Studio Ghibli has consistently produced animation that has appealed to a wide range of people across the globe. Hayao Miyazaki is well known for uplifting and adorable ‘Totoro’, the magical and often dark ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Princess Mononoke’ and ‘Naussica’ to name a few. (I’m actually very fond of Panda! Go Panda!’) but this is son Goro’s second film, and his style is not familiar to me as I have yet to see ‘Tales of Earthsea’ that he adapted from Ursual K. LeGuin’s series of novels. It has a good reputation though, winning the animation category in the 35th Annual Japan Academy Prizes this year.
The story is one of coming of age, about a girl named Umi whose father disappears suddenly and how she has to grow up fast in the face of this adversity. Its based on the manga series of the same name by Tetsuo Sayama and Chizuru Takahashi and whilst i have not read the manga, I was keen to see this animation very much. Whilst From Up on Poppy Hill lacked the cute creatures so often associated with Miyazaki films, it was funny, sweet, with quirky and engaging characters, and had a real feel good factor to it. The manga it was based on Kokurikozaka kara was orginally two books, so I would like to think the story follows the manga accurately.
Set in the 1960’s, Umi is a responsible careful girl who helps look after the boarding house making meals and doing laundry while her mother is away. Her father died when she was younger and she keeps her connection with him by raising flags every morning as he once said they always guided him home. Life gets a little more complicated when she meets Shun who works for the school paper.
It was a wonderfully full cinema that sat down to watch this preview screening and to sit with a like minded audience and laugh along with them was a treat indeed, almost as much as the animation itself. From the credits I saw that the layout and planning was done by Hayao Miyazaki and I am sure that contributed to to certain elements I could see from his own directed films.
Waiting seems to be a trong theme in Miyazaki directed films. Totoro has children waiting for their mother to get well, waiting at a bus stop in the rain, waiting for the new phase in their life to begin. From Up On Poppy Hill has Umi waiting with an umbrella in the rain, waiting for her mother to return and, in many respects waiting for her father to come home. Its that pause in life, the one just before you really start to grow up, so its easy to see why it appealed to the Ghibli studios to adapt the manga for the screen.
While I now wait for the next release from the studio, I will have to catch up with theGhibli movies I have yet to see, and maybe another round of Panda!Go Panda! so it will be a pleasant wait i am sure!