From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

Remember how, ages ago, I did that list of my favourite non-Disney animated movies? Yeah, that list is probably due an update. There are so many fantastic films that I’ve discovered or re-discovered since then: Coraline, Prince of Egypt and of course Princess Mononoke. Still the highest scoring animated movie I’ve ever reviewed on this blog (or tied for first place if you count Who Framed Roger Rabbit). So when I was asked to review From Up On Poppy Hill, another Studio Ghibli film by Miyazaki that I’d never even heard of I was pumped. 











More please.

More please.

So this is the 17th Studio Ghibli film, released in 2011 after Arrietty and before Miyazaki’s final film as director, The Wind Rises. Aaaand that’s about as much as I know about it. I’m going into this one completely cold.
I mean, c’mon. What else do I need to know? It’s a Studio Ghibli film directed by Miyazaki. The only question is; Great Movie or the Greatest Movie? Let’s take a look.

So, dateline: Yokohoma 1963. We meet our heroine Umi, a 16 year old Japanese girl who lives in her grandmother’s boarding house which is, indeed, Up on Poppy Hill. You shoot straight with me, movie. I like that. Umi’s mother is studying in America and her father is “gone” and she says in the opening narration and so she and her sister Sora and little brother Riku…

Sora and Riku?



Okay, there’s obviously some kind of significance to those two names in Japanese culture that I’m just not getting. Something to do with ancestors and…shrines, probably. Whatever, as the movie begins Umi is going about her morning routine, raising flags in the garden which can be seen by the passing ships, and getting breakfast ready for the boarders in her grandmother’s house. As she works, Umi’s narrates and tells us that all of Japan is really psyched to be hosting the Olympics next year and almost everyone’s on a big modernity kick but that some aren’t ready to let go of the past and sometimes “the past isn’t ready to let go of us” and okay, sure, just come out there with the main theme of the movie right up front. That’s fine. Saves us some time.

So Umi dishes up breakfast and the guests come and eat it and…argue about how much soy sauce to use and…

Okay. No, no. It’s fine. This is just…it’s atmospheric. It’s just setting up Umi’s boring workaday existence before all the dragons and wonderment show up. It’s a slow-burner, that’s all. Nothing to be worried about. I’ll just watch five more minutes of this breakfast scene to see where they go with this.

I dont find this riveting. But its Miyazaki. So clearly theres something wrong with me.

I don’t find this riveting. But it’s Miyazaki. So clearly there’s something wrong with me.

Ah. They finish their breakfast and Umi and her siblings go to school. Don’t know what I was expecting really. Alright, so Sora shows Umi a poem that was published in the school newspaper that seems to be about her and the weird flag-raising thing that she does every morning and everyone’s all “ooooooooooooooohhh”. Later at lunch Sora sits down with Umi…oh. Sorry. My mistake. That isn’t Sora at all. Apparently this is Umi’s best friend Nobuko, not her sister Sora.

Nobuko Sora

Sorry, I have no idea how I could have confused them. Although…is it just me or are these character designs kinda…samey?

"Hey Zeke, ya hear we got a mention on tvtropes?" "Yessum." "Makes it all worthwhile, don't it?" "Yessum."

“Hey Zeke, ya hear we got a mention on tvtropes?”
“Makes it all worthwhile, don’t it?”

I know! I know! It’s Miyazaki. Clearly I’m just mentally deranged. Okay so, the girls have a scintillating conversation about lunch and then OH MY GOD SOMETHING’S HAPPENING!

Unfurling banners! Now were talking!

Unfurling banners! Now we’re talking!

Alright, so these dweebs are a bunch of dweebs called the Anti-Demolition League, a group of student societies who’ve banded together to save their clubhouse, a roach-infested Addams Family manor-esque place called the Latin Quarter. Yeah, I don’t know why they call it the Latin Quarter either. Surely one building isn’t enough to make a “quarter”? That’s an “eighth”, at best. So one of the boys, Shun, then leaps off the roof into the pond below to make his point that the building shouldn’t be demolished by the school.

This is probably a good time to remind you that this movie is set in the sixties and student protests were very much in. In fact, Shun throwing himself off the roof  is not even close to being the craziest protest I’ve ever heard of. My parents knew this guy who climbed the broadcast tower of RTÉ to protest the lack of Irish language programming.

"Sir, please come down." "NEVER!" "Every second you stay up there you are losing millions of sperm." "Please fetch me a ladder."

“Sir, please come down.”
“Every second you stay up there you are losing millions of sperm.”
“Please fetch me a ladder.”

So Shun cannonballs into the pond and Umi goes to pull him out and when he takes her hand the whole school just explodes in “ooooooooooohhhhh” and my God I do not miss secondary school at all. Not. One. Little. Bit. Embarassed, Umi heads home and has a conversation in the kitchen with one of the boarders about how she got some cheap mackerel in the marketplace. The Umi, has a conversation with her grandmother about how she’s been keeping the books for the boarding house and okay, that’s it! That is it! Stop! Stop the movie! Stop everything!

What is going on here? What is this?! I’m watching a Studio Ghibli movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki and I have not been transported into a wonderland of cartoon enchantment. No sir, I have not. I am neither thrilled, humbled, nor wondrous. I am, at best, bored, frustrated and a little sweaty. Am I being trolled? Did I suffer a head injury that causes me to experience everything at one tenth normal speed? Did I put the wrong disk in the DVD player? Let me check the box again.
From up on Poppy Hill

Wait a minute. Enhance 15 to 23.

 From up on Poppy Hill
Oh Bollocks
Okay, so, that explains that. This movie was not actually directed by Hayao Miyazaki but by his son, Goro. Goro’s only movie prior to this was Tales From Earthsea which I haven’t seen but is usually described as “the bad studio Ghibli film”, presumably by people who haven’t seen From Up on Poppy Hill. And look, I don’t want to dump on the guy. Trying to live up to a legacy like Hayao’s cannot be fun at all. From what I read, Goro only reluctantly got into directing. He actually studied to be a landscaper after he found some of his father’s drawings as a child and decided “Yep. Not gonna be able to top that. Why bother?” And there’s absolutely no shame in that. Honestly, I almost think he’d have been better off devoting his time and energy to being the best damn landscapering dude he could be instead of working in a field where he could be absolutely fantastic and still be the “less good” Miyazaki. I almost think that, but I don’t. Because despite how much I dislike this film there is definitely some talent on display here and he might just become a top drawer animation director given time. And also because there is some serious Seti-Ramses stuff going on between Hayao and Goro and when they finally make the movie about the two of them it’s going to be amazing.

Alright, so the next day…Sora? Let me check my chart.

My Chart

Okay, so. Hair clips and not a beloved male Italian American comic actor. So Sora. Sora shows Umi a picture of Shun leaping off the roof that she bought for thirty yen which results in an admittedly hilarious “Wow. That was a…waste of money” from Umi. Shun has become a celebrity on campus and now all the girls are crazy about him. Ladies. Please explain this to me. I don’t get it. I just don’t.

"I jumped in a lake, will you have sex with me?"

“I jumped in a lake, will you have sex with me?”

"Hell yeah Im gonna have sex with you! You jumped in a lake!"

“Hell yeah I’m gonna have sex with you! You jumped in a lake!”

Sora wants to get Shun’s autograph and so she asks Umi to go with her to the Latin Quarter. Once inside they find that the Latin Quarter is a rambling wreck of a place basically being held upright by its own filth. They ask for directions to the school newspaper’s office and are told to “Listen for the sounds of smug portentousness.”

Huh. I didn’t know Shun wrote for Salon. They head upstairs and meet the various weirdoes of the philosophy club, the chemistry club and the drama club. Pffh. Drama club. What a bunch of nerds.



“Please. You CRIED when you left Dramsoc.”

“Please. You CRIED when you had to leave Dramsoc.”

"My soul died that day."

“My soul died that day.”

So Umi and Sora meet Shun and his assistant editor Mizanuma. Shun signs Sora’s photo and Umi notices that his whole hand has been bandaged. She asks him about it and he says that he didn’t hurt his hand from the fall, but cut himself shaving.

"I have to shave my hands. Because Im so manly."

“I have to shave my hands. Because I’m so manly.”

Umi gets roped into helping out at the paper and Umi and Shun just spend a few minutes wordlessly working together. There are stencils.

Here, the action of the film builds to a thrilling climax.

Here, the action of the film builds to a thrilling climax.

Realising the time, Umi runs home to make dinner. She starts on the rice and vegetables but then discovers THAT THERE’S NO PORK! CRISIS!!!!!


Okay look. I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, poor Mouse. Can’t even concentrate on a movie if there’s not a transformer exploding every five seconds. It’s art, Mouse. It’s restrained film-making, Mouse. It’s speaking the language of subtlty, a language you don’t understand (and also Japanese), Mouse.” Hey, I don’t mind slow films. I don’t mind movies that take their time. But, and I’m just putting this out there, there is a difference between a movie that takes its time, and a movie that wastes yours. This is the latter. There is just so much pointless filler and conversations about food that go nowhere and so precious little about the actual characters. A fun game to play…well, a game to play with this movie: Try and see how long it takes for a character to speak a line of dialogue that’s not purely informational “I used up all the pork making lunch” and actually performs an action (comforting, teasing, threatening, seducing, cajoleing, charming etc etc).

Contrast with Waiting for Godot. In terms of plot, it’s a play where nothing happens. Twice. But it’s full of incident because the characters are constantly pushing each other in different directions and into different emotional states.

"Will we go?" "No." "Why not? "We're waiting for plot."

“Will we go?”
“Why not?
“We’re waiting for plot.”

So Umi meets Shun on his bicycle on her way to buy some pork and he ends up giving her a lift to the market. I’m gonna sound like I’m contradicting myself here…but I actually really like this scene. There’s a lovely atmosphere and the score really helps set the mood. I wouldn’t mind scenes like this if there was a little more dramatic heft to the rest of the movie. Anyway, Umi’s clearly starting to develop a crush on Shun and goes home to make dinner.

So there’s two main storylines to From Up on Poppy Hill. The first is how Umi, Shun and the other students try to convince the school not to demolish the Latin Quarter, the second is the burgeoning love between Umi and Shun. At first things seem to be going great until Umi shows Shun around her house and he sees a picture of her father with two other naval officers. She says that his ship went down when it was bombed during the Korean War and nope. Not buying it. Ship goes down in the Pacific during the fifties? That was no mine. In fact, let’s ask one of the survivors.

“What did you see, old man?”

“What did you see, old man?”



Umi’s ritual of raising the flags is her way of sending a message to her father to come home (and should probably raise some flags for Shun, if you catch my drift). Shun then goes home and opens a drawer to reveal that he has the exact same photograph (oh no). Shun asks his father about this because it turns out that he’s adopted (here we go) and that he’s always been told that the guy in the photograph is his father (oy vey) and yeah, Shun has to tell Umi that they’re actually brother and sister oh God in heaven…

Alice Facepalm

This again? Again? This again, again?
Alright, first of all, let me make it clear that I’m not judging Umi or Shun. It’s a tragic situation, and actually a much more common one than you might think (thanks a lot, genetic sexual attraction). And it’s not like the movie is sensationalising it (I defy you to find anything in this movie that’s the least sensational) or that it’s implying Umi should just get over it and bang her brother. It’s very clear that once she learns that they’re related, Umi puts the kibosh on the relationship even though she still has feelings for Shun.
My question is more…why, Japan? Why does every second manga, or animé, or computer game I play I feel like it has some variation on this trope? Games especially? It’s always “I know you’re my sister but it turns out I’m adopted” or “Oh I have feelings for you but we can’t act on them because you’re my brother oh wait God rewrote reality so now we’re not related any more help me get this bra off…”
I mean, why!? What is it about this theme that you need to keep going back to it over and over and over and over like a monkey with a miniature symbol that wants to bang it’s sister?
"I can explain, Mouse."

“I can explain, Mouse.”

"Gangsta Asia."

“Gangsta Asia?”

"No, actually. I’m regular, vanilla Asia from this universe.."

“No, actually. I’m regular, vanilla Asia from this universe..”

“Oh. Funny I've never seen you before.”

“Oh. Funny I’ve never seen you before.”

"I've been travelling. So, you want to know why so much of Japanese media depicts attraction between siblings, either adopted or blood related?"

“I’ve been travelling. So, you want to know why so much of Japanese media depicts attraction between siblings, either adopted or blood related?”



" "Well, there’s many cultural factors stemming from Japanese folklore and the stresses arising from a society that is at once fascinated by deviations from sexual mores while still being extremely conservative but mostly it comes down to the fact that their sisters are really, really, really hot.""

“Well, there are many cultural factors stemming from Japanese folklore and the stresses arising from a society that is at once fascinated by deviations from sexual norms while still being extremely conservative but mostly it comes down to the fact that their sisters are really, really, really hot.””

“Japanese people want to bang their sisters…because they’re hot?”

“Japanese people want to bang their sisters…because they’re hot?”

"Yes. Why? Don’t you want to bang your sisters?"

“Yes. Why? Don’t you want to bang your sisters?”



"Oh. Are they unattractive?"

“Oh. Are they unattractive?”

Okay. Well. We won’t be seeing him again.
So, Umi and Shun channel all their weird, frustrated energy into saving the Latin Quarter and finally manage to get enough support from the students to completely renovate their beloved deathtrap. But the school board is still dead-set on tearing down their clubhouse so you know what that means!


Or, because this movie has no sense of fun, Shun, Umi and Mizunama travel to Tokyo to talk to Tokumaru (I just wrote seven T-words in a row and I wasn’t even trying). Tokumaru is the chairman of the school board and they’re hoping they can convince him to cancel the demolition. As they arrive in Tokyo, the city is preparing to host the Olympic Games.
Translation: “We have gone 5 DAYS without a psychic child destroying the city.”

Translation: “We have gone 5 DAYS without a psychic child destroying the city.”

We now get some looooooong scenes of travelling by train to Tokyo, booking a meeting, waiting in the waiting room (seriously).
You and me both, buddy.

You and me both, buddy.

Tokumaru finally sees them and after hearing their story agrees to come to Yokohoma to see the Latin Quarter for himself. Returning home, Umi finds her mother Ryoko has returned from America. Umi asks her mother about that brother she never told her about and Ryoko explains that it’s all a big misunderstanding. See, Shun was actually the son of the second man in the photograph who was killed in the tail-end of the Second World War. Umi’s dad adopted Shun but when they couldn’t look after both Umi and Shun they ended up giving him to Shun’s adopted father and mother who’d just lost their own baby.
TLDR: They’re not related.
I find this really unsatisfying because the central conflict of the movie is resolved really without any effort on the part of our protagonists. They thought something was wrong. Turns out it wasn’t. Conflict resolved. Lame.
Anyway, Tokumaru arrives and inspects the Latin Quarter and is so impressed by all their hard work that he announces that the school won’t tear it down after all (hooray if I cared). Then Shun gets a call from his father to tell him that there’s a ship in the harbour whose captain is…the third man.
 The third man
The third man in the photo is a guy called Yoshio and he knew both Umi and Shun’s biological fathers. They race down to the docks to catch the ship before it goes and board to talk to him. He tells them that he served with their fathers in the navy (we knew that) that they aren’t related (we knew that) and that their fathers would be very proud of both of them (d’aaaaaaw don’t care).
And that’s it. That’s our big climax.
You know what, much as I dislike this film this film I can’t put all the blame at Goro’s feet. I mean, the direction borders on the somnambulant but that’s only part of the problem. The script just ain’t that good. It’s just weak. What two-bit hack wrote this thing?
 From up on Poppy Hill
From up on Poppy Hill
That’s it people. Up is down. Black is white. Cats are onions.  Chaos reigns. Hayoa Miyazaki wrote a bad movie. I can’t imagine what this did to his reputation. I mean, when this thing came out the critics must have eaten it alive…
87%?! ARE YOU ALL HIGH!?!?!

83%?!  ARE YOU ALL HIGH!?!?!

Animation 15/20
Stiff motion (for Ghibli), interchangeable character designs (for Ghibli), and just kind of bland looking (for Ghibli). So, still gorgeous by any objective measure.
Leads 05/20
Yeah, I’m still not sure they’re not related. They look the same, they act the same and they deliver their lines in the same bored monotone. A passionate love for the ages this ain’t.
Villains N/A
Modernity? Lack of respect for the past? Pesky anti-incest laws?
Supporting Characters: 04/20
It took my second viewing to realise that one character was actually two different people. Not a good sign.
Music: 13/20
Satoshi Takebe contributes a nice, peppy, sixties infused score.
Next Update: 25 June 2015
NEXT TIME: Animé month continues as Satoshi Kon makes us an offer we can’t refuse. Tokyo Godfathers is next.


  1. I thought this movie was okay. I didn’t really care much about the school plot (although it provided some laughs), but they dealt with the possible incest romance with maturity, which impressed me. I’d put it on the lower totem of Ghibli movies. Of course, given how few actually bad Ghibli movies there are (if any at all), that’s not such a bad thing.

    Also, when I watched it, it felt like Whisper of the Heart-lite, which is odd, since they have no similar plot elements except teenage romance (and Whisper of the Heart doesn’t imply that they’re siblings). Maybe it was my subconscious telling me to watch Whisper of the Heart. Like you need to do, Mouse.

      1. From Up On Poppy Hill is SUCH a poor man’s Whisper of the Heart. Goro Miyazaki just didn’t have his own voice as a filmmaker, so he just tried to copypasta the fantastical elements of his dad’s works or thoughtful/slice of life character pieces that Isao Takahata did w/o understanding what made those films really click. It’s pretty clear to see that his heart wasn’t in either this or Tales from Earthsea.

        On the contrast, I can GUARANTEE that you as a writer will find Whisper of the Heart 1000 times more relatable this. Director Yoshifumi Kondo was basically going to be the Studio Ghibli heir apparent before his untimely death after this first effort of his was completed, and you could see why with this film. Everything you’re having problems with with Poppy Hill, that movie does right. You owe it to yourself to check it out and scrub the palette clean.

        Just be warned, though…I hope you like the song Country Road. (:

      2. Whisper of the Heart is my second favourite Ghibli film after Spirited Away and easily in my Top Ten in general. And yes, it’s a slow film, just like this one. Nothing much happens really, but you get into the characters’ heads much more easily, the romance is sweeter and the themes are fantastic. It’s one of the movies I watch whenever I’m having a writer’s block and it always helps.

  2. … welp, this was a disappointment. But at least it’s good to know that even Miyazaki can’t bat a thousand.

    I assume that Vanilla Asia died on his way back to his home planet, eh?

    I very much look forward to what you’ll make of the works of Anime David Lynch… er, Satoshi Kon. I haven’t seen Tokyo Godfathers, but if it’s anything like his other stuff, be prepared for a return to Bahia.

    (One of these days you really ought to review Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. It’s another outlier in Miyazaki’s filmography – an action-adventure movie with no bigger ambition than to entertain – but I figure you’ll love it much more than this boring piece of crap.)

    1. Castle of Cagliostro is FANTASTIC. Supposedly it inspired the creation of Indiana Jones (though I have only seen like one source saying this so it could be just an urban legend)

      1. I understand that the stories about Spielberg seeing it are entirely false, but I think the fact that it inspired the crews of both The Great Mouse Detective and Batman: The Animated Series is 100% true.

  3. Umi means ocean, Sora means sky and Riku means… Oh hang on – handsome? Huh.
    Sounds like this one could have used a bit more SIE SIND DAS ESSEN? NA, WIR SIND DIE JÄGER!

      1. I know I should be more involved with the story and trying to figure out how the hell Titans are alive if they can’t technically digest anything (also, who cuts their hair?), but chair-dancing to that song is really the best part of every episode.

      2. Entirely off topic but I’ve just realised that WordPress lets me edit YOUR comments! Like, I can edit your comment to make it look like you’re saying anything. That…seems like a rather dangerous amount of power for me to have.

      3. :O You wouldn’t…
        I would accept ‘metaphor’ or ‘magic’ as a reason. I will also accept ‘shut up and watch the show, ya pedant’.

      4. But you just gave me the best idea for how to deal with future haters on UTDBT. Imagine:

        This review can suck a LOLLIPOP because it is GREAT. You are a DELIGHTFUL, INTELLIGENT fucking REVIEWER and you should POST MORE OFTEN. Your point about the plot twist was the most INSIGHTFUL piece of CRITICISM I have come across all week. Go and REWARD yourself, you EXCELLENT bitch.

  4. OK, I quite liked this one. But it’s the kind of movie I really like. In contrast to Miyazaki’s very heavily fantasy oriented work, a good deal of the rest of Studio Ghibli’s output is very slice of life type stuff. Take Whisper of the Heart for example. It’s about a girl who wants to be a writer and she falls in love with a boy who wants to be a violin maker. They both inspire each other to follow their dreams and that’s pretty much it. There are a couple dream sequences in there that add some fantasy element, but it’s largely just the everyday life of two middle school aged kids. And it’s WONDERFUL, one of my all time favorite films. From Up on Poppy Hill is kind of similar to Whisper of the Heart in its style, it’s very much just “here’s two characters and here’s their lives.” I personally rather enjoyed this film, in no small part due to the score which really is very very good. It does drag at times, but I got the purpose of a lot of those kind of filler-esque scenes. As you said, the theme of the movie is change, and how people and cultures can be so resistant to it. They wanted to really show the tradition and routine of their everyday lives, to contrast it with the changes coming. So I thought it was rather nice. Not great, but quite good.

    Now, Tokyo Godfathers. Oh boy. I am pumped for this one. It’s a very very unique film and its director, Satoshi Kon, was an absolute genius. He only directed 4 films before his tragic death, but all are classics in their own right. I highly highly recommend all of his films and everyone please go watch this video on his editing style right now because its amazing. And then go watch all the Every Frame a Painting episodes because this guy is great.

  5. I mean, I wouldn’t get all hot and bothered over a dude jumping into a lake – I feel like that’s part of the rebel factor….instead of oh hey he’s hot cuz he rides a motorcycle and has a leather jacket and tattoos, in the sixties it was lake jumping that was sexy!

    Hmm, this movie sounds…interesting. I do like slice of life, but this does sound like a stretch. Sounds like a lot of the issues I have with My Neighbor Totoro – too much fluff, not enough of the main plot points.
    Oh my Vanilla Asia. Go get your far cooler Gangsta cousin, k? I do find that is an odd thing in media over in Japan and it’s always erked me, glad I’m not the onl one! I find that and the “You’re 19 but look like a 14 year old” cliches that really bug me in japanese media, even though I love games and anime.

    Oo, I am excited for Tokyo Godfaters, too! Also one I haven’t seen…I need to just watch more Japanese movies probably haha.

  6. I watched this movie just last week because my sister said that she loved it, and I found that it was ok but overall not very interesting. I don’t mind slice of life movies if done right like whisper of the heart, which you should watch sometime (Miyazaki didn’t direct that one just so you know). I did kind of like seeing how daily life was like then but you were right that it was very hard to be engaged with the characters, they just weren’t interesting. There was very little going on story wise and some of the character designs were questionable. I kinda enjoyed Goro’s first movie Tales from Earthsea better. Even though the plot was very hard to follow It had better artwork and music and overall more interesting. Overall this movie is not one of studio ghibli’s best but I won’t say it’s worst because there are still a few I haven’t seen yet.

  7. I agree that literally nothing happens in this movie, but I can’t help liking it. There’s a charm to its simplicity. It’s basically just watching somebody’s everyday life with very simple plot twist in it. It doesn’t bore me at all unlike films like Arietty for instance. In short, I like this movie.

  8. Great review, Mouse! 😀 I’m kind of an ignorant in the subject of anime, but you still make it entertaining to read. 😉 Still looking forward to learn more of Japan and its weirdness about sexual themes. :3

      1. Dude you’re like my favorite human being (er, mouse being?) all over again. ❤
        I'm a HUGE drama nerd. It's my minor in college, and in high school I was VP of the Theatre Troupe as well as starring in every show we ever did. I haven't been in a show in over a year though… Gawd I miss it so much… I've always wanted to try my hand at writing for theatre, but never gotten the nerve to put pen to paper. How do you get yourself to not quite and start hating every word you spell?

      2. Having a massive ego helps. 🙂 I did a bit of acting after leaving college but I had to give it up after Iola was born. I miss it a lot. Last play I did I got to play Hamlet which was a nice part to go out on. If you have a story in mind, write it. If you don’t like it, ask yourself why and fix it. If you can’t fix it, start again.

  9. Oh, there are quite a few non-Disney movies which are worth the watch. and more are coming every year. Did I ever mention how much I loved Song of the Sea?

  10. My god this movie sounds so boring! Its a shame to because they could have made the brother/-sister conflict so much more challenging for the characters and brought out some development. I think other Studio Ghibli movies like Whispers of the Heart and the tale of Princess Kaguya work so much better as eventhough they don’t have much plot, they have focus and good characters, which leads to interesting situations and conflicts. Plus Princess Kaguya has a gorgeous animation style!

  11. In other news, Disney just released a teaser for the next film in the canon, Zootopia.

    Why is “be-fur” giving me Home on the Range flashbacks?

  12. I actually like this film more than Whisper of the Heart lol.


    LIKE THAT IS A MASTERPIECE OF A MUSIC. EVERYTIME I LISTEN TO IT I FEEL 10000 DIFFERENT EMOTIONS AND JUST UGH LIKE ANYONE HERE HAVE THE SAME FEELING OR JUST ME BEING CRAZY?? coz to me, Poppy’s theme song is one of the greatest Ghibli songs I’ve ever heard, right next to Laputa, Mononoke, and Spirited Away…..

    1. Ghibli always has amazing music. Because Joe Hisaishi is an absolute master who does NOT get enough credit for his work.

  13. Ha ha. All the excitement at the beginning kind of feels like a set-up for disastrous disappointment. I’ve never seen this one either, so I don’t know what to expect either. This is all starting to sound a bit like how I found Whisper of the Heart, really. Kind of too… real to be the kind of Miyazaki movie I can get into. Maybe I’m just as crazy as you are (maybe, hah), but I remember waiting for the thrill and enchantment and wonder to show up in that one too and ending up with a response of “Nope, now here’s a bunch of talk about how labour intensive any goal is in life, and come on, were you expecting following a random animal to take you somewhere special, silly you, that’ll just get you lost in some different part of town.” I guess both of us just don’t watch anime for domestic gazes into a civilian’s life.

    Hmm, it’s a wonder you called drama club attenders nerds, being a playwright. Without actors, what exactly is a script writer? Sounds as if you’re gnawing the hand here, hmm, hmmm? Also, I’m not sure whether you skimmed the, erm, auto-erotica joke at that hand-shaving line because you’re too classy for such juvinility, or somehow didn’t think of it (or maybe that’s not a rumour in Ireland, I dunno, really). In any case, I love your use of the flag double entendre there. That cracked me up.

    …Non-Gangsta Asia? Now this is a surprise. I can only hope that this doesn’t cause Bluthworld’s Asia to have a chandelier dropped on him (or I guess a bajillion of them, one wouldn’t even tickle a continent that large), I was starting to like the jive-spoutin’ landmass, myself. Though I have to wonder what normal Asia is doing in this apparently upside-down world in which Miyazaki Sr. wrote a script this bland. Actually, was Whisper of the Heart Miyazaki’s? I wonder if that one can ever get through Celebrity Movie Deathmatch (doubtful, seeing as only spectacular or spectacularly bad movies are likely to win) so I can see if it’s just me in that one’s case.

    …Wow, this movie was so “meh” its review only prompted 3 paragraphs from me. I had almost nothing to say, this *is* opposite day. Hopefully two weeks later will give a more interesting review of… Japanese mice becoming horses and getting decapitated? I haven’t seen Tokyo Godfathers, if you haven’t guessed.

      1. I dunno…

        Tumblr is usually really, really fail-y about social issues, but this thing *would* explain why so many of Japan’s four-panel joke comics get by without punchlines.

      2. No, no, the explanation is fine as far as it goes (even though it doesn’t apply to Up on Poppy Hill which does have conflict and a conventional three act structure just badly executed). But the only Western-centrism the author is exposing is their own. The centrality of conflict to narrative is ancient and universal (degree in folklore right here). Plus the idea that it’s an invention of the brutal violent West which could stand to learn so much from the peaceful enlightened Japanese (what 20th century were you watching?!) and the overall smugness and just…bravo. You have scored a perfect Tumblr.

  14. I thought the movie was ok, especially when compared to Goro’s first film. The whole romance subplot was a big disappointment and needlessly convoluted near the end, but I actually really liked the Latin Quarter plot line. The students as a group were really sympathetic, all the various club members were a ton of fun and the Latin Quarter segments had the nicest looking pieces of animation, especially the indoor scenes. I wish they had scrubbed the whole “siblings or not” thing and focused fully on the efforts to save the Quarter.

  15. Okay, I guess I’m really going against the flow on this one. But I think if I had to choose between “Princess Mononoke” and “From up on Poppy Hill”, I would go for FUOPH. Okay, please keep yourselves from sending the angry mob with the pitchforks at me! But I have to say that “Princess Mononoke” just looks to gory and creepy for my taste, while I could dig the more gentle slice of life story in “From up on Poppy Hill”. Then again, my experience with manga and anime is minimal. I did watch parts of “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” though, because a co-worker of mine is a big fan of Japanese culture (and a really good amateur manga artist). And it seems like that one was made my Hasao Miyazaki as well.

  16. I remember learning that according to folk Buddhist beliefs in Japan, people who committed lovers’ suicides would be reincarnated as siblings (not sure if this was meant to alleviate their situation, since traditionally filial piety is rated much more highly than romantic love; or to punish them for abandoning their duty to their arranged spouses and families, since as brother and sister in the next life they could never marry). So that might be the source of the incest-not-incest trope that crops up in Japanese lit nowadays. 🙂

    1. I was trying to think of a Western version of this. I imagined a Japanese person reading American comics and saying “Again with the hero coming back from the dead?! Again?!”

  17. I’ve never seen this movie, but I convinced myself read the review anyway~ Yeah, I heard that it’s pretty slow; basically an average slice of life anime made movie length. It’s still on my list to see since it IS Studio Ghibli… It’d be weird if I DIDN’T see it sometime. Although, I’m still in no rush.

    I am also skeeved out by the COPIOUS amount of incestuous sexual tension that seems to be appearing in anime so much lately (has it always been like this and I’m only now noticing it? The sheer amount is making me question this…). Also, I’m getting tired of the weird cop-out of “Oh! They’re not REALLY related! So, it’s totally okay!” Then… why have that drama if the story was just gonna fake us out about it? It just makes it creepy AND feel cheap. It’s a weird trend to stick with… This movie seems to skirt that plot point a bit better since 1) they were raised apart, and 2) I would have questioned how sure they were that the same guy was their father since there were two other people in the photo. Maybe they noticed their similar character designs and didn’t question it? I do have to say, these are probably the blandest Ghibli character designs I’ve seen so far. I would have to hear their voices to see if I can differentiate between them better (if I remember their names). Ehh, I’ll just have to see for myself; probably just rent it. Very good review, though~ I feel that you haven’t been this bored by a movie since Aristocats where that was just cutesy where this was mostly uneventful.

    Oooh, I can’t wait for Tokyo Godfathers (I was the requester; I don’t know if my name was different)~ It’s definitely a fave of mine. In hindsight, it does have a few… issues when it comes to the handling of a character (if she counts as a character…), particularly in a few EXCITING scenes that scratches at my suspension of disbelief and worrying about the character’s well-being… But aside from that, I still love it~ Still hunting for an affordable DVD I can buy so I can finally own the damn movie! And Netflix doesn’t have it as an instant stream anymore… And I wanted to watch it around Christmas, too… Ugh. Anyways, I look forward to it and pop back into my lurking-mode~

  18. Also, speaking of lake-jumping: Isn’t that what you tell a person to do when you DON’T want to sleep with them? To go jump in a lake? …Does that mean that that saying is actually advice on how to make a person more attractive? I mean, I get the appeal of a person in wet clothes that sticks to them and makes it transparent, but I wouldn’t want them touching me because THEY’RE DRENCHED. Ehhh…. Weird rebel logic…

  19. Actually, Hayao Miyazaki didn’t come up with the story, he just adapted it. The story comes from an obscure manga by the same name. The suckiness is not due to Miyazaki Sr., it is because of the manga itself. Why did they pick this manga, I’m honestly not sure, but just throwing this out there to show that it wasn’t Miyazaki’s original idea.

    As for RT’s rating, 83% is actually low for a Ghibli movie. Sure it is good, but it is a rating that shows this movie is not up to par with the rest of Ghibli’s catalogue.

  20. This is actually my favorite Ghibli movie… because it’s so relaxing to watch and it’s a lot of decent human beings interacting in that relaxing environment instead of a horrible manipulative power dynamic like The Borrower Arrietty (I HATE Sho, a lot). The music is nice. I like how flowing the animation quality feels. There’s a lot of Bechdel-test-passing natural discussions about things like food preparation, running a boarding house, careers, and painting.

    I also like that it’s central moral is not so much that there’s a big bad villain to take down, but rather that the villain in most real life situations is APATHY in group dynamics. I like how responsible Umi is, that she’s naturally sort of charismatic in the way Tiffany Aching is, and slightly set apart because of it.

    Yeah, it’s slow and maybe there’s not much plot, but that’s ok. I like slow in specific circumstances, and this movie feels like a palette cleanser if I’m in a horrible mood. My girlfriend feels the same way about Mind Game, which also has very little plot but life affirming moments and gorgeous, inventive visuals.

    (I’m also willing to admit there’s probably ‘better’ Ghibli films, like Princess Kaguya or Only Yesterday- my second favorite Ghibli film!- but this is the one I’m most fond of.)

  21. I liked this film, in part because I’d seen Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low which also takes place in the same location at the same time as From Up On Poppy Hill (Yokohama in 1963), as it was interesting to see the city from that film depicted in animated form (and in a completely different tone).

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