Directed by: Gorō Miyazaki
Produced by: Toshio Suzuki
Screenplay by: Hayao Miyazaki & Keiko Niwa
Based on: Kokuriko-zaka kara by Chizuru Takahashi & Tetsurō Sayama
Starring (Voice): Masami Nagasawa as Umi Matsuzaki
Junichi Okada as Shun Kazama
Music by: Satoshi Takebe
Cinematography: Atsushi Okui
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Distributed by: Toho (Japan)
Walt Disney Pictures
Release date(s): July 16, 2011
March 2013 (USA)
Running time: 91 minutes
Umi, a 16-year old girl, lives in Kokuriko (from coquelicot, French for Papaver rhoeas) Manor, a house that overlooks Yokohama harbour. Every morning, Umi raises a set of signal flags with the message “I pray for safe voyages”. The identity of the person raising the flags arouses much local interest, and a poem about her is published in a school newspaper. The author of this poem, Shun, always sees this flag from the sea as he rides a tugboat to school.
Umi and Shun first meet when Shun decides to participate in a daredevil stunt for the school newspaper, leaving Umi with a negative first impression of Shun. They meet again when Umi accompanies her younger sister to obtain Shun’s autograph at the Quartier Latin, the building housing many of their high school’s clubs and societies. Shun is revealed to be a member of the Culture Club, which is responsible for the publication of the school newspaper. Umi winds up joining the club when she learns that they need a new typesetter because Shun has recently injured his hand in a scuffle with a cat.
At Umi’s suggestion, many students work hard volunteering to restore the Quartier Latin to its former glory. During the cleanup, Umi gets to know Shun better and starts to develop feelings for him. When Umi shows him a photograph of her father, Shun begins distancing himself from her because he secretly has the same photograph and believes they may be half-siblings. Umi is hurt by Shun’s response, though he eventually reveals the shocking fact to her.
After a great deal of effort, the students complete their cleanup of the Quartier Latin, but are disappointed that their efforts may be wasted when Tokumara, a prominent businessman and sponsor of the school, intends to tear down the building to make way for redevelopment. In order to stop the demolition, the students nominate Shun, Umi, and Shirō to go to Tokyo to persuade Tokumara to change his mind. After Tokumura agrees to inspect the Quartier Latin, the group separates before going back to Kokuriko. While Umi and Shun wait for a train together, Umi confesses her love to him. Shun reciprocates her feelings.
When Umi’s mother returns from America, Umi learns that she is not biologically related to Shun. Her mother reveals that Umi’s father registered Shun as his own child when he put Shun up for adoption after Shun’s father had died fighting in the Korean War. Since her mother was pregnant and they could not afford to adopt Shun, Shun was given away to a couple who had just lost their child – Shun’s current adopted parents.
Shun, Umi, and Shirō are initially forced to wait a long time before meeting Tokumara in hopes they would give up and leave. Their persistence wins out and Tokumara agrees to visit the Quartier Latin the following afternoon. Impressed by the students’ hard work restoring the building, he agrees to abandon his plans for redevelopment.
Meanwhile, Umi and Shun meet a ship captain who was familiar with their fathers. He confirms that they are not related by blood and shares the story of Umi and Shun’s fathers and his relationship with both of them.
With everything resolved, Umi happily resumes her duty of raising the flags every morning.
What to expect from any Ghibli film?
It is fast-paced and anything may happen before it ends. Still holds true for their 2011 flick, From Up On Poppy Hill. This is actually a clean, teen melodrama any parent can let their kids watch without supervision. I cannot see any indication of parental guidance for this film.
Shun and Umi almost made me cry! Any viewer will surely feel that way as soon as the conflict is revealed. You wouldn’t want to miss a scene even though it’s heartbreaking enough to turn off. I am a sucker for melodramas… and I love how the conflict of their story was executed. It sure is a good one.
I’ve seen almost all the Ghibli films in the past, where they emphasize greatly on each setting and each detail of their background. The Quarter Latin almost reminded me of Howl’s castle… an old, clutter-filled space.
My favorite scene was when Shun passed by and saw Umi headed for the market to buy some meat… then Ryu Sakamoto’s Ue o Muite Arukō started to play. It’s just one of the old Japanese pop songs I am familiar with. Google-ing a bit more, this insert song became famous the same year as the story’s timeline. I think it was a very popular song during that time. With that mentioned, the movie also have an excellent soundtrack worth listening to.
If you happen to be in melodrama mood and love animated movies, this will surely make it to your list of to-watch-again movies… because I think I will do so in a bit.