From Up on Poppy Hill
It’s 1963, and high school student Umi wakes each morning to raise signal flags to the drifting tugboats of postcard-pretty Yokohama. When local boy Shun writes a poem about her ritual in the school newspaper, she tumbles into the joyous, dilapidated community of the Latin Quarter, and sets about helping Shun save its shambling clubhouse from demolition.
The glowing, hand-drawn backdrops and warming themes of diligence and rejuvenation are assuredly Ghibli. But through their singularly subtle story of adolescent longing and gentle domesticity, From Up on Poppy Hill’s protagonists emerge as unexpectedly facetless, especially from a studio with such a vibrant and morally complex back catalogue. While the virtues of good, honest work have provided much of the charm of films like Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away, the distinct absence of a snarling dragon or skyward broomstick to form its counterpoint makes all of this quaint domesticity feel a little bit of a chore. [Kirsty Leckie-Palmer]