From Up the Poppy Hill is 2011’s Ghibli feature film putting the spotlight from the controversial director of the Tales from Earth Sea, putting a unique direction than the recent Ghibli films.
Ghibli films are never much of my cup of tea, to be honest. They’re very good, mind you that. But there’s are something in it that makes you watch it from start to end. The stories are captivating, or at least attention grabbing. Then there is the unique flavour of imagination from the creators that staple its signature fantasy stories, interesting enough. This film is set in a realistic setting, particularly in the 60’s where Japan is finding its new identity and activism and culture preservation is at its highest interest peak among the clashing generations. The interest point is set where everybody can easily relate to, or at least you have a sense of what is “hot”. This is the third (fourth if we include Hyouka’s Chitanda uncle’s arc) anime that is set in the 60s that I had covered.
All of them are in synch in how the era is portrayed. The clash of old vs new. With industrialization slowly creeping out of the traditional buildings of the Tokyo capital and Japan’s steadily rise in the export market; office buildings erected and women starting to find its new place in society. Two opinions are targeted in the film, as to defend the cultures but never forget the past. In the film, students at the Konan Academy is fighting to keep their clubhouse away from the senseless modernization, defending the heritage and the memories of the people who once were there. Our male lead is spearheading the fight to stop the demolition of the clubhouse and goes on to seek aid with Umi, to whom later developed into some relationship that seem to focus itself in the film at the later half of the film.
The film’s focus is divided into the political activism and the cultural significance as presented by the clubhouse issue, as well as in still the imagination of a bustling youthful vigor by the unique flavour of the clubhouse. Making it look like a different dimension governed by the idealistic innocent nature of the kids and their feelings of distrust to adults and their one-sided ideology. If I can compare this, they would be what we have as activist in the streets with strong ideas but perhaps blinded by swallowed by their strong sense of righteousness. Perhaps, I don’t share the sentiments the kids have, as I would had allowed the clubhouse to be demolished in place of a new and better room for them to conduct their activities to.
The other focus of the film is the realism and its maturity to deliver situations that is present in the era. 60 are where the majority of the population, mainly kids (now adults) who had experienced the Pacific war still has scars to bear. Two of our main characters have their own set of tragedies that brought them to this state, but also put them in cross with destinies of sort. Ghibli was in thin hair’s in delving into a uncomfortable issues involving siblings. But at the same time, it also push forth the notion that, there are casualties of war that is still present even after the war had ended. While I like how the story is putting the two characters into each other. There is a problem to which I often start to see in the recent Ghibli film.
We can all praise the film from its superb animation quality, to which is styled to the same traditions as other Ghibli works of recent. At least this time, it manages to make a decently yumy male character. To which I can only remember having a decent one since Earthsea. The problem with this film, is that it focuses itself in these two main issues, resulting into both of the sub stories half-baked. Even if we argued that the actual main focus of the film is the story between the two main characters with the clubhouse as a springboard of their relationship. It still failed to instil depth to the main characters. In particular, the male lead still lack a redeeming qualities that makes him more appealing to the audience. The film started him in a role of a “love interest” for the female lead but it never went as far as that. They played on their origins but it never go beyond that. There are a lot of interesting points in the story where the main characters can show off to the audience. The female lead had a strong start as we are started with her taking care of the boarding house and her grandmother.
Another problem, which I can categorized as serious is its pacing. The film was based on a novel and it shows that the adaptation took many liberties to compress the events to fit the timeline. I never understand much of the film until in the middle where it started to exposition itself and the situation so far. I understand the issue about the clubhouse, but it was later put up on why it was important to the boys. The female lead’s habit of raising the sailor’s flag was also realized at later parts of the film based on the conversation spread in. I can argue that these are placed in reason to interest the audience on revealing the parts of the story. But what I can’t argue is how the main character’s relationship progress. There seem to be a lot of scenes skip towards where the couples shares common love to each other. I get to question myself if I missed parts of the story on how that things developed as they are. Their origin story seems rushed and it never set a time where the audience can savour the reveal as it appears to be an important highlight to the story.
Overall. From the Poppy Hill manage to deliver something unique in the collection of unique stories of Studio Ghibli. It also, perhaps, made Goro redeem himself from the collective disappointment over the Earthsea. Despite that the film was still guarded by his father, with him writing for the film. The film came out well and to the standards of what set Ghibli films apart form the rest and reserves the role as the Gateway anime for the interested and clueless.
Episode Rating: 4/5