“From Up On Poppy Hill” was the highest grossing animated release in Japan...all the way back in 2011, but with a Sept. 3 Blu-ray and DVD release, this visual, nostalgic treat from the revered Studio Ghibli is at last going to be accessible (in English) for American audiences. “From Up On Poppy Hill” boasts a screenplay adapted in part by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, “Princess Mononoke”) , but it was the younger Miyazaki, Hayao’s son, Goro, who helmed this release. Set in 1963 Yokohama, “From Up On Poppy Hill” tells the breezy, sweet tale of a group of teens , led by hardworking Umi and passionate Shun, trying to prevent their school’s clubhouse from demolition to make way for new construction in honor of the Olympics.
The voice cast for the english version of the film packs some very big name talent, including, Beau Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christina Hendricks, Ron Howard, Aubrey Plaza and Anton Yelchin. Despite having lost her father, a sailor, in her youth, Umi still raises signal flags to help him find his way home each day. Meanwhile Shun, whose father has a tugboat, sees the signal flags each day, and grows fascinated by their source. When his efforts to respond seem to go unnoticed, he places a message about the flags in the school paper. This gets Umi’s attention and a friendship, with deeper affections near the surface begins to form between them. Soon enough though, a buried secret from the past emerges and throws an unforeseen wrench into their budding romance.
As is tradition for a release from Studio Ghibli, the visuals of the film are positively beautiful. Even without the pleasantly engaging tale, the movie would be a joy to watch for the colorful, whimsical scenery and incredible depth of detail. Second only marginally to the visuals are the score and soundtrack of the film. The use of music does wonders to place the viewer in the frame of mind to understand the spirit of Yokohama in the 60s.
The blu-ray/dvd combo pack is crammed with bonus materials galore, including the original Japanese version of the film, so that it offers plenty of as yet unseen details, even to those who managed to catch the film before this wider release.
“Up On Poppy Hill” is a joy to watch, and in many ways a comparable to a candy confection. It’s a colorful escape with a whimsical coming-of-age, love story in the center.