Archive for the ‘From Up On Poppy Hill’ Tag

a quizzical hour….   Leave a comment

My aura is Orange, my gift is Serenity. I should live in Vermont, with a Cat but No Kids. (…don’t tell my kids that…)

I would most happy living in a Cottage, I am the song Every Breath You Take, and if I was a movie I’d be Star Wars. (Which is, in fact, one of my favorite movies.)

My celebrity boyfriend is Ryan Gosling. I guess I should find out who he is.

My secret talent is Staying Calm, and in my past life I was a Famous European Rock Star. If I was a jewel, I would be a Ruby, which is actually my birthstone, so that’s all good.

And now I’m forcing myself to get off so that I can google Ryan Gosling.

Okay. Googled. I’ve seen him around the internet, but I’ve never actually seen any of his movies. Although I almost went to see The Place Beyond the Pines once. If I remember right, it was playing in the same theater when we went to see From Up On Poppy Hill. So, yeah, he lost to Studio Ghibli. Sorry, Ryan.

I like this pic of him. He looks like he is either very confused and doesn’t know quite where he is or why he’s there, or he’s checking to see if his hair is still attached to his head.



Yasashii Jikan   Leave a comment

Are you familiar with J-dramas? It’s short for Japanese television dramas, and it can be a ‘drama’ or a ‘comedy’ or even a ‘romance’ show. They either run 10-12 episodes, or 50 episodes. (a few run around 25 episodes) The period pieces generally have the long runs. But it’s nice to watch a show that’s only 10 episodes long, and is an entire story. And in general, at least the ones I’ve seen, they’re really very good. (K-dramas are from South Korea.)

Yasashii Jikan was my first J-drama. It’s translated as Affectionate Time, and it remains my absolute favorite still.

yasashii jikan

Wakui Yukichi, called Master (not for any Doctor Who-ish reasons, but because he is the Master of his cafe) was a workaholic businessman based in NYC. Two or three years before the story begins his wife, Megumi, back in Japan, is killed while a passenger in a car being driven by their 18-year old son, Takuro. Master comes home to bury his wife, and after the funeral quits his job and moves from Tokyo to the small town of Furano, on the island of Hokkaido. He and his wife had dreamed of opening a coffee shop, and Furano was Megumi’s home town. He gives Takeru some money, and leaves him behind. Blaming him for Megumi’s death, he hasn’t spoken to the boy since.

The story opens with Master and his cafe, The Forest Clock, living a slow, peaceful life, very distant from his high powered job of the past. His employees include Azu, a young woman with an unfortunate habit of breaking plates. This leads her, in the first episode, to a store in a nearby town to purchase new plates to replace the ones she broke. At the store she meets Wakui Takeru, Master’s son. Takeru was devastated by his mother’s death, by his part in it (he and his mother were arguing when the accident happened) but even more, by his father’s abandonment.

Unbeknownst to Master, Takeru has moved to Hokkaido as well, to a town about 50 kilometers from Furano and his father. He’s become an apprentice to a local potter, and his truly gentle soul shines as he patiently learns this trade, so different from the street racer life he left behind. ┬áBut his love for his father is so strong he can’t leave him behind, and there is a sad, poignant scene of Takeru, hidden, watching his father in his cafe. Takeru is brought to tears by his need for his father.

Master, too, is gentling in the beautiful setting of Furano, with the townspeople who have become his friends. He is beginning to realize how much he lost when he told Takeru he was no longer his son.

Azu meets Takeru, and although he finds out she works for his father, he doesn’t tell her the truth, not at first. But when something happens in the cafe, and she complains about her boss to Takeru, he defends his father, and Azu learns the truth. That Master is Takeru’s father, and that Takeru was responsible for his mother’s death.

Megumi, Takeru’s mother and Master’s wife, is a large part of the story, and a leading character. Master finds himself talking to her every night, as they share a cup of coffee and he tries to understand the change that’s slowly washing over him. From her you see where Takeru’s gentleness comes from, and the serenity both men are searching for.

As each episode progresses, Takeru and his father get closer and closer to seeing each other. Both want to reach out to the other, but neither can find the courage.

As well as the gentle, sad emotions of the two Wakui men, there is also drama and comedy in the cafe itself. The regulars, the townsfolk who have become Master’s friends, and others who stop in for an episode or two (the couple who were thought to have died in their seats….) Friends from the past, pretty widows with a history, and behind it all, Furano and The Forest Clock. For the cafe itself, and the beautiful wooded area it is found in, is almost the backbone of the show. The show is gorgeous, the scenery breathtaking, the pace slow and serene.

The Master is played by Terao Akira, who starred in, among many other things, Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams. Dreams is a movie everyone should see.
akira terao

Kazunari Ninomiya plays Takeru. He starred alongside Ken Watanabe in Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima. (also a movie everyone should see)

(as Wakui Takeru) Kazunari is also a member of Arashi, a popular Japanese idol group. (Japanese idol groups take boy-bands and girl-bands to a whole new level…)

Azu is played by Nagasawa Masami.


She’s an award winning actress, and has a place in my heart because she was the voice of Umi in Goro Miyazaki’s From Up On Poppy Hill.

Otake Shinobu plays Megumi.

otake shinobu

Although I don’t think I’ve seen any of her other work, she was incredibly, sweetly, beautiful in this show.

Yasashii Jikan is an amazing show; beautiful, moving, funny, sad. You should watch it.

It was written by Kuramoto Sou, a famous Japanese playwright. Although he was born in Toyko, he moved to Furano in the ’70’s, and has set more than one story in his new hometown. Besides Yasashii Jikan, which was filmed in 2005, there is also 2008’s Kaze no Garden. Yasashii Jikan was set in winter; Kaze no Garden is spring and summer. I thought Furano in winter was breathtaking. It is even more so in the summertime. Kaze no Garden will get a post of its own. I watched it a couple of weeks ago, and it was so emotional I couldn’t even talk about it for a few days.

So – watch Yasashii Jikan. It is so worth it. Oh, fair warning. Do NOT buy the DVD that is for sale at famous online retailers. The subtitles were, I believe, translated into Chinese, then from Chinese back into English. They left the characters names as Chinese rather than Japanese, and the sentence structure and the basic translation is – well, it’s really, really bad. You’ll have some luck finding sites online that stream the show.

Go. Watch. Enjoy. It’s happy-sad, which the Japanese are so very good at.


From Up On Poppy Hill   Leave a comment

I was lucky enough to go see Studio Ghibli’s latest, From Up On Poppy Hill, last week. It’s been released to a limited amount of theaters, which generally means the closest city would be Boston or New York, but for some odd reason it showed up on the list as playing at The Moviehouse in Millerton, NY.

I had checked the theater list about a month prior, and Millerton wasn’t listed. Then I saw a post on Facebook saying they had added cities, so I checked, thinking maybe Hartford would be there. Instead I saw Millerton, which is not only near, (about 40 minutes) but a much nicer drive than into Hartford. The catch? It was only playing there for two more days. I happened to be off from my paying job that day, but had to work the next day. So it was then, or never.

I texted my daughter to see if she wanted to go. If not, I would go to an earlier show, but she did, and her best friend was able to come as well. Her best friend is a HUGE Hayao Miyazaki fan, just like me. So that afternoon, we headed out.

As I said, it’s a gorgeous drive, and it was one of the first really nice days we’ve had. The girls had been separated for a couple of weeks due to an out-of-state vacation, so they jabbered and talked non-stop the whole way while I enjoyed the scenery and kept the car window down.

I think I’ve only been to Millerton once before, a long time ago, so I had to drive up and down Main Street twice before I saw the theater. The picture on their website didn’t prepare me for how tiny the entrance once. Then I had to turn around and come back to find a parking space.

They had four movies playing, so they must have four theaters. Poppy Hill was playing in what was called The Screening Room, up this steep, wide staircase to the second floor. Outside in the hallway was a coffee bar, so the girls bought a coffee something-or-other. I sent them downstairs for popcorn, but felt guilty once we got in the theater. It’s for artsy-fartsy films, I’m guessing. It’s a small, living room-sized room with couches and chairs. Big windows, and one nice wall with speakers along the bottom. Not made for popcorn eaters.

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At first it was just the three of us, and we naturally sat on the couches. A bad choice, it turned out later, because the backs were far too low for comfort when you’re tilting your head to watch the screen. They were wide enough to slide down and get comfy, but I don’t slide well. Then we were joined by two elderly women, and I think two men came in just before it began. The manager (?) came in before the movie started and told us what would be playing next week and so on, and we felt even more out of place with our tub of popcorn.

This was not a theater made with anime fans in mind, and they might have been slightly horrified at Rachel’s pink hair and Kethry’s trans style, accompanied by my white hair, Black Butler t-shirt, and our back packs. But this was Miyazaki, and this was Studio Ghibli, and no way were we going to miss it.

If they issue it in a wider release take yourself to see it. It was just what you’d want from both Miyazaki’s and Ghibli. Not as childlike as Ponyo or Kiki, no fantasy elements like in Princess Mononoke or Spiritied Away, or my two absolute favorites, My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle.

It’s described as a ‘coming of age’ story, and it is, but it is also a nice, gentle love story. It had that slice-of-life feel that so many Japanese films have, where not much really happens, but what does happen fills you up. And in Umi and Shun’s lives, the little that happened meant everything to them.

Rachel pointed something out that I hadn’t realized before. In nearly every movie from Miyazaki or Ghibli, there is always a major house cleaning scene. I have no idea what the significance of that is, but thinking back, she’s right. I wonder what it means. (I did search for that one damned piece of popcorn I know I spilled, but I couldn’t find it, I swear.)