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Studio Ghibli Challenge #19: From Up On Poppy Hill (2011) Anime Movie Review

From Up On Poppy Hill poster

Considering how bad Tales From Earthsea was story-wise, if Goro Miyazaki wants to stand before the Studio Ghibli legends like his father, his next film must be fantastic. Indeed it is, except for the weird twist in the middle.

A film about raising your flag and standing up for what you believe in.

The movie starts with a 16-year-old girl, Umi Matsuzaki, who lives in a boarding house overlooking the port of Yokohama. Each morning, she raises signal flags for her father, who is a sailor.

One day at school, a poem about flags being raised was published in their newspaper. Shun Kazama, the author, witnesses them being raised when he rides his father's tugboat every morning. Umi gets the wrong impression when suddenly Shun stunts to jump from the "Latin Quarter," an old high school club building, to prevent it from being demolished. Umi accompanies her sister to obtain an autograph from Shun. he learns from Shun that their president, Shiro, publishes the newspaper. he convinces Shun and Shiro to renovate the Latin Quarter, and all the students must contribute. The two developed feelings about each other.

Umi's family

Umi shows Shun a photograph of three young men. One of them is her deceased father, who was killed during the Korean War. for hun was shocked because he had the same photograph. His father told him that after World War 2, Umi's father arrived at their doorstep with an infant. They decided to adopt Shun. Since Shun and Umi developed romantic feelings for each other, he tries to avoid her, but they both choose to remain friends.

The renovation of the Latin Quarter is now complete; however, the Board of Education still decides to proceed with the demolition. Desperate, Shun, Shiro, and Umi agreed to go to Tokyo to convince the board chairman. The capital is now preparing for the 1964 Summer Olympics, so the city is busier than usual. They were able to persuade him to visit their renovated club building successfully. Umi and Shun both confess to each other their feelings despite their situation.

Renovating the Latin Quarter

Umi's mother returns from the United States and tells her that Shun's father is not her father. His mother died in an accident while her mother died in childbirth. His remaining relatives were killed during the Nagasaki bombing. Since Umi's mother is pregnant with her and it would be difficult for her to take care of 2 children during the postwar years, her mother and father decided to name the child after them so he won't be an orphan.

The chairman visited the Latin Quarter and was amazed by the student's efforts to renovate the place. Their efforts were not in vain because the demolition was canceled. Umi and Shun went to the harbor and talked to a friend of her father, who confirmed that they were not relatives. The movie ends with Umi still doing her routine of raising flags every morning. This time it's not just for her father.

Shun and Umi talking to the Chairman

I like that it is a film that incorporates a few historical events, such as the 1964 Tokyo Olympics; it adds a nice twist.

I don't know about anyone who has watched the movie, but I feel relieved by just how simple the story structure was. Right off the bat, I wasn't expecting much regarding the plot, but I guess that's fine. More often than not, you need to watch some feel-good ones. It's also paced neatly, and I felt like the scenes were not speeding up. My only real problem is the twist in the middle about Umi and Shun being siblings then was confirmed to be false right near the end.

All the characters in the movie are very likable. Umi and Shun are like your typical Studio Ghibli main characters you want to root for throughout the story. What surprises me, though, is the supporting cast. Without their lively attitude and actions, the story won't be complete. I also like the characters being respectable with each other. It's something that you want to wish for in the real world.

The animation pretty much resembles Tales From Earthsea, in my opinion.

Shun and Umi

However, I don't think the film can be compared to the legendary ones like Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away. Those movies are really in a different league. But if Goro Miyazaki wants to achieve what his father has reached, he needs to make films as good or better than From Up On Poppy Hill.

Overall, I will give this one a solid 4 out of 5 stars for its simple story and very adorable characters.

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