Anime / From Up on Poppy Hill

It seems the whole country is eager to get rid of the old and make way for the new. But some of us aren't so ready to let go of the past.
Umi

From Up on Poppy Hill (Kokuriko-zaka kara/コクリコ坂から) is a 2011 Studio Ghibli film by director Goro Miyazaki. It is Goro Miyazaki's second film for Studio Ghibli. In contrast to his first work, Tales from Earthsea, his new effort was rather well received. It's based on the 1980s manga series Kokuriko-zaka kara by Tetsuo Sayama and Chizuru Takahashi.

The heroine, Umi Matsuzaki, is a high school girl in Yokohama of 1963. From her home on Poppy Hill overlooking the bay, she raises flag signals every morning meaning "I pray for safe voyages". One day, she receives an answer, as it turns out, from Shun Kazama, one class above her.

In preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and following in step with an economic boom, Japan is quickly modernizing amidst growing student movements and social unrest, often razing the old to make way for the modern. At Umi's school, the old building of the Culture Club, nicknamed "Quartier Latin" by the students, is scheduled to be torn down. Can the students, including Umi and Shun, really do anything against this decision?

Disney didn't want to release it because of certain themes the movie touches upon, including incest, and they have a strict "no cuts" agreement with Ghibli which meant they couldn't edit any part of the movie, which left the job to GKIDS. Eventually, a dubbed version was released into American theaters March 2013, with a DVD and Blu-Ray release following that fall.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adorkable: Sachiko, glasses and all.
  • Beta Couple: Downplayed. Umi's little sister Sora may have first intended to get ahold of Shun's autograph, but very quickly takes an interest in Shirou Mizunuma.
  • Big Heroic Run: Towards the end, Umi and Shun race to find an old friend of their father.
  • Bonding Over Missing Parents: Umi's dead father leads to revelations with Shun
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Shun was adopted, and discovered he and Umi shared a father, Sawamura, who died in the war. The two conclude that although they love each other, their siblinghood makes any romantic relationship impossible. Later, it's revealed that Shun's real father is Tachibana, who died in the Korean War, and that Sawamura legally registered him to avoid him growing up in an orphanage. For practical reasons, he decided to give him up to the Kazamas, who had recently lost a child.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Early in the movie, a family friend offers Umi a lift to school, but she chooses to walk. During the film's climax, she and Shun accost him for a ride to the harbor, but traffic means he again won't get her where she needs to go.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Hiro, the painter living at the inn. When Sora calls Shun a "live wire" she assumes that he's an electrician's son, and asks if beef jerky is made with pork.
  • Cry into Chest: Umi bursts into tears exactly twice, once with each parent. The first is during a tragic dream where both her parents are present, and the second is when Umi is informed that she and Shun may not in fact be siblings after all.
  • Cue the Rain: Right before the Second-Act Breakup.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Played with. After Umi reads the poem about her flags, a classmate who fancies himself The Spock rather callously claims that someone responding to her flags "just doesn't calculate". As he walks off (never to be important again), he's called a Math Club Freak and it's mentioned he's one of the clubhouse denizens. The moment adequately establishes not any particular character, but the fact that there's a clubhouse and the very negative opinion most girls have of it.
  • Everyone Can See It: Between Umi and Shun.
  • Funny Background Event: The chairman visits the clubhouse, he asks the astronomy club what they've discovered. The student's answer "That the sun is very old and our lives are very short." Behind the chairman, the principal is very obviously facepalming in the background. The principal once again wears an extremely sardonic expression when the chairman announces that Quartier Latin will be preserved.
  • Ghibli Hills: Due to being by the Trope Namer, of course!
  • Girlish Pigtails: Umi is rarely seen without them.
  • Good Old Ways: The 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo has split the country practically down the middle, with one faction practically champing at the bit to abandon the old ways and the other clinging desperately and refusing to dispense with their history and identity. Shun Kazama has no problem with the future, but insists that it can't be properly achieved without first knowing the past. Of course, his own past has quite the bumpy ride for him in store.
  • Gratuitous French: Especially "Quartier Latin" and "Kokuriko" (from "coquelicot" - corn poppy)
  • Happily Adopted: Shun, but it turns out not fathered by the man he thought.
  • In-Series Nickname: Umi is nicknamed "Meru" after la mer ("sea" in French). This was completely left out of the official English dub and subtitles.
  • Large Ham: The philosophy club guy; his every line is delivered as loudly and theatrically as possible. Quite literally too, he's at least a head taller than everyone else.
    • Arguably, most of the boys in Quartier Latin could be this, judging by their meetings.
  • Let's Just Be Friends: Invoked and then subverted.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Shun Kazama heavily resembles Umi's father Yuichirou Sawamura. In the Japanese version, he even has the same voice actor. Subverted when it turns out Yuichirou is only Shun's temporary adoptive father.
  • Lost in Translation: The English dub has the ham radio club saying in Canadian-inflected English "We are high-school students. FROM JAPAN!!", while the original has them speaking in stereo-typically Japanese inflected English. Ham radio usage in a high-school club is a good device for evoking the time period; the Japanese version pushes that nostalgia button perfectly, but would have sounded really really jarring in the dub.
  • Love Letter: In the form of a short poem in the school newspaper.
  • Manly Tears: Again, the Philosophy Club guy tries to evoke this. But early on he goes over to Inelegant Blubbering.
  • Men Can't Keep House: The all-male-occupied Quartier Latin is filthy. The cleanup effort requires an army of Joshikousei. Some of the girls are even more competent at construction work like plastering.
  • Morning Routine: Starts with Umi making breakfast for the rest of the household, doubling as a Establishing Character Moment.
  • Parental Abandonment: Neither Umi's nor Shun's birth parents are around, most are dead. Umi lives with her grandmother, Shun with his adoptive parents. Averted later in the film when Umi's mother returns from America.
  • Poor Communication Kills: A non-fatal example, but a lot of Umi's and Shun's problems would have been prevented if Umi's father told his friend that Shun was NOT his biological son when he gave him the newborn. In his defense, it's ludicrous to assume anyone saw this fiasco coming.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Chairman Tokumaru, who jokes with Mizunuma, Shun, and Umi about their playing hooky to meet him in Tokyo and ultimately allows Quartier Latin to remain standing. This is in stark contrast to the Konan principal, who tries to go forward with demolishing Quartier Latin despite an impressive student-run remodeling effort and the student population swinging from 80% for demolition to a majority against.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Umi's parents decided to give the newborn Shun to a couple who lost their child. The couple loved Shun right away.
  • The Reveal: Shun was given to the Kazamas by Yuichirou Sawamura, Umi's father. Yuichirou actually had Shun adopted and registered as part of his family to keep him out of an orphanage after the boy's real father, Hiroshi Tachibana, was killed.
  • Scenery Porn: It's Studio Ghibli, though the hills are covered by buildings, not grass.
  • Shipper on Deck: The entire school is all for Shun/Umi.
  • Slice of Life: Covering a few weeks in 1963 Japan.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The chemistry club causes an explosion as an Establishing Character Moment.
  • Surprise Incest: Invoked and subverted.
  • The Sixties: The time period the film is set in, amplified by real songs being in the film, such as Sukiyaki.
  • Theme Naming: Umi (sea) and her siblings Riku (land) and Sora (sky). Umi's is especially notable given her connections to sailors.
  • Tears of Joy: Umi cries heavily after her mother reveals to her Shun's background which proves they are not related by blood.
  • Trash of the Titans: The interior of Quartier Latin practically counts as Scenery Gorn. It's implied that the building has never been cleaned.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: What Umi does in her bed after the revelation that Shun could be her brother.
  • True Companions: Umi's father Yuichirou Sawamura was excellent friends with two other men, Hiroshi Tachibana and Yoshio Onodera. Yuichirou impulsively adopted the late Hiroshi's son Shun but ended up giving him away to another couple. It's the still living Yoshio who confirms Shun and Umi are in fact Not Blood Siblings.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: Umi and Shun at one point in the movie. Unfortunately, this is followed by their Second-Act Breakup...
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: The extreme crowding in the elevator in Tokyo forces Umi and Shun to press up their whole bodies against each other, which is extremely awkward due it following on the heels of their Second-Act Breakup.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Downplayed. The clubhouse may have dozens of clubs, but that doesn't mean they get along together in the slightest. The Philosophy and Chemistry clubs are in particular at odds with one another.
  • Will They or Won't They?: We don't see the answer, but the roadblock is cleared.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Umi and Shun both.