From up on Poppy Hill

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
From up on Poppy Hill Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Inspiring, romantic coming-of-age tale about '60s teens.
  • PG
  • 2013
  • 91 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 16 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie encourages friendship, commitment, and sticking up for what you believe in. First love is portrayed as momentous and full of awkward and sweet little moments. Despite their youth, the teens are able to rally together and appeal to the government about their beloved clubhouse.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Umi, Shun, and their friends all rise to the occasion to lobby and demonstrate and appeal to the government officials to restore and save their historic clubhouse from demolition. Umi is extraordinarily mature and takes care of her home business, her siblings, and her schoolwork while her mother is studying overseas. Shun is a very gentlemanly toward Umi.


Discussion of how two fathers died during the Korean War. A boy purposely jumps out of a window and into a pool of water. He ends up hurting his hand.


High schoolers Umi and Shun share an instant connection and flirt, ride a bicycle together, touch hands, admit they have feelings for each other, and eventually even declare their love (which has a shadow cast upon it when it's suggested they may share a familial connection). Whenever they're flirting, their cheeks get rosy and flushed. Miki jokes about inviting "really cute boys" to dinner. Various teens blush in the presence of the opposite sex.


Mild insults like "stupid," "freak," and "old man."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult women share a bottle of alcohol (which Umi, 16 or 17, is allowed to take part in). They don't allow Sora (who's probably around 14) to have any. Some images of smoking.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDaniel L. July 31, 2020

For older kids; yet the best!

PG-13: mild insults and brief smoking
Adult Written bynduns November 17, 2013

Well, Goro, you might have some potential yet

Oh wait, Hayao actually helped him with this one. Even so, this is a very well-done film. It's intelligently-written, very believable and even tackles a... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bylilshwaiby April 29, 2021

One of Ghibli's most underrated classics!

I cannot express how much I love this film. It's so charming and nostalgic that I can't help but just adore it. The character of Umi is a great role m... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byShoelaces May 13, 2021
Appropriate for all ages, just may be a bit boring for kids under the age of 8. Overall, would highly recommend this movie!

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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Themes & Topics

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