Review of From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

Moving picture, 91 minutes

Suzuki Toshio (producer), Miyazaki Hayao (writer), Niwa Keiko (writer).

The Quartier Latin is an old building used to house numerous male student clubs at a high school in Yokohama, in 1963. Two students develop a romance over a campaign to prevent its demolition.

Historical drama, based on a 1980 manga written by Sayama Tetsurō. Directed by Miyazaki Gorō. The manga is apparently set just a few years before it was published. Transposing its plot to a point 48 years back, instead of preserving the setting of the manga, or updating it with a similar gap, shows Ghibli’s eagerness to cater to an audience with some interest in history. That’s nice, but by making the protagonists a pair of hard-working goody two-shoes, injecting far too many flashbacks, and generally tidying up the historical reality of student self-organization against authority in the 1960s—compare, for example, Ōshima’s Naked Youth (1960)—the film leaves me with the impression that nostalgia, didacticism and rubbing a conservative middle-class audience the right way were important goals in this production. The story of forbidden love is predictably defused along with possible political relevance. In effect, there is a strong element of fantasy, but it’s all very enjoyable. I wish the philosopher had not ultimately been reduced to a clown, and the final racing sequence is trite, but those are just details. The setting is wonderfully vivid, I love the singing scene, and the characterization of even minor figures is perfectly adept.

References here: Ghibli movie titles, When Marnie Was There (2014).

animation fiction Ghibli Japanese production moving picture