All this week, the writers of Christ and Pop Culture unveil their 25 most loved things of  2013. 

#25: From Up on Poppy Hill

Nearly any of Ghibli’s films would be considered Great, but everyone has their favorites in the studio’s stable. Some prefer the movies aimed most squarely at kids, the ones featuring forest trolls, pre-teen witches, and little mermaids. Others go in for the more mature and morally complex quarter—the discussions of environmental cataclysm and the horrors of war. My personal taste runs toward that small corner of Ghibli’s mundane, day-in-the-life set. Films like Whisper of the Heart, Only Yesterday, and I Can Hear the Sea. With 2013’s release of From Up on Poppy Hill, the studio may have topped itself in that direction (though early word has it that The Wind Rises is essential viewing as well).

Poppy Hill, seeming of a piece with Kazuo Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World, echoes the concern immediately both unique to post-war Japan and at home in every society in every time. Do we take refuge in the classics and find our foundation in tradition or do we rather push forward and ahead, hoping that in our quest for progress we might leave behind the spectre of an order and paradigm that mired us in pain and violence. Poppy Hill‘s answer is hybridism, but its solution is argued more from the heart than from any critique of reason—the film is framed as a high school romance set on the backdrop of 1960s Yokohama. The charm and earnestness of these two protagonists wins not only the affection of those who would play obstacle in their path but the audience as well. And maybe that’s really where the answer to the tumult of the times lies, somewhere between true love and an honest integrity of purpose. Poppy Hill stands staunchly against cynicism, and as deeply dyed cynic, I found its idealism warming.

Note: given the choice between watching in the English dub or the original Japanese (with English subtitles), I strongly recommend the English dub. It’s a much more fulfilling, joyous experience.

Suggested Reading
The Moviegoer: The Renovative View From Up on Poppy Hill

Next #24: When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman