For this Week’s Miyazaki Monday, the featured film is 2011’s From Up on Poppy Hill.
From Up on Poppy Hill is set in 1963 in the port city of Yokohama, Japan. The story centers around a young high school girl named Umi Matsuzaki. She lives in and helps run a boarding house on a hill overlooking the port of Yokohama with her younger siblings Sora and Riku (no relation to the Sora and Riku from the Kingdom Hearts series) and her grandmother Hana while her mother Ryoko is studying abroad in medical school in the United States. Two other residents in the boarding house are Sachiko Hirokouji, a college student and Miki Hokuto, a doctor in training.
Each morning before school, Umi raises signal flags that can be seen out in the port. The message the flags send is “I pray for safe voyages.” The message was meant for her father, a sailor who piloted boats but had died during the Korean War. It had become a ritual that she continued since she was little. One day at school, Umi saw a poem in the school newspaper of about her flags. She tracks down the author of the poem and turns out it was written by Shun Kazama, who was also a member of the journalism club. When Umi tracks him down, she finds him doing a stunt for the school newspaper which ends up not leaving Umi with a good first impression.
Umi’s feelings do change for Shun once she gets to know him. She ends up going to Quartier Latin, a old, rundown building that houses many of the school clubs including the school newspaper, to help Sora get Shun’s autograph for the poem. Umi later volunteers to help with the newspaper and in the process develops feelings for Shun and vice versa.
Through the course of the film, the two work through their feelings while at the same time are a part of a group of students that want to make sure the Quartier Latin is not torn down. This requires traveling to Tokyo, which is going through change as well dealing with tradition vs building taking place for the 1964 Summer Olympics, to meet with the school board chairman and businessman Tokumaru. It is a story of change both in the lives of the people of Japan as well in the life of the school and in Umi and Shun.
From Up on Poppy Hill is based on the 1980 serialized comic written by Tetsuro Sayama and illustrated by Chizuru Takahashi. The screenplay was written by Miyazaki and also produced the film. The director was Goro Miyazaki, Hayao’s son. This was Goro’s second film to direct. The first was Tales from Earthsea, a Studio Ghibli film that was based on a concept by Hayao Miyazaki on the Earthsea series of books written by Ursula K. Le Guin, in 2006 (although Hayao ended up not working this film due to his work on Howl’s Moving Castle). From Up on Poppy Hill was released in theaters in Japan on July16, 2011. It was featured at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011.
The English dub for this film was not produced and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. This film was distributed in North America by GKIDS. This was the first Studio Ghibli film to not be distributed by Disney since Princess Mononoke, which was distributed by Miramax (which ironically at the time was owned by Disney at the time). The English dub cast includes Sarah Bolger, Alton Yelchin, Ron Howard, Jeff Dunham, Gillian Anderson, Chris Noth, Emily Osment, Beau Bridges, Christina Hendricks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern and Aubrey Plaza. It received a limited theatrical release in North America starting in March 15, 2013. Overall, the film grossed over $61 million dollars, not as much as some of Miyazaki films but still pretty good.
I went and saw this film in an art house movie theater in Charlotte, NC. I loved this film. It is in my top 3 of favorite Miyazaki films and arguably is my favorite (it kinda flip flops between it, Princess Mononoke, and next week’s featured film). Last year in this blog, I featured the theme song to this film. I’ll end this post with a link to that song again.