Consolidating Studio Ghibli’s Zest For Storytelling

Studio Ghibli films rarely fail to disappoint and usually leave me feeling mesmerised and exuberant. From Up on Poppy Hill was no exception with its solid storyline and brilliantly developed characters placing itself as another triumphant piece of Studio Ghibli’s legacy.

From Up on Poppy Hill centres itself on the theme of transition within Japan from post-war to hosting the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. This transitional period is both a backdrop and incorporated into the characters’ lives with Umi’s opening monologue, “the past is not ready to let go of us either”. Umi’s tangled past formed from their Father’s death, an event she never fully recovered from. Whilst her Mother is away Umi asserts herself as the families’ dominant figure making Umi an addition to Studio Ghibli’s admirable protagonists. Some may argue themes of transition and traditionalism are over emphasised, yet the characterisations make these themes admirable. Umi as her families’ dominant figure was noble as she undertakes various household tasks. The greatness of From Up on Poppy Hill‘s writing is what is unsaid. Scenes of silence with Umi preparing meals for her family created an atmosphere where Umi is respected. Yet Umi’s characterisation also had a tragic side with her Father’s death still raw within her memory. Umi’s loyalty to her Father is equally heart-wrenching and honourable reflecting the need to understand the past if transition towards the future will succeed.

Juxtapositing Umi’s struggles with the past is Shun, a fellow student at Umi’s school who forms a close relationship with her. Shun’s youthful ambition not only attracts Umi but gives audiences vitality within themselves to respect the past. His desire to restore Quartier Latin, an ageing building housing the high school’s clubs underlined why the past has to be respected and acknowledged if transitioning into the future.”Destroy the past and you dishonour who lived and died before us” was Shun’s defence in restoring Quartier Latin. Umi’s and Shun’s relations with their past helps forge their relationship which is admirable. Through their relationship and their dealings with the past From Up on Poppy Hill affirmed the importance of preserving and understanding tradition.

Whilst From Up on Poppy Hill dealt with transition with sincerity, there was room for pleasing comedy moments. The scene where Umi and Shun first meet occurs when Shun takes part in a stunt that is whimsical and amusing. Many of the secondary and minor characters during montage scenes of repairing Quartier Latin engaged in hilarious antics and dialogue which equally stayed on course with the theme of transition. From Up on Poppy Hill takes audiences on sentimental journey to respect our pasts if the future is to be improved.

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