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From Up on Poppy Hill

Posted by admin on April 22, 2013


If there was something from High School that I cherished, then it was the clubs that I were active in. There had already been clubs in middle school, but those years made me feel so isolated from the other kids, that I was almost afraid to find a club. It was freshman year when I was encouraged more to look into the club offerings. It was the group of friends that I had at the time where I felt like that I could open up to more, and not feel embarrassed if I picked something different. It was through those four years I found that these groups could cater to my interests.

One club I knew immediately that I would fit into was the film club. At that time, I was just starting out to looks at the artful side of cinema and knew that these people would understand the feelings I had already. Though everyone I met were mostly seniors, I felt right at home (Even if I couldn’t understand the first film I saw, Pi) While I became active in the film and drama club, by best friend had joined the R.O.T.C and young republicans club. At least we banded together again in the Star Wars club. From Up on Poppy Hill expresses why students work together for the dedication of their organizations.

This is the latest Japanese Animated movie from the renowned Studio Gibli. They have recently given us Ponyo and The Secret World of Arriety. Continuing the trend of childhood themes, we are introduced to Umi Matsuzaki, a sixteen-year-old high school student living with her grandma in a boarding house with a beautiful view of the Port of Yokohama. Ever since the death of her father during the Korean War, she raises a set of signal flags with the message “I pray for safe Voyages”.

Umi is given the difficult task of watching her younger siblings, running the rest of the house, and keeping up with her studies with school. It is one day that she comes across a school paper author named Shun Kazama. He releases a poem about her and the flags she raises. She pays a visit to the journalism offices only to find that club (along with all the others) are located in a beautiful, yet dilapidated house from the twenties. When the campus decides to tear down the house, the students rally together to refurbish the building, making it look as clean as it was before. At the same time, Uma starts to see Shun in a romantic light, yet comes across some complications that I will not give away.

As with my review of The Secret World of Arriety, Up on Poppy Hill has the Studio Ghibli look that I love; traditional animation that feels like a painting you can walk through. This movie was actually directed by Goro Miyazaki (the son of Hayao Miyazaki), yet I feel like his father’s touch is present through out. I expect Goro to eventually carry on Hayao’s legacy of grand animation.

It’s strange that the writers at Disney have done countless teen romance stories, yet this one blows them out of the water. Uma and Shan not only have chemistry that is clearly produced through time, but they have full characters that seem strangely coincidental to the kids I went to High School with. But even with an animated landscape, the high school environment feels real with clique groups, gossup about everything, and the hard relationship between the kids and faculty. It is amazing to see these people come together to try and save a place that turns a clubhouse into something out of a fantasy.


I’ll give this five signal flags out of five. If your expecting something fantasy-like that Studio Ghibli is used to producing, you won’t find it here. What is here is a nice, gentle story of love that actually questions school life and even family. 


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