A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that From up on Poppy Hill, which was directed by Goro Miyazaki (son of legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki), doesn't have much in the way of iffy content, but the coming-of-age plot, period setting, and some of the themes might be too mature for younger kids to understand or appreciate. Set right before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the movie centers on a teenage protagonist whose mother is abroad, leaving her to take care of her family-owned boarding house, her two younger siblings, and her school obligations. There's a strong romantic plot point (including hand holding and a declaration of love), as well as intrigue about a father's infidelity, suggestions of possibly incestuous feelings, and the circumstances of how two men died. The movie's teens are admirable for banding together to save their school's historical clubhouse from demolition. Some drinking and incidental smoking; language includes mild insults.
What's the story?
In 1963 Yokohama, Japan, Umi (voiced by Sarah Bolger) is a junior in high school who has a lot of responsibility: She runs her family's boarding house, takes care of her younger siblings, and makes time for her schoolwork while her mother studies abroad in the United States. Her father was presumably lost at sea during the Korean War. One day, Umi has a formative encounter with classmate Shun (Anton Yelchin), one of many boys trying to save their school's historical clubhouse from being demolished and replaced in the lead-up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. As Umi and Shun get closer, they help rally boys and girls to protest the government's decision. And they must deal with the surreal possibility that they might, in fact, share the same father.
Is it any good?
This is an anime film that tweens and teens who've aged out of most Disney animated fare will enjoy. Although FROM UP ON POPPY HILL doesn't feature any magical elements like most of Studio Ghibli/the Miyazaki family's anime classics, this period coming-of-age tale still follows a strong female protagonist and a sophisticated, educational plot that older kids and tweens will appreciate. Not only are there cultural lessons in the story (most young people probably have no idea how much preparation goes into renovating a city for the Olympics), but Umi is also an admirable, mature heroine who's smart and sweet and happy to discover a kindred spirit in Shun.
The slightly off-putting subplot -- in which it seems there's a possibility that Umi and Shun, so obviously smitten with each other, are actually half brother and sister -- is something that tweens might not fully catch, but teens will (even though all ends up just fine in the end). Studio Ghibli never disappoints, and director Goro Miyazaki is ably following in his legendary father's footsteps.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about anime movies and how they compare/contrast to other forms of animation. How does From up on Poppy Hill differ from anime films that involve more magical/spiritual elements?
How does the movie depict adolescent life in 1960s Japan? What did you learn about the cultural differences and similarities between Japan and where you live?
Did the subplot about a possible family tie between Umi and Shun seem confusing for younger kids?
- In theaters: March 15, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: September 3, 2013
- Cast: Christina Hendricks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sarah Bolger
- Director: Goro Miyazaki
- Studio: GKIDS
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild thematic elements and some incidental smoking images
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.