From the legendary Studio Ghibli, creators of Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and The Secret World of Arrietty, comes another animated triumph. Yokohama, 1963. Japan is picking itself up from the devastation of World War II and preparing to host the Olympics. The mood is one of both optimism and conflict as the young generation struggles to throw off the shackles of a troubled past. Against this backdrop of hope and change, a friendship begins to blossom between high school students Umi (Sarah Bolger) and Shun (Anton Yelchin) – but a buried secret from their past emerges to cast a shadow on the future and pull them apart. From a screenplay by Academy Award-winner Hayao Miyazaki and featuring an all-star English voice cast!
Goro Miyazaki's From Up on Poppy Hill (Kokuriko-Zaka Kara) was the top-grossing animated film in Japan in 2011 (outdrawing two Pokémon movies), and won the Japanese Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The story unfolds in Yokohama during preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Each morning as she prepares for school, industrious Umi Matsuzaki (voiced by Sarah Bolger) flies signal flags from her family's boarding house in memory of her father, who was lost at sea during the Korean War. Shun Kazama (Anton Yelchin), the engaging editor of the high school newspaper, gets her involved in his campaign to preserve "the Latin Quarter," a beloved but dilapidated building that houses the school clubs. The effort to save the ramshackle structure sparks a believable romance between these likable teenagers. Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa adapted the story from a graphic novel by Chizuru Takahashi and Tetsuro Sayama. The filmmaking is more intimate and assured than Goro Miyazaki's Tales from Earthsea (2006). Many Japanese retain a nostalgia for the early '60s, when the Olympics proclaimed their country's reemergence from the destruction of World War II and the period of rebuilding that followed. Kyo Sakamoto's crossover pop hit "Ue o muite aruko," which Americans know as "Sukiyaki," sets the tone. The Ghibli artists outdid themselves creating the dust and junk decades of high school students left in the Latin Quarter: the audience can understand both the students' affection for their ratty headquarters and the administrators' desire to be rid of an eyesore. At a time when American animation is dominated by fast-paced, big-budget CG films, From Up on Poppy Hill reminds viewers of the singular warmth of hand-drawn animation. (Rated PG: some mature themes, minor tobacco use) --Charles Solomon