The Studio Ghibli films changed my perspective on animation.When I was younger, I gorged my viewing life on mostly animated films. But when I became a teenager and started taking films “seriously,” I rejected animation as purely cash grabbing fodder for young kids that had no artistic value. I held this opinion for most of my high school years only watching what animated films my sister and brother made me watch while I was babysitting them. Enter my boyfriend. He held an affection for animation that I had never seen before. His most happy moments in his growing up was getting up early to watch Looney Tunes or staying up late to watch the anime marathons that used to happen with more frequency on Adult Swim in those days. He would watch anything that was animated, but he loved mostly foreign animated films. Especially Studio Ghibli. I think the first film that he showed me by this studio was Howl’s Moving Castle (or Spirited Away, my memory is a little hazy in this area). I was blown away by the technique they chose to tell such an engaging yet simple story. Each film I saw embodied such a complete world full of dynamic and visually interesting characters that I never wanted any of these films to stop. Watching these films combined with a marathon of Cowboy Bebop (one of the best anime series ever) gave me an understanding of animation as a unique art form present in traditional media making. I make it a point to see every new Studio Ghibli movie and if I can I like to see them in a theater in order to be completely immersed in the experience.
By now I assume that you know From Up on Poppy Hill is a Studio Ghibli film. The film is about two teenagers fighting to save a club house from being torn down. The protagonist, Umi, is a sad but strong girl who takes care of boarders in her free time away from school. She gets pulled into the fight to save the club house by a young boy who is a charismatic journalist and one of the inhabitants of the club house. The depiction of this club house is where you really see the beauty of a Studio Ghibli film. All the nooks and crannies are filled with character. Every non athletic club has its residence there. There is astronomy club, philosophy club, archeology club, and the school newspaper. Each club has its own room or shack. These rooms are filled to the brim with eager young men, papers, books, trinkets, and different apparatuses needed in order to fulfill each club’s duties. Shun, the boy, edits the school newspaper. One day he writes a cryptic poem about Umi’s need to raise sailing flags. Umi sees it becomes entranced by this boy, although it happens slowly. Of course a wrench is thrown into their budding romance and complications arise in trying to save the club house, but I would be remiss if I told you what happened.
This film was pleasant. It was not my favorite Studio Ghibli film but I would definitely watch it again. As always they made a complete world filled with unique characters, but the main conflict wasn’t as heart wrenching or intense as Ponyo or Howl’s Moving Castle. Some people on this side of the ocean has said that Miyazaki has finally produced a bad film, but I would not go that far. It just didn’t grab at me like his past movies did. He is still a master in my heart and I will still watch whatever he makes next and the film after that and the film after that and so on… My only hope is that Miyazaki lives forever and never retires.