Goro Miyazaki (famed director Hayao Miyazaki's "following in his daddy's giant footsteps" son) totally blew the pooch with his directorial debut a few years ago with Tales From Earthsea. Earthsea was awful crappola. It was filled with boring and stupid characters, no injections of any drama at all, and a plot that made absolutely no sense when one took a step back and looked at it critically. Most people though seemed to think that because it was a Studio Ghibli movie that it deserved to be cut some slack… FUCK those people. Because Earthsea was a Ghibli film it needed to be held to a higher standard!... But whatever. It sucked, and I hated it. And I wasn't the only one: Daddy Miyazaki himself said it was unfinished, rushed, and even though he tiptoed around being blatant with the press when asked about it, he hinted that he thought it was the equivalent of a fish cake filled with warm dog diarrhea.
Then a few years passed and news came out that Goro was going to helm another movie (a feature to be named From Up on Poppy Hill), and I cursed a little to myself. "Why," I bellowed to the heavens, "Why would they take good money away from talented directors and hand over that giant wad of cash — and an actual staff with families to feed — to that hack Goro!?" Then I fumed for about a year. Then I finally got to see it. Then I was pleasantly surprised.
From Up on Poppy Hill is still lightweight Ghibli fluff (think Whispers of the Heart, Ponyo, and Only Yesterday), but it's actually more entertaining than most of the non-Hayao Miyazaki movies that the famed studio has put out over the years. There is no antagonist in Poppy Hill, there's only the smallest challenges set in front of the protagonists, and it's mostly just about us watching the main girl start living her own life after helping out in her family's boarding house her whole life. Lots of cleaning, cooking, laundering, and other early, early morning chores that no child (even one raised in the aftermath of WWII should have to endure. Actual chores suck!
Anyway, Poppy Hill goes a little something like this. It's 1963 and Umi Matsuzaki lives in her family's boarding house on top of a hill right on a giant harbor. She goes about her daily life without much gusto — she wakes up, gets things cleaned, gets boarders fed, then goes to school, comes home, and does more work for her mother (who is out of the country on business because this is an anime), usually starting with dinner and more cleaning. Every morning she also raises some flags up on a flag pole facing the bay that're supposed to welcome her father home… However, her daddy ain't ever coming home (he died in a terrible Gojira attack a few years before this whole story started). Instead, her flags raise the curiosity of a boy her age who is ferried across the harbor to every morning by his seafaring dad, to the point where the boy posts a ghey little poem about the flags in the school paper about the flag-raising girl. The poem pretty much just asks what the whole flag thing is about, instead of, you know, the boy simply growing a backbone and going up to the house and just asking. But I chalk that up to just teenagers.
So Umi continues to go to school, but gets caught up in a demonstration headed up by the poem boy, Shun Kazama. Shun and his friends are all like "No school administrator is gonna tell us that they're gonna tear down the almost condemned house that all the clubs are based out of! I don't care how much of a firetrap it is, or if that frosh died by falling through a rotted hand-railing last year! They'll kick out out over our dead bodies!" And Umi thinks Shun's a creep… But her younger sister wants his bone buried in her front yard (maybe even the back yard, which is really just a mudhole, but you get the idea). And so Umi takes her sister to the abou- to-collapse school clubhouse to get Shun"s autograph on a picture taken of him during the now infamous demo.
I bet you can tell what happens next... Which is not much really, but there is a fairly interesting twist thrown into the whole budding relationship that will make you say "Oh, Japan… You just had to go there, didn't you."
The rest of the movie is really fun though as the kids do their best to change the school administrators' minds over the destruction of their beloved club building, and as we watch Umi and Shun get closer together as they unite the student body to their cause, get them all to clean and fix the death trap up, and try and convince some school board members to keep "The Latin Quarter" (the name of the student building) from being leveled for safety concerns.
No more said about this by me though. I enjoyed Poppy Hill. It was lighter and fluffier than whipped marshmallow, but it was light years better than the rank garbage known as Earthsea. It seems that Poppy Hill was either really ghost directed by someone else, or Goro learned a valuable lesson from all his many giant, terrible, and awful mistakes from his premier film. I don"t know, but I don"t care. I can actually recommend this movie to all Ghibli lovers.
Oooooooooh myyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy gaaaawwwwwwwwwwd... This movie was so incredibly boring. Nothing ever happened in it. It just featured a bunch of stupid kids doing stupid things in order to save a building that should have been torn down 2 decades before. And we're supposed to care about their plight.
You know the one thing that gets me about this movie? The ending. Yeah, I'm about to spoil some of the so-called plot here, but whatever. Okay, so the kids clean up the house where all their clubs meet, and they fix a chandelier or two. So what? They just showed us 30 minutes earlier that if somebody bumps into a 3rd story banister that it will break like a dried-out twig and come crashing to the lobby 30-feet below... What about the rotting foundation of this place? What about the disgusting floors and walls? This whole place is just waiting to crumble in on itself! There's a reason the school wants to level this death trap to the ground: student safety! But no, the stupid teenagers are so much wiser than adults with college degrees and people with 30 years experience in building safety and engineering. Ugh.
There is no way that one of these highly educated and successful school board members would come to the school and say "Wow! You made this old club building look spiffy! I remember 40 years ago when I went to school here and this piece of shit building already looked like a rotting husk of a ghost of a safe place to allow students to enter! But the way you got rid of all the dust and put some paint on the termite-eaten walls, it's just beautiful! I'll allow it to stand and for you to use it as your club house for years to come! I'm a responsible adult!" No way in hell.
I wish those kids got to keep their precious tinder box of a club building, and then it all just burned down one day while they were all in it. The headline of the paper the next day would just read "IRONY."
Those kids deserve a horrific end like that. ALL teenagers deserve an end like that.