From Up On Poppy Hill is an animated film released on July 26, 2011 in Japan and on September 3, 2013 in North America. It was produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Goro Miyazaki.

Taking place in Japan in 1963, From Up On Poppy Hill follows high-schoolers Umi and Shun as they decide to clean up their school’s clubhouse to save it from demolition. Japan is preparing for the Olympics after the devastation of World War II and the country is full of hope. During this time of change is a story of first love, with Yumi and Shun growing closer as the students pull together to accomplish their goal of saving the clubhouse. However, they learn of a buried secret from their past that threatens to pull them apart.

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This film is the second Ghibli film directed by Goro Miyazaki and was written by Hayao Miyazaki. From Up on Poppy Hill is based on the 1980 comic of the same name.

An Uplifting Story:

From Up On Poppy Hill has a wonderfully optimistic story exploring friendship, love and what it means to hold on to the past. The story is not a high-stakes one by any means but it manages to feel personal as viewers follow Umi and Shun as they try to save the school clubhouse. The film doesn’t take a preachy tone and is content to simply invite viewers to come along for the ride.

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The film also beautifully conveys the tone of 1963 Japan to the viewers, showing a time of change as the country seeks to remake itself before the Olympics. It shows a time long past in Japan and evokes a relateable nostalgia in viewers for a long lost hopeful time. Umi’s connection to her father is also well done and helps to add another emotional level to the story aside from the main plot.

The ending to the movie leaves the story relatively ambiguous but offers just enough closure to satisfy the viewers. It is definitely a feel good ending but it would have been nice for the film to have lasted 10 minutes longer to wrap up some loose ends.

Beautiful Animation:

The animation is beautiful in characteristic Studio Ghibli fashion, showing wonderfully detailed backgrounds. The animation perfectly captures the feel of 1963 Japan and is a treat in the way it stays firmly ground in reality yet remains artistically beautiful.

A Relaxed Pace:

From Up On Poppy Hill is not a high-stakes story about saving the world but rather a personal journey as Umi and Shun discover their past and work with their school-mates to hold on to a historic piece of their school. I enjoyed that the film did not try to raise the stakes too high but rather focused on the story of its characters. It made for a film that is comfortable with what it is and was pleasant to watch.

Yumi and Shun’s Relationship:

Umi and Shun are two likeable but otherwise unextraordinary main characters who realize their feelings for each other over the course of the film. While they are decidedly average in most respects and do not have any defining personality traits, I thought this fit the tone of the story well because it is really a story of the two coming to terms with their past and saving their school clubhouse.

Their relationship is heartwarming to watch, but one particular twist felt really unneeded and interfered with the tone of their relationship. However, their story resolves well but some elements of it may be off-putting to viewers. This otherwise charming story of first love had a lot of potential but was bogged down by some questionable story decisions that hindered the development of this relationship.

A Lack of Magic and Wonder:

From Up on Poppy Hill is firmly grounded in reality, lacking the magic found in other Studio Ghibli offerings. This will be off-putting for viewers who are looking for the same wonder that other Ghibli films evoke, but I felt that this groundedness fit the tone that Goro Miyazaki was trying to achieve well. It is a different style of Ghibli film that is more focused upon nostalgia and history rather than child-like wonder.

From Up On Poppy Hill is another fantastic Studio Ghibli production which is a wonderfully nostalgic look back at a bygone era of Japanese culture. This film was extremely pleasant to watch and is recommended to anyone who likes to become invested in a simple yet satisfying story of hope and optimism. Those who love the usual Ghibli magic are encouraged to watch this film despite its grounding in reality. Don’t overlook From Up On Poppy Hill.

This review was created with Talk Amongst Yourselves’ official review format.

From Up on Poppy Hill can be found on Amazon.com and on Amazon.ca for those of us in Canada.