If you haven’t heard by now, beloved director Hayao Miyazaki is retiring from filmmaking following the completion of his upcoming animated feature, The Wind Rises. And that’s it folks. After that, no new Miyazaki films. Ever. He’s serious this time, and as much we want to believe he’ll be back some day, we need to face facts. No one can go on forever, not even a legend like Miyazaki. But we should count ourselves lucky to have had him at all, for he leaves us with one of the most incredible bodies of work in the history of film, and arguably the single greatest in the history of animation. Plus, we’ve still that last film to look forward to, and let us not forget his latest film, From Up on Poppy Hill.
From Up on Poppy Hill made its debut on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD from GKIDS and Cinedigm earlier this week, marking the North American home video release of the next to last Miyazaki film. “But the last film he directed is Ponyo,” some of you might be thinking. And in that you’d be 100% correct. This is in fact the next to last film written by Hayao Miyazaki, but was directed for Studio Ghibli by his son Goro Miyazaki, who previously directed 2006’s Tales from Earthsea. And while I’m ecstatic that we still have one more film to look forward to from Miyazaki, I would not have been entirely heartbroken had Poppy Hill been his swan song instead.
The film canters on Umi, a high school girl living in Yokohama in 1963, as she helps out at her grandmother’s boarding house and pitches in to save her high school’s clubhouse from demolition. It’s a touching slice-of-life story about youth and first love, but it’s most of all about family, and how the distinction between blood relations and friends is moot if you truly love one another. It’s truly as feel-good as a movie gets, and leaves you feeling contented in a way that only Miyazaki films can. (It’s hard for me to explain exactly what I mean by that, but if you’re a Miyazaki fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about.) That the film feels like the work of Hayao Miyazaki through-and-through is really a testament to the direction of Goro Miyazaki, who with any luck will fill his father’s shoes in his stead.
The Blu-ray/DVD Special Edition of Poppy Hill includes over three hours of special features including feature-length storyboards, an interview with Goro Miyazaki, a press conference with Hayao Miyazaki, and a featurette about the English cast recording, which boasts the talents of Gillian Anderson, Beau Bridges, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, and Ron Howard. It also includes an exclusive, 16-page booklet featuring a letter by Goro Miyazaki about his experience of the film and an excerpt from Hayao Miyazaki’s original project proposal.