From Up On Poppy Hill
Studio Ghibli's films are a little more "grown-up" than the animated offerings we're use to here in the U.S., and "From Up on Poppy Hill" is a definitive example. The yarn, directed by Goro Miyazaki - son of the legendary Hayao - concerns two teenagers in post-WWII Yokohama, Japan, who fall in love only to find that their long-lost fathers may actually be the same person. It's a nervy, consistently entertaining melodrama, a far cry from the best work Ghibli has produced, but also stronger than any American animated picture released this year.
"Poppy Hill" may remain a minor work in the Ghibli canon, but the Blu-ray package on offer here is befitting of a masterpiece. The picture quality is beautiful and tactile; the evocative springtime greens of Miyazaki's compositions appearing even more vivid than (when they were presented digitally) in theaters. And the extras included are downright staggering: there's a 20-minute interview with Goro Miyazaki, a 20-minute featurette on the culture and history of Yokohama, and a 20-minute feature detailing the working methods of the English-language cast, for starters.
There's also a 40-minute press conference where the Ghibli team announces the theme song of the film; a surprisingly poignant event, for reasons that quickly become apparent while watching it. You also get your standard trailer collection, and some fly-on-the-wall footage of Hayao Miyazaki commenting on the film after a staff-only screening.
That's more than you get from most such films, but "Poppy Hill" comes loaded with two additional versions of the movie. The film can be presented entirely through the original storyboards created by the animators, and also with the original Japanese-language audio track. The latter option is preferably to the "main feature" - with a film this traditional, this attuned to culture, this Japanese, frankly, then the primary language will always be the best choice. The "Poppy Hill" Blu-ray offers numerous extra features, but the best is the original version of the film itself.
"From Up On Poppy Hill"
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack