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 comic written by Sayama Tetsurō. Directed by Miyazaki Gorō. The comic is apparently set just a few years before it was published. Transposing its plot to a point 48 years back with references to WW2 and the Korean War, instead of preserving the setting of the comic, 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 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 love story somewhat resembles The Sound of Waves (1954), in that it has a nautical theme, the boy is of lower economic class than the girl, the pair is chaste and the ending is happy, but the temporary complication is the averted possibility of their being siblings instead of an external social pressure to be overcome by the couple’s efforts. The final racing sequence is a little contrived, but the setting is wonderfully vivid. The singing scenes are good, and the characterization of even minor figures is perfectly adept, except for the philosopher; I wish he had not ultimately been reduced to a clown.

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

moving picture Ghibli animation Japanese production fiction