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110 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of Miyazaki-style animation with an engaging story that transcends culture and time
(Note: this is a review of the movie, not of the DVD. Based on other reviews, I would advise potential buyers to be cautious about the quality of the specific DVD being sold.)

From Up on Poppy Hill (Kokuriko-zaka Kara) is nothing less than the best Studio Ghibli film since 2004's Howl's Moving Castle, possibly even since 2001's Spirited Away. Directed by Goro...
Published 10 months ago by Whitt Patrick Pond

versus
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Slice of Life Within a Small Window
Although this film comes from Studio Ghibli, do not expect the usual fantasy or magical realism of Hayao Miyazaki. Poppy Hill is a drama that just so happens to be animated, a relatively common thing in Japan, which takes its anime very seriously.

The film is mostly about Umi - her role in saving the clubhouse, her heartbreak over the death of her father, and...
Published 14 months ago by Kermit


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110 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of Miyazaki-style animation with an engaging story that transcends culture and time, May 28, 2013
By 
This review is from: From Up on Poppy Hill (DVD)
(Note: this is a review of the movie, not of the DVD. Based on other reviews, I would advise potential buyers to be cautious about the quality of the specific DVD being sold.)

From Up on Poppy Hill (Kokuriko-zaka Kara) is nothing less than the best Studio Ghibli film since 2004's Howl's Moving Castle, possibly even since 2001's Spirited Away. Directed by Goro Miyazaki from a screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, From Up on Poppy Hill is based on a 1980 serialized Japanese graphic novel of the same name, illustrated by Chizuru Takahashi and written by Tetsuro Sayama. The animation is lush and lovingly detailed, and the story an engaging tale of two high school students dealing with first love and with the importance of the past, both on a cultural and institutional level, and, as it turns out, on an intimately personal level as well.

The story is set in 1963 in the port town of Yokahama in Japan in 1963 against the backdrop of the country getting ready to host the 1964 Olympic Games. Umi Matsuzaki is a sixteen-year-old high school girl living with her family and a couple of boarders in a house on top of a hill that overlooks the harbor. Her mother Ryoko, a medical professor, is currently away, studying abroad in the United States. In her mother's absence, Umi runs the house and looks after her younger siblings, Sora and Riku, and her grandmother, Hana. The boarders, both women, are an artistic college student named Sachiko Hirokouji and a doctor-in-training named Miki Hokuto. Umi's father, we learn, died many years ago when Umi was quite young, killed when his cargo ship hit a mine during the Korean War. As a kind of ritual to his memory, each morning Umi raises a set of naval signal flags up a flagpole outside the house with the message "Safe Voyage" to the ships out in the harbor.

One day, an anonymous poem about the flags appears in the school newspaper. Curious, Umi decides to visit the school newspaper to ask who wrote the poem. The school paper is published out of an office located in a delapidated old building on the school grounds nick-named "the Latin Quarter" which houses all of the school clubs and has done so for as long as anyone can remember. But the Latin Quarter is now endangered by a plan to tear it down and replace it with a brand new building as part of Japan's modernization program to put on its best face for the upcoming Olympics, a move that has the students divided between those who want everything to be new and those who have an emotional attachment to the old and traditional, which they see embodied by their beloved Latin Quarter.

On the way to visit the paper's office, Umi, accompanied by Sora, witness another student, Shun Kazama, performing a daredevil stunt to get publicity for the paper's "Save the Latin Quarter" drive. Umi is somewhat less than impressed by Shun's feat, but when she reaches the school paper office, she discovers that Shun, along with his friend Shiro Mizunuma who is the student government president, is the publisher of the school paper (and also, as she learns later, the author of the poem about her flags). Before she knows it, Umi is volunteering to help, first with the paper, preparing stencils, and then soon with their drive to save the Latin Quarter. She suggests that the best way to start would be to give the building a complete facelift, first with a thorough cleaning and then with much needed repairs and a fresh paint job. In this cause, Umi enlists the school's female student population, which in turn gets the male students guickly - and enthusiastically - on board.

As they work together, Umi and Shun start feeling a growing attraction to each other. But the path of young love is rarely smooth, and theirs is thrown for a bigger curve than most when Umi shows Shun a photograph of three young naval men, one of whom is her deceased father. But Shun has seen this photograph before, and suddenly a past neither of them were previously aware of begins to assert itself, complicating their budding relationship before it's properly begun. From that point on, the twin plot threads - of Umi and Shun and their pasts and of the students' crusade to save the Latin Quarter - are subtly intertwined. To say more would be to spoil the story.

The animation in From Up on Poppy Hill is wonderfully detailed and executed in so many ways it would take a long time to properly describe them. The Latin Quarter clubhouse is a marvel of clutter, completely believable as the sort of old place whose every corner would be filled with incredibly varied bric-a-brac due to the myriad kind of clubs it houses (and going for years without a proper cleaning because that's not typically a high priority with most boys).

Another thing I particularly liked were the subtle changes in the backgrounds as evening approached in some scenes; you could feel the sun slowly beginning to set with the ever-so-slight lengthening of shadows and changes in the hue of the sky. Equal detail was given to the way the characters moved and the things they did. In one scene, when Umi is preparing dinner, she pours the rice into a square box, then carefully runs a flat edge over the top to level it so that the amount measured out is exact. It's a minor detail not dwelled upon, but one of many similar ones that give the film a depth of reality rarely found in most animated films.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves beautiful animation, engaging characters and truly first-class story-telling that never condescends to its audience.
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65 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful film, May 22, 2013
This review is from: From Up on Poppy Hill (Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
This movie is very well done. Although it is not a Hayao Miyazaki movie, it is made by his son. You can feel how it is similar to Miyazaki's films. It just doesn't have the fantasy elements that most Miyazaki films have. Instead its more of a slice of life, laid back movie like Whisper of the Heart. Which I really enjoyed. So even though its not like watching something like Spirited away or Howl's moving castle, it is sweet and very well done. if you are a fan of Studio Ghibli's work, this is a great movie to watch. I highly suggest you check it out! It will surprise you in a good way!
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Drawn, Sweetly Nostalgic, Abundant Extras: An Appealing New Entry From Studio Ghibli, August 15, 2013
This review is from: From Up on Poppy Hill (Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
The arrival of any animated feature from the esteemed Studio Ghibli is of note to movie lovers everywhere! With a screenplay by the venerable Hayao Miyazaki, "From Up On Poppy Hill" is no exception. As you would expect, the movie is beautifully drawn and its sweeping images look terrific in this Blu-ray presentation. Originally released in 2011, I've been awaiting an official North American debut and the GKIDS label has done a fine job with this introduction. One of my biggest complaints in recent years is when companies dub a foreign masterpiece with an American cast and present that English language version as the definitive DVD/Blu-ray release. While I understand that may broaden the appeal of the movie to a wider audience, it saddens me not to have access to the original vision in subtitles. Thankfully, GKIDS has taken this into consideration. So here, we get the dubbed version with an impressive array of vocal talent including Gillian Anderson, Sarah Bolger, Beau Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Christina Hendricks, Ron Howard, Chris Noth, Aubrey Plaza, and Anton Yelchin. But for purists, the original Japanese edition is presented intact as well. I never understand why that isn't just a standard!

As not much in the way of actual DVD/Blu-ray information is presented, let me just cover some of the impressive extras on the release. There are over three hours worth of material which include:

1) The Aforementioned Japanese Release
2) Feature Length Storyboards
3) Celebrity Cast Recording Featurette
4) Interview with director Goro Miyazaki
5) Music Video
6) Yokohama Featurette
7) Original Japanese Trailers and TV Spots

If you get the Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack, you also get a 16 page booklet (only with this specific combo) that has both illustrations and text with excerpts from the original treatment that got the movie greenlit and a letter from the director. It's a nice addition, of particular interest to Studio Ghibli enthusiasts.

As for the movie itself, it is a sweetly nostalgic piece set shortly before the arrival of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. While the country invites newness and a fresh public image, a group of concerned students battle to maintain a link to the heritage that built modern Japan. The primary revolution surrounds the proposed destruction of a student hall (Latin Quarter) that has become an educational landmark. Idealism, passion, and hope are written across every frame of the film as the kids yearn for a promising tomorrow. The lead is Umi, a young girl who lost her father in the Korean War. While her mother is in America, she is charged with running a boarding house for her grandmother's tenants, looking after her siblings, and being a full time student. She has a lot on her plate! I felt sorry for her, especially when she meets a cute boy (Shun) and is then enlisted to do additional tasks (transcribing, cleaning) for the student revolt as well. She maintains a sweet optimism even in the face this grueling workload!

The movie has a lot to do with the burgeoning friendship of Shun (Yelchin) and Umi (Bulger). As they grow closer, it seems that they might have more in common than they first think. And certain past ties will either tear them apart or bring them closer together. Staged as a mini-mystery, the two must come to terms with a family history that includes both loss and sacrifice. I'm not sure that I was completely enthralled with this principle story thread, and its conclusion felt exceedingly rushed. Overall, though, "From Up On Poppy Hill" is a gentle and lovely experience that was well worth the investment. For me, it might not be a Ghibli classic that I'll revisit with frequency, but it's a solid tale that should appeal to fans of traditional Japanese animation. But the movie is certainly enhanced by the great Bonus additions! KGHarris, 8/13.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfect Studio Ghibli Film, December 1, 2012
By 
Greg Polansky (Boston, Massachusetts) - See all my reviews
Set in the early 1960s in Yokohama, From Up on Poppy Hill details the story of 16yo Umi Matsuzaki. Umi's father is dead. Her mother, a doctor, is away in the United States. Living at home, Umi remains the dutiful young Japanese female teenager. She wakes early to set the rice cooking. She prepares lunches. She takes care of her grandmother (loved seeing her still in her traditional kimonos) and her younger sisters while her mother is away. She raises the signal flags outside her home, because that's what her father and she used to do together before he was killed in the Korean War. She goes to school and is a good student. One day at school she finds herself the subject of a poem. A poem that is romantic! Who could have written it? As if that were not enough trouble, Shun Kazama, the local heartthrob, jumps down from high up on a building. Right in front of her!! This causes the entire school to focus on her.

Suddenly Umi finds herself taken to Quartier Latin, a local club housed in an old worn-down building, by her younger Sora who wants an autograph from Umi. It is there that she encounters Shun again. This charming building is the subject of much fierce debate about its usefulness and its future. The governing body of the school wish it to be torn down and so do the majority of the students of the school. Umi finds herself caught between the battling philosophies waging war against Japan. As Japan throws itself headlong into the future while readying itself for the 1964 Olympics that will be held in Tokyo, people are everywhere tearing down old buildings, forgetting the past, and distancing themselves from the culture of their parents. Others resist this movement and try to preserve as much of the past as they can. Here is a Studio Ghibli film that you will find in many other films - the idea of balance. While elsewhere that balance is between the human world and the environment, here Studio Ghibli explores the idea of balance between the past and present and future. The character of Umi suggests that the building could be spruced up and maybe that would sway popular opinion. And so Umi, Shun, and the students of the school find themselves racing to battle "progress".

The secondary story line concerns the relationship between Umi and Shun. To describe it in detail would be to ruin certain surprises that add a certain degree of drama to the movie. This relationship is a poignant, quiet one and as beautifully done in any Studio Ghibli film.

I have now watched every single Studio Ghibli film (and if you click on my name you can see my reviews of those films). From Up on Poppy Hill is in the spirit of Whisper of the Heart, Only Yesterday, and Ocean Waves. Most Americans are familiar with the more fantastical Studio Ghibli films - think Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, but I tend to find that films like From Up on Poppy Hill touch both my heart and mind more than the fantastical films. That's just my opinion and my favorite Studio Ghibli film still remains the fantastical My Neighbor Totoro. From Up on Poppy Hill is a worthy addition to the Studio Ghibli cannon and shows greater maturity from Gorō Miyazaki (the directory of the terrible Tales From Earthsea). Now I am looking forward to Takahata's The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, which will be released sometime in 2013.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Slice of Life Within a Small Window, February 7, 2013
Although this film comes from Studio Ghibli, do not expect the usual fantasy or magical realism of Hayao Miyazaki. Poppy Hill is a drama that just so happens to be animated, a relatively common thing in Japan, which takes its anime very seriously.

The film is mostly about Umi - her role in saving the clubhouse, her heartbreak over the death of her father, and the reconciliation of that pain through Shun entering her life. Poppy Hill is very much a "slice of life" film, one that shines in the small spaces, the usual meticulous attention to detail we come to expect from Ghibli, but is rather bland in the way of plot. There are touching moments, too, but nothing in the way of dramatic twists or emotional impact.

I suspect that this film has far more relevance to people in Japan, as there are references to the Korean War, which had a much different impact there than in the West, and to the 1964 Olympics, which was hosted in Tokyo to much national pride. For those not steeped in Japanese culture and history - as I am not - there is not much *to* Poppy Hill, except to enjoy the gorgeous animation and to peer through a small window into a very specific time in Japanese history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Film, January 9, 2014
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This review is from: From Up on Poppy Hill (Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
Like most of the films from Studio Ghibli (Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Services, etc.) the backgrounds are beautiful and filled with detail. This is a romantic story set in 1963 Yokohama. Like Totoro, it is a look at a Japan of an earlier era. The storyline is a little like Studio Ghibli's Whisper of the Heart, but in an earlier time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A poignant and engaging coming of age story by Studio Ghibli, March 22, 2014
This review is from: From Up on Poppy Hill (Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
Although "From Up on Poppy Hill" was not directed by renowned Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (it was his son, Goro Miyazaki), he was responsible for the storyboards and screenplay, and as my nine-year-old daughter and I (both great Miyazaki fans) watched this yesterday, we could not help comparing this to "Whisper of the Heart" with its theme of teen angst and searching for one's identity. There's so much to appreciate here in terms of animation and storytelling.

The story is set in Yokohama in 1963. Japan, after the devastation of WW II is preparing to host the Olympics. High schooler Umi lives with her grandmother who runs a boarding house. Umi's mom is in the US pursuing her studies, and Umi is depicted as a hardworking and dutiful daughter and granddaughter, going about her chores and attending to her studies. Umi misses her father, a naval officer whose supply ship sank during WW II. Every day, she puts up the flags to see if there will be some kind of response (the flags send messages). Unbeknown to Umi, another high schooler Shun, has noticed the flags and has even written a poem about it. This sets the stage for a meeting between the two and a friendship blossoms which turns into love. However, there is a family secret that might tear the two apart. The rest of the story deals with how Shun and Umi learn to come to terms with their circumstances.

Having watched "Whisper of the Heart", I feel there are quite a few similarities here. Shun has a gift for writing, and in "Whisper of the Heart", the female character loves to compose song lyrics and also write. Through their writing, both characters are shown to evolve and get a sense of self-identity. In both stories, the young couples face challenges that they must overcome in order to strengthen their ties with each other. I think these stories with their themes of teen angst, alienation, and self-actualization, will appeal to mature tweens and young adults alike.

The DVD set by Studio Ghibli comes with 2 DVDs: the first features the animated feature and the second contains bonus features that include the original Japanese version, feature length storyboards, celebrity cast recording featurette, interview with director Goro Miyazaki, music video, Yokohama featurette, and the original Japanese trailers and TV spots.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Down to Earth, January 7, 2014
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This review is from: From Up on Poppy Hill (DVD)
If you're looking for the more whimsical stories that Miyazaki is well-known for, look someplace else. If you like the more down to earth stories like Whisper of the Heart, then by all means, this is the story for you. Plot-lines...have been discussed by other reviewers, so I won't bore you with the details...it spoils the fun of seeing the film anyways. Overall a decent story that takes place in a more realistic atmosphere and that is sure to charm viewers time and time again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very sweet, down to earth film about young love, January 7, 2014
This review is from: From Up on Poppy Hill (Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
The animation in this film is superb and fun to watch. The story is very down to earth. Nothing fantastical. It's a simple love story, but it is very sweet and set during a time when there were conflicting views in Japan about how to move forward and become a modern nation in a Post-WWII world and yet still honor and remember the past. I very much enjoyed the depiction of culture and society in Japan and how innocent and respectful and thoughtful the youth were.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Blu-ray Release for From Up on Poppy Hill, December 6, 2013
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This review is from: From Up on Poppy Hill (Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack) (Blu-ray)
This is a review for the product itself. I was a little upset to see that this title was not released by Disney, but my feelings changed immediately upon receiving the product. The case and slipcase both look fine, and the "booklet" inside of the case is much better than I would have expected. I haven't tried playing the DVD yet, but the Blu-ray Disc looks fantastic. The image does jump around ever so slightly, but it's hard to notice as the movie goes on and you continue to be absorbed into the world it portrays.
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From Up on Poppy Hill (Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack)
From Up on Poppy Hill (Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack) by Goro Miyazaki (Blu-ray - 2013)
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