The latest animated full-length film from Studio Ghibli doesn't disappoint. Armed with a charming landscape and an innocent story of first love, From Up on Poppy Hill delivers an entertaining story that takes place in the '60s about two people who grow closer as they try to stop the demolition of their school's club house, Quarter Latin.
Directed by Goro Miyazaki with the screenplay written by Hayao Miyazaki, I certainly had high expectations. Execution-wise, I enjoyed the progress of the story. Umi's character is established first. She stands as the head of household since her father already passed away and her mother's not home. She takes her responsibilities seriously. She raises her flags everyday, as a way of paying tribute to the memory of her sailor father. Shun is an active participant in the rally against the club house's demolition. He's the hero of the school as he courageously attracted everyone's attention by jumping from the roof of a school building. He makes passive passes to the girl he likes by writing poems and asking her to do some stencils. It's kind of cute. Heh.
I like how the story of the two develops. Shun has noticed Umi (and her flag-raising activity) for quite a while now but Umi hasn't noticed. But the impending demolition brought the two together as they devise ways for them to save it. They aren't very forward with how they feel for each other but somehow, they make it so obvious! But when they are suddenly faced with a problem that can jeopardize their little romance, they are suddenly open to how they feel.
Just like many Ghibli movies, there's no apparent antagonist and the main problem is easily resolved. But for some reason, I'm not a fan of the way the problem was fixed. It seems rushed and the problem seems forced. It's like they just created the difficulty for the sake of having one, just so Umi and Shun would have something to go through. But I think the plans for the demolition of club house is enough trial for the two. I think it's enough difficulty for them to triumph together and to establish their feelings for each other. Or maybe I'm just rooting for the two so much. As individuals, I adore them both. Together, they're flawless! That's why I am turned off by the way the short-lived dilemma is hurled at them.
Petty dilemma aside, I enjoyed this still. My favorite parts are the little moments between our hero and heroine and the times when everyone is re-building and cleaning up the club house.
A bit of me feels as if there's nothing quite exceptional about the movie. But it's pretty nostalgic and I'm a sucker for any story about first love.