From Up on Poppy Hill, which is known as Kokuriko-zaka Kara in Japan, is an anime film that is based on a 1980 comic of the same name written by Tetsuro Sayama and illustrated by Chizuru Takahashi. The film was released to Japanese theaters on July 16, 2011. GKIDS produced an English dub of From Up on Poppy Hill, and released the film to theaters in North America on March 15, 2013. GKIDS released the film as a two-disc DVD and as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack on September 3, 2013.

From Up on Poppy Hill
Directed by: Gorō Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa
Starring: Masami Nagasawa, Junichi Okada, Keiko Takeshita, Yuriko Ishida, Jun Fubuki, Takashi Naito, Shunsuke Kazama, Nao Omori, and Teruyuki Kagawa
Run Time: 92 minutes

The film is set in 1963, and 16-year-old Umi Matsuzaki lives at a boarding house that overlooks the Port of Yokohama. Her mother is studying abroad in the United States as a medical professor and her father was killed when his supply ship was sunk by mines in the Korean War. Umi runs the house and looks after her siblings, Sora and Riku, as well as her grandmother. Also living in the boarding house are a college student named Sachiko Hirokouji and a doctor-in-training named Miki Hokuto.

Every morning, Umi raises a set of signal flags. One day, a poem about flags being raised by a local girl is published in the school newspaper, and her friends are sure that the poem is about Umi. The poem was written by Shun Kazama, a member of the school’s journalism club; he sees the flag from the sea as he rides on a tugboat to school. They meet in person when Shun does a daredevil stunt for the newspaper, and this leaves Umi with a negative impression of him at first. However, when she later escorts Sora to the dilapidated building that houses the school’s clubs for an autograph, she gets to know him a little better.

Shun is the publisher of the school newspaper, along with Shiro Mizunuma, the school’s student government president. Umi starts becoming involved with the newspaper and learns that the future of Quartier Latin, the dilapidated building, is in danger. Umi convinces the other students to renovate the building and the female student body agrees to work with the other students.

Shun and Umi, meanwhile, have a mutual attraction to each other. However, they learn some information that could put their budding relationship at risk. It also appears that the fate of Quartier Latin could also be in jeopardy, even though the remodeling project has been taking place.

When I watched this film, it was with the Japanese audio with English subtitles, so I can only truly comment on the Japanese version of the film. Personally, I enjoyed it. This was a very well done “coming of age” story, and as a viewer, I came to really care about both Umi and Shun. I also thought the two subplots worked well together, and that the humor that appeared during the renovation of the club building effectively complemented the more serious storyline involving Umi and Shun.

The animation in From Up on Poppy Hill looked incredible, and it looks just as good as many of Studio Ghibli’s other classic films. I especially liked the design of the Quartier Latin building.

The music in this film also sounds incredible, and almost sounds like it came out of the 1960’s. It definitely helped me to believe that I was watching events taking place in 1963. There’s one song with vocals that appears in a couple of scenes in the film, which is known as “I Shall Walk Looking Up” by Kyu Sakamoto; this was a hit in Japan in 1961. However, the reason this song was chosen for the film is due to the fact that this song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1963, under the title of “Sukiyaki,” so this song has some significance to the year being featured in the film. When I heard this song in the film, I recognized the music from knowing the English version of “Sukiyaki” done by 4 P.M. that was hit in the United States in 1994. So for me, it was awesome to get to hear some of the original Japanese version.

After watching this film, I think From Up on Poppy Hill will appeal to both teenagers and to adults.

When I watched this film, it was on the two-disc DVD release, so that is what this review will cover.

The first disc of this release includes the film and the storyboard version of the film. The remaining bonus features all appear on the second disc in the set.

The first bonus feature is, “Director Goro Miyazaki on Yokohama,” and it runs for about 17-and-a-half minutes. This is an interview piece, done in the style where the question is shown on the screen and it is answered by Goro. While GKIDS translated what Goro is saying, the actual questions he’s being asked were not translated, which makes it hard enough to figure out what it is that Goro is talking about. Unfortunately, as I watched the feature, I quickly came to realize that Goro has a tendency to ramble, so this made it even harder to figure out what the question was that Goro was answering. After watching this, I wish GKIDS had gone to the effort to translating the questions that appeared on the screen.

“Yokohama – Stories of Past and Present” runs for 22 minutes, and includes images of Yokohama then and now. There’s text on the screen that explains what’s being seen, and this text was translated. Unfortunately, all you get is the text and no kind of voice-over narration. While I like the idea behind this feature, I wish it had been a little more interesting to watch, especially since it runs for a little over 20 minutes.

“Summer of Farewells” music video is the music video for the ending theme song of the film. It’s interesting to note that the video uses quite a bit of the footage from the past that appears in the “Yokohama – Stories of Past and Present” feature, but that no actual footage from the film appears in it.

“English Voice Cast Featurette” shows the voice actors working in the studio, and the piece is narrated by Gary Rydstrom and Michael Miller. It runs for 21 minutes, and I thought this was overall a bit better than the “Behind the Microphone” featurettes that Disney produced for some of their Studio Ghibli releases.

There’s also Japanese trailers and teasers for the film, and this feature includes English subtitles. Between the theatrical and television spots, this feature runs for about seven minutes. Unfortunately, some of the television spots do feel a little redundant, especially near the end. The U.S. trailer is also included as a bonus feature, and it runs for two minutes and 25 seconds. The final extra is trailers for other films that GKIDS has released.

If you enjoy From Up on Poppy Hill and don’t already own a copy in your home video library, I would recommend purchasing a copy of this film.

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