From Up on Poppy Hill
) (Kokuriko-zaka Kara
) is not the greatest movie that Studio Ghibli ever made. Still, even a second-rank Studio Ghibli film probably beats a first-rank film from any other animation studio. If you are an anime
fan or just interested in Japanese culture you probably will want to see this, but it may leave the average American viewer cold. In any case it seems to be getting a fairly limited theatrical release, so if you want to see it in a theater you probably need to move fast.
The screenplay was co-written by Hayao Miyazaki and the movie was directed by his son Gorou. The story is set in 1963 and perhaps deliberately the animation has an old-fashioned look, more like Totoro than Arrietty. (Of course that means it looks like late-1980s anime, not like early-1960s anime which would be very crude by comparison.)
The story, based on a 1980 shoujo manga, is a low-key high school romance and coming-of-age story. Umi Matsuzaki helps run her grandmother’s boarding house located on top of “Poppy Hill.” Every morning she goes to the flagpole in the garden and runs up naval signal flags spelling out a message to her father, the captain of a supply ship that went down during the Korean War.
At her school some of the boys are trying to save a decrepit building called “The Latin Quarter” which serves as their clubhouse. A boy named Shun Kazama catches her eye with a dangerous stunt and she is gradually drawn into the campaign. It seems hopeless since Japan in 1963 is focused on modernization rather than preserving the past. She has the insight that the only chance to convince the adults to preserve the building is to make it more presentable.
Heard on the radio last Friday:
Radio Host: “The Secret World of Arriety is opening this weekend. I wish I still had a small child. I’d really like to see it.”
Co-Host: “Yeah. I know a guy who likes to borrow his nephew so that he can go to movies like that.”
This exchange goes a long way to explain what is wrong with animation in America today. Is it surprising that all the good animation seems to come from countries where adults are allowed to watch animated movies without being accompanied by a small child, or indeed where studios are allowed to make animated movies that aren’t aimed at children?
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that you break the rules and see The Secret World of Arriety anyway. It may well be the best choice in the theaters at the moment, animated or live-action, at least if you’ve already seen The Artist.
(In spite of the talk about “small children” I would recommend this only for audiences who are school-age and up. Some of the material is likely to be disturbing to preschoolers.)
Ars Technica links to some demo footage of Ni no Kuni: The Another World, a video game being developed by Level 5 and Studio Ghibli.
There’s only so much you can tell from a 2-minute promo clip. The gameplay itself doesn’t look like a breakthrough–sort of Pokemonish in fact. The graphics on the other hand do indeed look amazing. It’s obviously computer-generated, but it looks surprisingly like a Studio Ghibli hand-drawn anime.
On closer examination, the quality isn’t really at a Studio Ghibli level. Maybe more like a second-tier studio’s imitation of Studio Ghibli. Nevertheless it looks vastly better than what we have come to expect from computer generated animation.
Could this approach become good enough to revolutionize CG animation? Possibly. Could it become good enough to kill off hand-drawn animation? Regrettably that’s also possible. We shall see.
I wrote a capsule movie review of Ponyo back when it was released in American movie theaters. Now that I have had a chance to examine the DVD version I am going to write an updated review.
A movie review necessarily gives my first impression after viewing it once. Having a DVD allows me to examine the work in detail, which often changes my impression of it–sometime for the better and sometimes for the worse.
is everything Miyazaki makes is now an instant classc? How about Howl’s Moving Castle?
And BTW, 20 miles is a big deal now? What a whiner. Just move somewhere where they built freeways or something. And be happy it was shown 20 miles away. Tokikake was only shown in LA and NY, 2000 miles away for me.
I’ve never seen Howl’s Moving Castle, so I can’t say whether it’s a classic. All I know is that everyone seems to hate it, which doesn’t encourage me to watch it.
As for Ponyo, I think it does qualify as a classic in the category of children’s movies. Or if it’s too early to say that, I predict that it will come to be considered a classic. The obvious comparison is to Totoro, which most people consider a classic. The two are similar in many ways, including the fact that the endings are too low-key for some adults, but are appropriate to the story and the intended audience.
As for the 20 miles, there are about 10 theaters in that driving radius and only one was showing Ponyo, which I think is a good indication of Disney’s level of commitment to the film. They could have done a lot worse, but they also could have done better.
The sad thing is, I think this is an anime that mainstream Americans could really appreciate, since it’s a really good movie for children. Most Americans can’t accept an animated movie like Princess Mononoke, but they probably would have no problem with this one.
Finally after all these years I got to see a Hayao Miyazaki movie in a theater on a big screen. This mini-review is based on the dubbed version currently in the theaters. When I get hold of the DVD I will probably write a more detailed review with pictures.
Ponyo is a gentle children’s story comparable to My Neighbor Totoro. If you are in the mood for something like that, this is pretty good. The story is supposedly inspired by “The Little Mermaid”, but it has little resemblance to either the Disney version or the grim original story by Hans Christian Anderson.
Hayao Miyazaki’s second most successful movie (after Spirited Away) is a dark, exciting adventure story that resonates with the power of myth.
Technically this wasn’t made by Studio Ghibli but most people think of it as a Studio Ghibli film, since this was the movie that got the studio started.
Hayao Miyazaki had worked on the 1978 anime TV show Future Boy Conan (director, character designs and storyboards.) This was a lightweight series with a rather simple-minded plot, set in a post-apocalyptic world.
In the early 1980s Miyazaki tried to get funding for an animated feature film that would also have a post-apocalyptic setting but with a more sophisticated story. Unfortunately, no one seemed interested in financing an animated film that was not based on a successful manga or light novel series.
Toshio Suzuki, the editor of Animage magazine, encouraged him to develop the story as a manga, which was serialized in Animage. The manga was a big hit, and suddenly financing for an animated movie became available. The success of the film exceeded all expectations, paving the way for Suzuki, Miyazaki and fellow director Isao Takahata to start Studio Ghibli.
This is one of Miyazaki’s earliest films. I wouldn’t say that it’s his greatest work, but it’s still well worth seeing. Many of the standard trademark elements of a Miyazaki film are visible, including ecological and anti-war themes, dramatic flying sequences, fantastic flying machines and a dynamic young heroine.
This is probably the most acclaimed anime ever made. It won the 2002 Oscar for Best Animated Feature, the only foreign-language film ever to do so. It is one of the great classics of animation, and if you haven’t seen it you probably should.
This movie shows Hayao Miyazaki at the top of his form. It is a splendid example of the art of storytelling, with a main character who is both believable and captivating. The artwork is absolutely stunning. My screen captures don’t really do it justice; you just have to see it for yourself.