In many ways, Goro Miyazaki's career is actually far more interesting that his father's, if perhaps less influential. You see, Goro actually graduated with a degree in Landscape Agriculture, and never wanted to get into animation or directing, and yet due to the massive influence of Hayao Miyazaki, he was convinced to get into the career. He was reluctant as hell, and (supposedly) this shows in his first movie, the Tales of Earthsea. Now, he actually does direct TV anime for Polygon, and appears to truly shine in doing that. So Poppy Hill poses itself as something very unique, as a bridge between being persuaded (with an awful lot of effort) to direct anime, to actually approaching the medium willingly. Though, Hayao Miyazaki did write the script and you can really tell.
The OST is something I'd like to focus on here, as it was both wonderful to listen to and pretty thematically brilliant in regards to the setting and story. The soundtrack is comprised of two major styles of music. The first is smooth jazz, and the second is 20s(?) style French music. The anime is set just before the Tokyo Olympics and this is important in this sense, as it represents Japan finding its place in the world post-Meiji. Jazz does a wonderful job at portraying this as the anime is about retaining the past with the historic Latin Quarter Club House - it is a perfect contrast between finding a new place and moving forward while also retaining what brought Japan to this point, and it further draws parallels with Umi's character arc in the movie.
On a base level the narrative is nothing special. It is simply following Umi Matsuzaki as she discovers the community centred around the utterly neglected Latin Quarter in her school. This perhaps isn't what is important as the movie focused greatly on the characters, primarily Umi and Shun Kazama. Their dynamic is cute as hell and their arcs are both depressed and uplifting, there is a surprising amount of "melodrama" made to feel oddly believable, likely due to how grounded the entire movie is.
The reveal that Shun may be Umi's sibling was devastating for them, and also for me to some degree. Umi's unbending feelings and her struggles to reject them was particularly believable and I feel it portrayed this in a way that a teenager who had just come to this revelation might do.
Ultimately this misfortune is overcome, and the misunderstanding is dealt with wonderfully. Yet again, we are treated to something quite realistic here, as it was a major misunderstanding that made complete sense.
The Success of the studentsand the positivity of the film as a whole was a wonderful experience, coupled with the sense of nostalgia that the visuals and OST created this created a feeling of comfort and perhaps belief in people and hard work.
I do have a few nitpicks however. The first would be the beginning of the movie being somewhat boring. This should be expected really, as this quite literally a Slice of Life in the sense that it's just some people living their life - the major conflict in the movie is pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things after all. This did make the movie somewhat difficult to get into, but once it got going there was much to appreciate. The second issue I had was incredibly minor, but it was the misplacement of a certain scene.
Seeing Umi's father's ship sinkin the middle of the meeting really broke the pace of the scene, and was a sequence that should have been shown earlier when Umi explained what had happened to Shun.
From Up On Poppy Hill produced an incredibly nostalgic narrative and setting that made me feel like I myself was involved in the drama and conflict. The combination of OST and beautifully crafted characters made for deep investment in a standard conflict, giving one of the most heart warming experiences I've had in a movie in a long while.