Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Anime Review: From Up on Poppy Hill

In a weird coincidence, shortly after my 100th blog post salute to my creative inspiration Hayao Miyazaki-sama, a press conference in Tokyo was held for him to announce his retirement. He reportedly said his eye sight was getting worse, making it hard for him to create his animation. It is indeed sad news and goes to show how me must treasure the good health we have now and not put off for another day what we can create today. It seemed fitting that I revisit a fairly recent Studio Ghibli animation and post up a review, seen partly through the viewpoint of a miniature painter.

"From Up on Poppy Hill", a Studio Ghibli animation

At its core, 'From Up on Poppy Hill' is a romantic drama set in 1963 Yokohama, Japan. Told mainly through the eyes of a 16-year-old school girl named Umi Matsuzaki, the film explores the budding teenage romance with her schoolmate Shun Kazama as well as a period of social change in Japan. Though written by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by his son Goro, the story is actually based on a manga by Chizuru Takahashi and Tetsuro Sayama.

Shun meets Umi for the first time
A New York Times review states that the movie's "emotional impact comes from the way everyday life is washed in the colors of memory". I couldn't have said it better myself. Colours in 'From Up on Poppy Hill' are used in a very simple manner but to great effect. In this movie, I found myself observing the background art work just as keenly as I did the main character animations.  

Night scene in Yokohama circa 1963, lighted with a warm orange/yellow glow

In an interview, Goro mentioned one lesson he had learned from his father was not to draw from photographs as one would only produce mimicry. Instead, Goro seeks to apply his father's teachings by drawing from the mind (or memories). Perhaps as miniature painters we can gain something from this wisdom. Sometimes, trying to paint using a how-to-guide doesn't quite work as well as it should. 

Loving attention to detail is the hallmark of a Studio Ghibli production - Umi seen here in the school clubhouse

As there are surprising twists to the plot, I do not wish to delve too much into the story for fear of spoilers for those of you who have yet to experience this movie. Suffice to say, "From Up on Poppy Hill" manages to mingle both sadness and optimism in just the right amounts so as keep this take on teenage love very fresh and enjoyable. For lack of a better description, the movie made me feel cosy ... sort of like drinking a hot cup of chocolate milk in a cold and rainy day ... while at the same time dragging me on an emotional roller coaster. This is one movie I highly recommend.

A romantic drama is never complete without the umbrella/rain scene

All told, this is a lovely nostalgic piece of story telling that documents the awkwardness of first love in a simple but heart-warming manner. Speaking of which, I would like to dedicate this mini review to my own high school sweetheart (and missus) for over 20 years.

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