Well, the day has finally come. 18 Cinema Lane just received 200 followers! Before I continue this post, I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who helped my blog reach this milestone! I still can’t believe that, within these two years, I’ve made it this far as a blogger. For this review, I thought it would be a good idea to select a film that was requested by one of my readers. Last year, Ospreyshire, from the blog Iridium Eye Reviews, recommended the Studio Ghibli film, From Up on Poppy Hill. I chose this film to write about because I haven’t reviewed an animated movie since February. This is actually the second Studio Ghibli production I’ve discussed on 18 Cinema Lane. Last January, I reviewed Howl’s Moving Castle for the 90 Years of Jean Simmons Blogathon. While I enjoyed the movie, I found it to be weaker than the previous Studio Ghibli projects I’ve seen. Now that From Up on Poppy Hill is the fifth film from the studio I have watched, it’s time to determine how this movie holds up to other films from Studio Ghibli!
Things I liked about the film:
The animation: Over the years, Studio Ghibli has gained a reputation with their signature animation style. The 2-D presentation of each story has stood apart from the 3-D computerized technique most film studios adopted in the 21st century. One of the hallmarks of a Studio Ghibli film is the colorful palettes that are used in each production. From Up on Poppy Hill boasts bright colors throughout the story, creating spaces that appear inviting. The scenes were bright enough to be visually appealing, but not too much to the point of over-saturation. Even when a scene used darker colors, there was still a pop of color included. One example is on a rainy day, when the protagonist, Umi, is carrying a red umbrella. The movements of the characters, vehicles, and boats were smooth, which made them easy to visually follow. Characters were also expressive when it came to dealing with a variety of situations. Similar to Howl’s Moving Castle, From Up on Poppy Hill looked like priceless art!
The humor: An element I’ve noticed within Studio Ghibli’s films is their use of humor. Though From Up on Poppy Hill is a more contemporary story from other Studio Ghibli productions, the humor still fit within the world of that particular film. In one scene, one of the members of the Archeology Club tells another club member that they need to find a way to show how cool their club can be. The fellow club member simply replies with “we can’t”. Toward the beginning of the film, Shun, one of the main characters, falls into a pool of water after performing a stunt while attempting to encourage his classmates to save a local clubhouse. When Umi tries to help Shun out of the pool, their fellow classmates cheer them on as soon as she touches his hand. A great aspect of this movie’s humor is how there was enough to maintain the film’s lighted-hearted tone. At the same time, it didn’t diminish the dramatic moments that momentarily appeared in the story.
The music: While watching this film, the musical selections in From Up on Poppy Hill stood out to me. This is because they fit the tone of their given scene so perfectly! Throughout the story, Umi rises signal flags in order to help her father return home. During these scenes, dramatic piano music would play in the background. For more lighted-hearted scenes, up-beat music could be heard. One example is the movie’s very first scene, which shows Umi preparing for a typical day. Because this film took place in the early to mid-‘60s, the music sounded like it came directly from that time period. When Umi and Shun are in a hurry to reach an important destination, the instrumental tune sounded like it belonged in a program like Hawaii Five-O. All of the music in From Up on Poppy Hill effectively brought a sense of emotion to every moment within the story!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Lack of backstory for the Latin Society’s clubhouse: One of the overarching themes of From Up on Poppy Hill is honoring the past. This is one of the arguments Shun provides in his efforts to save the Latin Society’s clubhouse. There are times when this theme was incorporated into the story well. But, when it comes to the clubhouse, the history of the facility is never revealed. The only thing closest to a backstory that is given was when one of the club members says the previous residents were as messy as the current club members. This creative choice makes the club’s arguments appear weaker than necessary.
Minimal character development for some of the characters: In any film, character development is an important component. This can help the audience connect with a movie’s characters and get invested in their journey. From Up on Poppy Hill gives the majority of character development to Umi and Shun. Parental figures in Umi and Shun’s life, such as Umi’s grandmother, receive some character development. The rest of the characters receive minimal character development, making it difficult to truly get to know them. One example is Sora, Umi’s sister. While watching this film, I became familiar with her as the story progressed. However, when it comes to learning more about Sora, there was more to be desired.
Drawn out scenes: There were a few scenes in From Up on Poppy Hill that were drawn out longer than they needed to be. A perfect example is when Shun’s father is sharing information about his son’s past. I liked learning more about Shun’s backstory. But it was paired with moments of silent pauses that were a little too long. Had these pauses been shorter, this scene might have helped the film shave off some of the run-time.
My overall impression:
When I saw From Up on Poppy Hill, there were mentions of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The 1964 Olympics was included in the discussion, not the now postponed 2020 Olympics like I originally thought. The fact this event would be mentioned at all was very interesting. The Olympics are steeped in history, spanning many decades and involving many international parties. As I mentioned in my review, one of the overarching themes of this movie is honoring the past. In the story, history is presented in many forms. Some are embodied as large-scale events, like the Olympics. Others are formed in the relationships we share. From Up on Poppy Hill intelligently and creatively shows its audience how important history is in our lives and our world. As a movie blogger, I recognize how history has made or broken the world of film. But this entry from Studio Ghibli’s collection handles the idea of history with relatability and respect. People from any part of the world can understand the messages presented and maybe take away a small piece of the story and apply it to their own lives. From Up on Poppy Hill is one of the studio’s stronger projects that I am grateful to have seen. A huge thanks goes to Ospreyshire for bringing this film to my attention.
Overall score: 8.3 out of 10
Have you seen Studio Ghibli’s films? Which movie would you like to see me review next? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!