16 year old, Umi, lives in a house on the top of Poppy Hill. She runs the household for her younger siblings, the boarders, and her grandmother while her mother is away, studying in America. Her father was lost at sea during the Korean war several years before. Meeting fellow high school student, Shun, the head of the school’s journalism club, they work together to try to save the old club house from imminent demolition. As they become closer, they discover a painful secret of the past which could harm the blossoming love which is developing between them.

From Up On Poppy Hill (2013 – released 2011 in Japan) – Director: Gorō Miyazaki

Is From Up On Poppy Hill appropriate for kids

Rating: U

Running Length: 91 mins

Starring: (English Language Dub: Sarah Bolger, Anton Yelchin, Gillian Anderson

Genre: Animated, Drama, Romance

REVIEW

Based upon a 1980 Japanese comic of the same name, written by Tetsurō Sayama, ‘From Up On Poppy Hill’ is a beautifully animated, simple story of a young woman with maturity beyond her years. Struggling with the loss of her father but managing to keep on top of her responsibilities without complaint, she is a very believable character who deserves the happiness she so desperately craves through her developing romance with Shun. The backdrop of the movie, Japan’s eagerness to forget painful memories of the past and enthusiasm to move forward into a future they can be proud of, is nicely balanced against the students who want to preserve their old clubhouse from demolition.

‘From Up On Poppy Hill’’ isn’t action-packed or hilariously funny, it is a well-paced, character driven drama which makes its audience feel comfortable as they watch the story unfold. This is Studio Ghibli at its subtle finest; hand drawn animation, believable characters, and thought-provoking situations which make the audience laugh and cry from start to finish. The movie also has a wonderful sense of time. The upcoming 1964 Tokyo Olympics are preying on the older generation’s collective mind and, unlike a lot of Ghibli films, the music has a fresh 60s zing to it whilst still retaining the charm that often makes a Ghibli movie instantly identifiable by ear alone.

Whilst the plot resolutions towards the end of the movie come about from the very convenient appearance of certain characters, this is a very minor criticism for an otherwise fantastic film which will make you come away from it with a smile on your face. A little more ‘Whisper Of The Heart’ rather than ‘Ponyo‘, ‘‘From Up On Poppy Hill’ is reflective and comfortable film to soothe the mind, an appealing notion to audiences of all ages.

IS ‘FROM UP ON POPPY HILL’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

While Umi is at school, she and other students watch as Shun tries to get publicity for the clubhouse by jumping off its roof. He lands heavily in some bushes then bounces into a large pool of water. He is later seen with his hand bandaged up but insists that this injury was caused by ‘shaving’ as opposed to the fall. Some young children may be tempted to imitate this behaviour, especially as very little consequence is seen of Shun’s actions. Also, because of his jump, the other students see him as a bit of a hero and photos of the event are sold; one girl who has a crush on Shun buys one of these photos and goes to him for an autograph.

There are several emotional moments during the movie, mostly due to Umi’s grief from losing her father. She explains to Shun that the reason she raises the nautical flags at her home is to guide her father home. He went missing at sea and is presumed dead but Umi still holds out hope that he will return to her one day. Later in the movie, Umi is very upset and dreams that both her parents have returned home. She is very happy to see her father who tells her that ‘Your flags led me home’. She runs to him, holds him tightly and sobs.

Perhaps the strongest of the content is when Umi and Shun, after having developed feelings for each other, discover that they could be related. Shun’s adoptive father explains the night that Shun was brought to his family as a baby, and, as he and his wife had recently lost a child, they jumped at the chance to have another baby. The wife is seen to breast feed the baby but nothing explicit is shown. The story then shows that the father was killed at sea shortly after this adoption. When telling Umi what he knows, Shun tells her ‘We’ll just have to stop feeling how we feel’. Later, Umi tells Shun that although she knows there is nothing they can do about it, she still loves him and he tells her that he loves her too. While the movie doesn’t go any further than this, Umi and Shun are both very likeable characters and children may have questions about why they can’t be together.

Whilst two people being together romantically when they may be related being wrong isn’t ever done in a heavy handed way (Shun and Umi both just accept, sadly, that it cannot be), this is a very unusual theme to have in a children’s movie and so we recommend parents watching the movie together with their children for the first viewing so as to be available to explain or elaborate on this point.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

From Up On Poppy Hill’ is not a typical kids movie. It is full of the drama and emotion that is usually seen in more grown up films, however that doesn’t mean that kids will not enjoy it. Because the story unfolds slowly and not a huge amount actually happens, many young children may find it a little boring. We feel that in terms of content, this movie should be suitable for kids of all ages, however it is likely to be more enjoyable for children aged 6 and over.

  • Violence:  1/5 (the clubhouse holds a debate which becomes incredibly heated. There is a lot of shouting and a fight breaks out before many of the students storm the stage. However, no-one is hurt and the students end the debate by singing together)
  • Emotional Distress: 3/5
  • Fear Factor: 0/5
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (some mild flirting between teenage school students)       
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 0/5  
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of forbidden love, the loss of a parent, a child taking the responsibility of a household, teenage life and fighting for something you care about.
  • Some of the characters celebrate an event by drinking whisky. One of the younger characters asks to have some but is told that she is too young.

Words by Laura Record

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