A Ghibli film set in the real world isn’t quite the same
It opened the doors to a place where I never had been before – as opposed to my daughter, who had read manga comics for years. When I told her about how absolutely foreign all of this felt to me (in a good way, as in new, imaginative and exciting), she gave me a forbearing smile. It turned out that she was familiar with the all those strange creatures as well as with the narrative style, which doesn’t comply with the laws of traditional storytelling in the western hemisphere.
Since then I’ve watched a few more of Studio Ghibli’s movies: Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro and The Secret World of Arietty. What they all had in common was that they allowed me to enter worlds of magic and imagination, different from the world where I live. The fantasy element was always what I liked most about them, apart from them being generally beautiful and well made.
The new film from this studio, From Up on Poppy Hill doesn’t enter this magical realm, and it’s probably the reason why it doesn’t click with me the same way as the previous films. It’s still pretty, most definitely, but it feels a little more – how shall I put it? – ordinary than I’ve become used to.
The film takes place in 1964, when a group of teenagers try to save their school clubhouse from destruction. There’s also a cute little love story about a girl and a boy, both fatherless, who fall in love and face some complications that may stop them from becoming a couple. And well, that’s about it. Frankly there isn’t all that much going on in the film. I could hear the little kids in the audience rattling impatiently with their crisp bags and I wondered what they made of it. I imagined they weren’t overly involved with it. Considering the pace and lack of excitement, it’s not something I’d recommend you to bring your children to see.
One thing that irked me a little bit was how traditional it was in terms of gender roles. I guess the fact that it takes place in the 60s is a good excuse, but I’m still not particularly happy to see girls serving on their brothers, preparing their meals and mending their clothes, because that’s what girls do. And when the club house needs to be saved, it’s the boys who are vocal and deal with the politics, while the girls are giving them admiring looks. When the girls finally take part in the house saving project, their major function is to do the cleaning of the place.
I didn’t hate the film. I enjoyed the background images a lot, especially the ones from Tokyo, and the music is pleasant. True fans of the genre will probably find more pleasure in it than I did. But for me, a very casual visitor with a taste for fantasy, it was a bit of a letdown.
From Up on Poppy Hill (Kokuriko-zaka kara, Goro Miyazaki, JA 2011) My rating: 3/5