Studio Ghibli released its new film From Up on Poppy Hill (コクリコ坂から ) this July.
It’s been a while since From Up On Poppy Hill premiered in Japan, and the reviews are in. Those of us back in America still have not seen it, but we can listen to what people who have seen it in Japan have to say:
This review brings up a very interesting question. Why do we need anime? Couldn’t any sequence that was filmed in any of the Studio Ghibli movies have been just as easily executed using live actors? The reviewer seems to think that it’s the magical scenes, where there are mythical creatures or transformations between humans and other animals that require anime, and it’s disappointing when beautiful artwork is used to showcase what is merely a “human drama.”
I disagree. I don’t think we need anime to represent magic or supernatural beings or forces. Plenty of non-animated films have done this quite effectively. And I am not particularly drawn to the escapist aspects of films such as Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro. What I find moving in such stories is the part that — despite all the fantasy — rings true of human beings and other flesh and blood creatures in the real world: parents who care about children, children who care about parents, friends who protect their peers, and people of all ages and stations of life who care about the community they live in.
That’s why I can listen carefully to a review such as the one above and still think that I might like to see From Up on Poppy Hill. For me, the problem with most mainstream films is not that there isn’t enough magic. It’s that there aren’t enough honorable protagonists! I like romantic art, and I like the soft focus of the drawings, but it’s not the style that has me hooked. It’s the substance. I have often thought how the best films from Studio Ghibli would make excellent stage plays. And I also think that many novels of the best sort would make very moving Studio Ghibli films.
Here is another review of コクリコ坂から. This one is in Japanese. I have no idea what he’s saying, but he seems very enthusiastic!
If you have seen the film, please leave a comment and let me know how you liked it!