From Up On Poppy Hill

From Up On Poppy Hill

DVD Rating: ***1/2

Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

Read Owen Van Spall's film review of From Up On Poppy Hill

The transfer is solid and the audio and visual quality sharp. There are some substantial documentary and alternate viewing features to work through on this disc, compensating somewhat for the slightness of the main feature.

The storyboard option replaces the final animation with the early storyboards, which have their own simple, warm beauty. Any frame of storyboard footage from a Ghibli project would make a great framed print.

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The Ghibli Press Conference video footage is actually a recording of an announcement at the Ghibli studio to the media of the choice of theme song - theme songs being very important to anime films as any fan of Japanese film culture will know. Both Miyazakis are present, but the conference is actually overshadowed by the 2011 tsunami disaster that had taken place midway through the film’s production. The ever-modest and dignified elder Miyazaki offers as an introduction some careful thoughts on the studio’s attitude to the project in light of the disaster (they decided to keep working even during power blackouts, reverting to candle light and pencils as if honouring a pre-digital age), and how he first mulled over the story outline some 30 years ago when reading some comics his young nieces liked.

A short interview with Goro Miyazaki reveals a few nuggets about the process of adapting the graphic novel that inspired the story, the demands of making the project a ‘period’ film, and how Ghibli animators designed Yokohama (sometimes to irritation of those Ghibli staff from Yokohama who noticed any deliberate exaggerations).

There is a short video of Hayao Miyazaki giving a motivational speech to Ghibli staff, following a private screening. As with the press conference video, Miyazaki sombrely reflects on the Fukushima disaster and the devastating flooding that impacted upon Ghibli’s schedule for Up On Poppy Hill. Lighter moments include Miyazaki asking the staff involved in the project to stand up to receive praise, only then to pretend to berate them for not animating characters' actions properly.

A 20 minute Yokohama documentary makes for pleasant viewing. It turns out the city is particularly proud of its Ghibli immortalisation, and has erected a monument to the film in Harbour-View Hill Park, complete with flagpole.

Now-and-then comparison footage from the 1950s contrasted to the present day highlights the changing character of Japan’s gate to the sea. Yokohama has some diverse and entrancing architecture, not to mention a selection of preserved heritage ocean liners moored on the seafront, the interiors decked out with brass railings and chandeliers.

The English dub cast also get a look in with documentary To Hollywood: The Voiceover Sessions, looking at the prepping of the film’s English dub for export to the English language market. This is a little-seen world that whirrs away behind the scenes of every Ghibli production. The English dub not only gets a director and a scriptwriter, but an all-star cast including Aubrey Plaza, Ron Howard, Beau Bridges, Anton Yelchin and Sarah Bolger, and director Gary Rydstrom makes an informative guide as to the considerations and compromises that go into every translation. It is never a case of just translating word for word and syncing the English cast’s dialogue exactly with the lip movements of the animated characters; often the cast and crew play around to see what works up against the finished Japanese cut. It is almost like watching a separate crew making another movie.

In addition there are the expected collections of trailers and TV spots, fleshed out a little bit by a selection of trailers from other Ghibli films. For those wanting to hear the theme song in its entirety, the music video Summer Of Farewells, From Up On Poppy Hill (performed by Aoi Teshima) is also included.

Reviewed on: 28 Sep 2013
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Product Code: B00D48ZQ9A

Region: 2

Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic

Sound: 2:0 Stereo

Extras: Storyboard option, press conference footage, director interview, Yokohama documentary, English dub documentary, trailers, music video.

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