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Hayao Miyazaki – Tribute to the Master of Studio Ghibli

This past September Hayao Miyazaki retired, and children old and young wept a single tear for the end of a highly decorated career. When he began so many years I wonder did he imagine the impact he  would have on so many lives, how many artists and storytellers he would inspire. This is his legacy and it is the legacy every  artist strives towards, with Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki and his family have shown us countless wonders, so  I thought as a fitting tribute I would give reviews of every film that this  wonderful studio has given us. Today I  will start with From Up On Poppy Hill, though an avid fan of Studio Ghibli I have never gotten the opportunity to see one of the films in the cinema, so when a Japanese film festival came to Dublin I jumped at the chance and saw it. I hope you enjoy this collection of reviews on Studio Ghibli, it is a love letter to one of the great storytellers of our time.

From Up on Poppy Hill.

A couple months ago I went to a Japanese film festival and saw some fantastic films. A  Japanese film festival in Ireland. I was blown away by the pedigree of talent on show. There were films based on video games, and unlike western films like Doom or….Resident Evil, they were given the proper respect to the source material. From what I have seen of Ace Attorney there is respect, humour and over the top action, much like the ‘DS’ game it is based upon. However I am not here to discuss Ace Attorney, though I do highly recommend it, I am here to talk about From Up On Poppy Hill, another entry into the fantastic collection of Studio Ghibli.When I booked my tickets to see From Up On Poppy Hill I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The experience at the Lighthouse Cinema, which until then I had never been to, was superb, the audience itself was filled with people discussing Bioshock and Pokemon. I was with my people and it was just fantastic.

Stunning artwork
Stunning artwork

As we all settled into our multi-coloured seats, I know, we were treated to a wonderful back-story by the manager of the Lighthouse Cinema. He explained that From Up on Poppy Hill was a film about nostalgia, about simpler times and a loss of innocence. This was due in part to the 64′ Olympic games in Japan, but it was also due to the modernization of Japan and all its cities for the Olympic games. 1964 was the year where everything changed in Japan, the bullet train construction, the eyes of the world were upon Japan and they had to impress. It was out with the old and and in with the new, and what this film shows is that is not always for the best. It is here that we are introduced to Umi, a high school student who, with her family are living through this era of change and handling as well as possible. Through Umi’s eyes we see how this generation are far more respectful of the artifacts of yesteryear, and this is where a most unconventional battle is waged, by the students of the Quartier Latin.

Sarah Bolger, Irish born and raised, is a fantastic actress, she brings such a warmth and tenderness to Umi. Her journey through the film is superb, her heartache, her love, oozes from the screen. Anton Yelchin of Star Trek fame is on top form as our other lead, Shun. Charismatic, earnest and downright cool, he is the rebel with a cause that earns the ladies affections and the lads respect with his first “jaunt” on screen. Then there is the scenery, the picturesque view and setting that slowly gives way to “modernization” and you can see it in every scene where there is a cars engine discharging. It is a wonderful process that shows the passage of time and then there is the Quartier Latin, a structure that houses not only an eclectic group of misfits but also houses memories and that is what everyone is trying to preserve in this film, memories

Well I hate to do this, especially to a Studio Ghibli film, but there is a few problems. The main one that stuck out to me was the soap opera style drama that plays out as the film progresses to it’s end. The melodrama of the whole conflict did feel a bit forced and when it all plays out I hope that you’ll also understand the problem. As an extension of this problem there is the level of communication that these characters possess, if they simply had sat down and talked their problems out a lot of the conflict in this film could have been averted. As one of the few Ghibli films that has grounded itself in the real world it was given an unenviable task, and it has excelled with flying colours. The simple fact, when a film can make cleaning a manor a highlight of an already impressive film you know you’re on to something, special.

There it is ladies and gentlemen the first review of one of the latest films from Studio Ghibli. I hope you enjoyed it and stay tuned for many  more. Let us know in the comments below, which is your favourite Studio Ghibli and why?

The Author

Graham Day

Graham Day

I am a geek first and foremost. I love animation, film and comics. I live in Dublin, Ireland and love it. I have met so many amazing people over the years, Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Mark Millar and Scott Snyder to name but a few. I love to sketch, write and talk about geek news. I went to college for five years, three years animation and two years communication and media. All opinions are my own so I hope they're witty and original, I'm fairly certain they're not.

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