Its the Month of Miyazaki: here’s this week’s Movies You Have Not Seen But Should!
From Up on Poppy Hill
Welcome back to “Movies You Have Not Have Seen….But You Should”. For the month of September, we have dubbed it the “Month of Miyazaki”. This is in honor of acclaimed writer, animator, producer and director from Japan, Hayao Miyazaki (the idea of this came out before the news of Miyazaki’s retirement so it’s even more fitting to honor him). Throughout this month, we will look at four of Miyazaki’s films. To kick off the “Month of Miyazaki”, this week we will look at the latest Miyazaki film to be released in North America: From Up on Poppy Hill.
This animated feature is set in the year 1963 in Yokohama, Japan. This is an era of transition in the life of the Japanese people. They are nearly two decades removed from World War II and are in preparations for the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. There is a clash between the past and the “old way” and the innovations and looking towards the future. In the midst of this, is the story of Umi Matsuzaki, a 16-year-old girl who is a student at Isogo High School (voiced in the English version by Sarah Bolger, best known for her work in the TV shows The Tudors as Princess/Lady Mary Tudor & Once Upon a Time as Princess Aurora/Sleeping Beauty). She lives and helps run a boarding house overlooking the Port of Yokohama. Among those who live in the house are her younger siblings Sora and Riku (not related to the characters from the video game series “Kingdom Hearts”), her grandmother Hana (voiced by Gillian Anderson, best known for her role as Scully in The X-Files). The two residents who rent out rooms are Sachiko Hirokouji (voiced by Aubrey Plaza, best known for her work on the TV show Parks and Recreation and such films as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Safety Not Guaranteed) and Miki Hokuto (voiced by Christina Hendricks, best known from the TV show Mad Men). While juggling running the boarding house, Umi tries to keep up with school work as well as raise and lower the flags outside the boarding house. Those flags are to signal ships. She does this every day in the hopes of contacting her dad who was lost at sea during the Korean War.
While at school, Umi meets and later befriends the editor of the school newspaper, Shun Kazama (voiced by Anton Yelchin, best known as Chekov in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek series of films). Shun, along with working on the paper, is also trying to help to save a building that the guys use as a clubhouse of sorts. The building, known as the “Quartier Latin” is been designated to be torn down and Shun and Umi rally the students to help save it. As the two work together, they develop feelings for one another and the story speaks to how that plays out. Want to know what happens? You’ll have to watch the film.
The film was released initially in Japan in July of 2011. It was featured (with English subtitles) at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival in September of that year. The English dubbing of the film was released earlier this year starting in mid-March. Along with the cast mentioned earlier, other English voice actors included Bruce Dern, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Noth, Emily Osment, Beau Bridges and Ron Howard. The film received a limited North American release so unless you were in a select city, you might not have had the chance to see this film in theaters this past spring. The film went on to gross a little over $61 million dollars and was the 6th highest grossing Studio Ghibli film (production company of Miyazaki films).
From Up on Poppy Hill is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray as it just released this week. It is not only a great animated feature, it is a great film period. Goro Miyazaki (Hayao Miyazaki’s son) directed and Hayao scripted a film that makes you laugh, think and grip you emotionally. Hayao Miyazaki greatly influenced John Lasseter and that is seen throughout Lasseter’s work at Pixar. If you’re a fan of Miyazaki films, you will love this one. If you love Pixar movies, you will love Miyazaki’s work as well. This is a great film to start with and would highly recommend adding it to your collection. Hopefully as we go through this month you’ll enjoy and pick up some of his other films as well. Given its limited North American theatrical release, it’s a film that you may not have seen, but you should.