3 words describe this movie: Death By Cuteness [Note: This review is based off of the Japanese version, not the Disney dubbed one!]
If you thought Totoro was cute, you ain't seen nothing yet. Ponyo is the cutest little...fish-girl ever. The movie is loosely based on "The Little Mermaid," but don't think Disney. Think instead of when you were a kid, and the world was brighter, magical, full of wonder and delight. Those are the feelings which describe what happens when you enter the world of Miyazaki.
Story - Although there's more story to Ponyo than your average Miyazaki film (eg: Totoro again), the film is geared
more to a younger audience, and therefore has simply a slow progression of events which unfold for the main character Sousuke, who saves what he calls a "goldfish" from the ocean, trapped in a jar. Unbeknownst to him, her father is looking for her, as she has run away from home. Sousuke, however, promises to protect the "goldfish" he names "Ponyo," and Ponyo slowly becomes more and more human as she spends time with Sousuke.
Art - The art is great Miyazaki as usual. This time, the art reflects a child's view of the world. I particularly liked the backgrounds that look they're colored pencil/crayon/chalk (though still drawn with lots of detail) and the sea creatures. Actually, any of the ocean scenes are amazing. It felt like I was in an aquarium.
Sound - The beginning of the movie was an opera piece, which was quite interesting, and a normal orchestral score after that. The seiyuu who played Ponyo has the most adorable voice too. Voice acting throughout was top-notch.
Character - If you do not fall in love with Ponyo, you have no heart. She's innocent and adorable. Sousuke seems really smart for a 5-year-old, and very kind, obedient, and generous. If I had kids, I'd want them to be like the characters in this movie. The "grown ups" seem to be overly cheery, and this was the main thing I found incredulous in the film. What kind of mom leaves 2 kids alone at night? What kind of adults seeing 2 kids alone in a candle-powered boat, simply wave hello to them? What kind of adults calmly talk to sea-spirits like they're next door neighbors?? Yeah, this only happens in Miyazaki world.
Enjoyment - I love the ocean, and little kids (when they're not brats), and the whole fish-out-of-water element (haha, this movie literaly has a fish-out-of-water), so I obviously loved this movie. You know it's great when you get out of the movie theater and you`re still smiling.
If you like other Miyazaki movies, I think you'll like this one. If you don't like slow paced, slice of life (with a dash of magic) movies, then you probably won't enjoy it as much. If you do, just sit back, relax, and let Miyazaki take you to another world...
Miyazaki. What comes to mind when you hear that name? Cute characters? Great movies? Remarkable talent? Any of these would be normal and deserved. There isn't a person in their right mind whose heart didn't warm itself while watching Tortoro, or fluttered with excitement in Sprirted Away. Which is why when Ponyo was announced, their was born an anticipation. An anticipation for the same Miyazaki magic that has touched us time and time again.
And it is also why the disappointment was so great.
Ponyo was bad. The plot had holes large enough to happily sail through and the characters were about as two-dimensional as you
can get; depth wise, not graphic wise. Now the animation and the music is what you'd expect; Beautiful, inspiring, and amazing. But they do not save this film, the Miyazaki legacy does.
The Miyazaki legacy has the mindless majority praising this film solely based on the name and preceding accomplishments. I guarantee, however, of its own merits Ponyo would be quickly forgotten and ignored due to its many flaws.
I dare anyone to try to explain to me what this movie was even about without delving into any folklore or mythology that wasn't properly represented or explained in the film. I dare myself to make sense of it. I dare Miyazaki to try this again and make it more like his other films! Y'know, the ones with the action, danger, and heart-wrenching drama? NONE of that was here!
In fact, I can re-tell the story of Ponyo in five easy sentences without missing a thing.
Ponyo is a fish girl that decides to run away from her little fish sisters and her crazy-cool father. She meets a boy named Sosuke and they play together. Ponyo has magic powers and, for the hell of it, tsunamis Sosuskes' hometown. Ponyo and Sosuke go to look for Sosukes mom who ABANDONED the children during the tsunami.Ponyo and Sosuke run into their moms and dads, innocently and without hesitation proclaim their lukewarm, mild-mannered lover for one another and SAVE THE WORLD...somehow.
Did I mention the world was in danger? Neither did the movie, cept in passing once and at the very end. "Oh and, by the way, you saved the world from complete and utter annihilation!....somehow"
What a mess. That all said...it wasn't terrible. I still enjoyed what I was watching but I would compare to it to cloud watching; calm, beautiful, enjoyable, but with no sense of danger, drama, or action anywhere in sight. Not a hint of villainy or doom or even excitement. Just....clouds, harmlessly and happily floating along. And if thats the story Miyazaki wanted to tell, then fine, but by all accounts, thats just boring.
ANIME: Ponyo is the eighth animated feature done by Studio Ghibli (well-known for other films such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke) and the tenth animated feature for Hayao Miyazaki as a director (well-known for his directorial work on My Neighbor Totoro and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind). Ponyo was released in Japanese theatres on July 19th, 2008, and won Best Anime of the Year at the Tokyo Anime Awards and the Japanese Academy Prize for Best Animation of the Year. It was released dubbed in Stateside theatres just this last weekend, on August
14th, 2009, and, as of the time of this writing, is already in the number 9 position for box office profits in its opening weekend.
STORY: A young five-year-old boy, Sosuke, finds an odd-looking fish who he names Ponyo and vows to protect. What he doesn't know is that Ponyo is the daughter of a sea wizard and the goddess of the sea, and that she will soon use her magic to turn herself into a girl so that she can be with him. But, unawares to Ponyo, doing this causes a rip in fabric of reality that the two of them must right.
Ponyo's not so much about the broader plot, which has plenty tinges of the Little Mermaid in its story, and serves more as a way to move the movie forward and to frame the events that happen in the movie. It's more about the two kids, Ponyo and Sosuke, and the people around them and their interactions with each other.
Most of the movie is cenetered around the absolute adorableness of Ponyo and Sosuke interacting with each other, and with the people around them, like Sosuke's family and the residents of the Hiwamari Senior Living Center (not called as much in the movie, but its more or less what it is). It's far more a slice of life story than it is one of Miyazaki's previous epics, such as Nausicaa or Mononoke, and you know what? He does this just as well as he does his other films.
The only bad thing I have to say about this is that big threat of the world being unbalanced is very vaguely detailed, and seems like an attempt to throw in urgency in the plot, but it really doesn't end up being focused on at all, and to be frank, doesn't add that much to the plot. It could've just been left as a test of Sosuke and Ponyo, and the movie would've been none the poorer for it.
ART: The visuals in this, as with any Miyazaki movie, are beyond spectacular. If you have the chance to see this in theatres near you, I definitely recommend it; seeing the visuals for this on the big screen is an experience in and of itself.
There are two big things with this that I feel like pointing out:
-The ocean scenes are spectacular, just in terms of sheer imagination in all of the creatures and the detail that packs the screen, and will probably make your jaw drop. And anything to do with Fujimoto or the goddess of the seas' or even Ponyo's magic are definitely some of the more spectacular scenes in the movie.
-The backgrounds on this, I'm pretty sure, were done in watercolors, which add a delicacy to the entire movie.
MUSIC: Joe Hisaishi did the composing work on this, just as he did with all the other Ghibli works. This score has far more emphasis on orchestral and choral numbers, especially in the horns, just a really grand sound in general, and while relying on a few repeated themes, is a really solid score.
SEIYUU: The Japanese cast on this did an amazing job on their characters, especially the voice actors for Ponyo and Sosuke, whose first role this was. They do an amazing job of just being five year olds, which carries the whole production.
VOICE ACTORS: There's some good voice acting, too on the dub cast's part: Liam Neeson and Cate Blanchett feature as Ponyo's parents (one's a slightly wacky magician, the other one's the goddess of the sea), Tina Fey is the main boy's fairly feisty mom, and Sousuke and Ponyo are played by one of the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus' little siblings, respectively (that last point will probably appeal more to younger siblings, but they still do a solid job). I'd actually suggest the dub cast over the original Japanese cast, as I like it far more.
DUB: Whoever did the script for the dub actually got the nuances of the original Japanese language, so I'm beyond pleased that this was done so well. There's a bit more added to the characters' lines than in the Japanese version, but I think that has more to do with the timing of the voice actors and their characters' personalities. The only problem that I have with the dub is that it obscures some things with regards to the main plot; I watched the Japanese version later in the day after I got back from theatres seeing this, and there were several moments when I was going, oh, so that's why that was that way.
LENGTH: Ponyo does feel a bit long towards the end, but, at the same time, for most of the movie, its a fairly dreamy pace, so you don't mind it that much.
OVERALL: An amazing movie, in terms of visuals and the dub cast, fairly solid in the story, music, and original Japanese cast. If you have the chance to see this in theatres, definitely go do so, but be sure to follow it up with watching the Japanese version just so that you're clear on things.
Let me preface by noting that I am a Miyazaki fan that consider Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke (in that order) the best animated films ever to come out of Japan (or possibly anywhere). Spirited Away in particular had it all, a good story, memorable music, incredible visuals, and likable characters that grew as the story progressed. I also saw Howl's Moving Castle and while I thought it was good it wasnt up to the same quality as Spirited Away or Mononoke (still maybe about the level of Kiki though).
Now I also admit that I saw the dubbed version of Ponyo featuring a cast
of star voices alongside Miley Cyrus's youger sister and 1/3 of the Jonas brothers. As the rule goes, Disney makes everything worse but I still rate this a 6/10 because quite frankly the voice acting was passable and was the least of this movie's problems. So take a deep breath and lets dive right in.
I really have a hard time believing that this was written by Miyazaki. To put it bluntly the story ranged from bad to nonexistent. Even if the story was different in the Japanese version it would have to be completely different do even be decent. I just finished watching and I still dont know what happened. There are far too many inconsistency but I will save those for character. Most Miyazaki films have a story in which the main character(s) face and overcome some sort of adversity and grow over the course of the story. In Ponyo the characters dont change a bit (save for Ponyo who changes physically at random). The only two things that can pass for adversity in this plot are a typhoon (which isnt that bad since its basically only Ponyo saying "hi") and a journey that Sasuke and Ponyo take to find his mother Lisa after the storm (which is not really that adventurous considering that its short and they travel with the villagers most of the way anyway). Also the message is hard to grasp, sometimes the movie tries to have an environmental message, sometimes it tries to have a message about trust, love, and not judging on appearances. Maybe it was trying to have lots of messages but failed miserably at all of them. Oh yeah and there is some Majora's Mask thing with the moon getting close but that only seems to be an issue whenever Liam Neeson's character shows up.
If it wasnt for the art being so good I would swear this wasnt a Miyazaki film. I havnt seen water animated so well in the traditional anime art style before. Also the colors work together well. Having said that the art style used isnt one I like all that much but thats a personal preference and all said I was able to stomach it fine.
Now this is for the English Dub so I cant speak for the Japanese version but the voice acting was fairly lacking considering the big names in this cast. Matt Damon has maybe 5 lines (most delivered by an Aldis lamp in a funny scene), Tina Fey (Lisa) is spunky and fun until about the part where Ponyo shows up in the storm as a girl and then she becomes really bland and one dimensional. And Kate Blanchet's lines were so badly written that it was hard for her to do anything with them. Still all of these voice actors did decent jobs. As for Ponyo, Ms. Cyrus (Miley's younger sister), well considering most all her character did was shout and moan she did a good job, it was nice of Disney to throw her a bone (or ham in this case). And one of the Jonas brothers voices Sasuke (does it really matter which one?) and as such Sasuke as 1/3 the personality of a normal human being. The only voice acting job in the English Dub that is good (Tina Fey was good for the first half) is Liam Neeson who voices the sometimes crazy sea wizard guy. He actually brings a sense of depth to his character, going from wacky to grim on a dime in a way that really works.
On a different note, why wasnt there a memorable song to Ponyo. All Miyazaki films have left me humming the theme after I saw them but Ponyo seemed to be lacking in any good music and instead had some kiddy playground song at the end (think puff the magic dragon only for younger audiences). Also some of the dialogue seems out of place for young audience, particularly an exchange with a mother in a boat where she explains to Ponyo that if she drinks the soup the mother can make milk for the baby...yeah thats odd for a kids movie.
Again the only characters I liked were Liam Neeson's crazy wizard and the spunky Lisa (Tina Fey) whose character was replaced by blandness halfway through the movie. I still cant believe how easily Lisa bought into the whole Ponyo used to be a fish but now is a girl thing. There is also a nice conflict with Lisa and the father in which Sasuke tries to take both sides but this goes away later on (along with the father who doesn't seem important enough to get an invitation to the party at the end of the movie). Ponyo herself is a decent yet one dimensional character. She almost always seems happy even when the scene doesn't call for it, and despite being adorable is also a bit creepy at times.
May I just start by saying that I am a big time Miyazaki fan. I loved Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (haven't as of yet seen his other ones). So, for someone who very much enjoys previous Miyazaki endeavors, Ponyo in a word is: disappointing. Yes, it's obviously for little kids (why Miyazaki couldn't make another family film that we could all enjoy is a bafflement to me), but even for children, it'd be boring.
So a little fish girl endowed with magical powers wants to become human to stay with a little boy she
meets named Sosuke - a tale loosely based on the original telling of The Little Mermaid (there's even a reference to turning into sea foam). Seems straightforward, yes? Well, for the most part it is...expect at the climax when plot most matters.
Like the original Little Mermaid, a major, life-altering decision must be made concerning Ponyo's future. Unfortunately, this decision and how it's reached is built-up, vaguely explored, and then reached with absolutely no pay off whatsoever. It's akin to asking someone if they would rather wear a red shirt or a blue shirt, they pick the red one, and balloons and rainbows! Everyone is saved! YAY! Miraculously and with no explanation as to how that red shirt helps avert major disaster.
The main issue with the story is that it's very disjointed and wants so much for everyone to be happy and riding on unicorns that no real conflict or danger ever actually enters into the equation, even though dangerous scenarios that could be developed are constantly flirted with (ex: men being lost at sea, the deaths of thousands, the loss of land, the reversion of a person into sea foam etc...). These issues are mentioned with a melodramatic "GASP!" and then either ignored or solved in lightening fast speed a la the reasoning of a five-year-old. In short, it's patronizing, insulting both the intelligence of adults and children.
Heck! Even Totoro had more depth and plot and didn't treat the possible loss of a child in such a "light-hearted" fashion. Totoro introduced actual calculated conflict or, at the least, intriguing events in a timely fashion so that the story progressed at a pace that kept things interesting. Ponyo lags on and on and on and thinks about introducing conflict and then skirts away from it to continue to drag on and on and on.
Eh, the art is mediocre. I know, I'm horrible for saying that, but the cutesy "let's draw so it looks like children did it" style is only entertaining for so long. Granted some of the sea creatures were done very well and were very interesting to look at, but personally, I couldn't shake the impression the entire film that the backgrounds and environments were flat. Instead of drawing them in a manner that suggests that they extend beyond the scene into a real, 3D atmosphere, they just felt like "here's a flat backdrop in front of a car lot, pretend it's real." Spirited Away's environments didn't feel this way, and were full of detail and life. Even the individual characters were bright and multi-dimensional. Ponyo just didn't achieve that. However, I will also concede that Ponyo as a fish was incredibly well-done and believable. Her fish-like face and eyes really made her character the most intriguing.
I can't really comment because aside from the obnoxiously catchy ending credits music, I don't recall any of the music. The English voice actors (I did see this in theaters) did great jobs according to the script.
Here's another huge issue with Ponyo. The characters were all poorly defined and again so geared toward butterflies and fuzzy kittens that they acted unrealistically and contradictorily. What mother leaves two five-year-old in a flood out of The Old Testament alone? What mother takes in this little girl from nowhere and doesn't try to find her parents? Why is the cranky and mean old woman suddenly nice at the end? Why does she urge Sosuke not to go with Ponyo's dad? Why is Ponyo's dad so people-hating, and then suddenly begging for humans not to think ill of him? Why is he okay with Ponyo's ultimate fate? What the heck is he even doing anyway? Why's he there? What purpose does he serve really? Other than to be an annoying and totally inefficient obstacle to Ponyo's happiness?
In conclusion, Ponyo might have been an entirely charming short had it only lasted about ten minutes. As it is, it has no business spanning hours and drags pitifully. It's like the creators had fifty different ideas and instead of narrowing them down to go in one direction or the other, they just decided to try to "incorporate" them all. Ponyo could have been great, it really could have, had they ironed out the plot and characters, treated the story in a non-intelligence insulting way, picked a direction, and stuck with it. Come on! Even classic fairytales aren't 100% fluff. I really hope that Miyazaki's next film isn't such a let-down.
'Gake no Ue no Ponyo' had been lying in my hard disk drive for over a year before I finally got to seeing it. I somehow knew I would not like this film, and have been putting it off until now. It could've been because this movie seemed so childish from clips I saw in variety shows, the obnoxious little girl singing its theme song, and the surprising amount of marketing campaign for an animated film. However, being somewhat of an anime fan, and an avid Japanese movie fan, this is a film that I had to watch. My hunches are wrong sometimes, but unfortunately,
this was not the case... it was even worse than my low expectations. If you think this movie is a masterpiece and don't want to read any negativity about it, you might as well stop reading now. I will be analyzing a few key scenes from this film that stood out for me, and it won't be pretty.
We have become accustomed to all these Ghibli feature length films with deep values in recent years, but once every while, they do release kiddie films like 'Ponyo', which seemed like an attempt to replicate the success of 'Tonari no Totoro'. The stories are similar in that they both tell the tale of a child's encounter with a mysterious kiddie bait (interesting enough, the word "ponyo" means "blobby" in Japanese), and the short adventure this child takes with the creature. Unlike 'Totoro', which has become an iconic masterpiece for Studio Ghibli (enough to be included in their logo), 'Ponyo' lacks the same level of magic because its story is a mess and there are too many useless themes. In addition, the subject character lacks the enigma because, well... it speaks.
The opening sequence was very enjoyable, conveying Ponyo's life in wander and beauty of the sea without a single word being spoken. However, I was a bit disappointed by the animation. Sure, it is detailed and fluid, but this is just the matter of budget per frame. It seemed very, very outdated with its coloring, like watching a classic Disney film rather than a 21st century Ghibli film. The "fish wave" scenes were spectacular, but otherwise, there is nothing in this film that we haven't seen before. While this retro hand-drawn cel style animation is certainly preferred by some and has its merits, I find it alarming that other animation studios have made a giant leaps in animation quality in the past few years while Ghibli, once industry benchmark in anime, have been largely unchanged... arguably even deteriorated in terms of quality since peaking out with 'Howl's Moving Castle'.
I have nothing but praise for musical score in this movie. All the pieces were fully orchestrated, and really sets the mood for every scene, whether it's a jolly comedy, exciting action, or mysterious fantasy moments. Sound mixing / volume adjustment was outstanding, such as the sudden spike in audio volume in a "chase" scene to show the impending danger, perfectly timed to what's happening on the screen. Every piece was obviously designed specifically for each scene, and the main theme music is very memorable, also used as the instrumental for the theme song sang by the little girl in the end. Unfortunately, there was a major miscast with the seiyuu in using old school dorama actress Yamaguchi Tomoko as the mother. Often typecast into tough female roles such as single businesswoman, she seems to be the perfect fit on paper as the strict mother of the protagonist. However, the character design simply seemed too "soft". Her voice acting experience being very limited, she ended up sounding overly unemotional in some scenes. She certainly is no Kimura Takuya when it comes voice acting.
The story development was forced in many occasions. There were quite a few face-palm scenes in this movie, like when Ponyo's father started talking to himself in an underwater scene just to explain the situation to the audience. It was hard to believe such reputable studio and director would resort to such poor storytelling technique. Another questionable scene was near the end, when the kid finds his washed away green bucket just as Ponyo was losing her power and returning to her fish state. It's a kiddie movie, but that is just way too convenient lazy writing.
The themes in this movie were also very confusing. As mentioned earlier, the concept is almost identical to that of 'Totoro'. But Ponyo herself is a ripoff of 'Little Mermaid' (and the forbidden love with human), and then they added Ryuuguu castle reference to fairy tale 'Urashima Taro', plus a tunnel reminiscent of the one in 'Spirited Away'. The water controlled by Ponyo's father also moved like the black goo from 'Mononoke Hime' (and the two subsequent Miyazaki Hayao films). Did they simply run out of ideas, or are they trying to capitalize on their past success?
There were three other scenes that I found very disturbing. First of which occurred while Ponyo was transforming in the water bubble, and her "sisters" come for help. It must have been a symbolism to a new birth, representing multiple sperms trying to penetrate the ovum. The second one occurred near end of the movie, when a mother of a newborn baby was explaining the process of breast milk production. The final one occurs shortly after when they enter the underwater castle, another sperm race to ovum entry scene. The whole movie was presented as a children's movie, and these three scenes had absolutely no place in this film. And worse yet, they verbally raise the stake: "It's up to you to save the world", from what? A shameless attempt to manufacture an epic adventure. Unlike other Ghibli films, this one did not have a real lesson learned or a concrete message. Fragmented and poorly structured plot without a central theme. The story is a complete mess despite simplicity, things just happened, and characters just behaved the way they did without apparent character development. Admittedly this is a children's movie, but it should not require intelligence level of a child to be enjoyable.
The ending was the most unsatisfying one among all Ghibli film I have seen thus far. Things happened in a rapid succession, leading to a sudden jump and kiss out of the blue. It couldn't have been any more rushed than it was. The transition to the theme song was abrupt, and poor credit roll was a complete waste of an addictive theme song. This is totally inexcusable execution of the ending for what has become a mediocre anime movie. With 'Howl's Moving Castle' being a personal flop, and 'Tales of Earthsea' being a widely accepted failure, this is strike three Ghibli for me. I don't want to sound like one of those film fans who cling in the past, but they simply don't make anime movies the way they used to.
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" is a 2008 feature produced by Studio Ghibli. Tells about the little marine creature who abandons her world to go back from the depths of the abyss and, riding a jellyfish, set out to discover the human world. When she meets Sousuke, a child who lives in a house overlooking the sea, a sincere and profound bond will arise, which will challenge the laws of nature and change their existence.
The simple and linear plot re-elaborates in a modern and original key "The Little Mermaid" with the personal touch of Miyazaki,
who returns to the intimate atmosphere of Totoro, enhancing the value of family, altruism and love for nature. Free from rhetorical heaviness or pedagogical intent, the film evokes a purity expressed both in the essentiality of the artistic realization, both in the description of the characters, who move gracefully and lightly in their enchanted environment.
The designs push towards a refined formal research, achieving excellent results in stylization, use of color and animations. Put aside the cold CGI artifices, Ponyo is the triumph of craftsmanship and dexterity. The director relies on the pencils of the Ghibli craftsmen and a lot of imagination to fly high, towards unusual peaks of poetry. The pictorial trait conveys an exciting warmth and vibration, justifying a boldly "conservative" stylistic choice. Strong of a small army of more than seventy designers for a hundred and seventy thousand tables used, the master of Tokyo does not hesitate to take the field in the front line personally making drawings of the sea, whose storm waves play a leading role giving off a hypnotic power and bewitching.
Beyond reflections and assumed ecologists implied, "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" is a magically childish film in which Miyazaki manages to merge his cultural identity with a classic of Western culture in an alchemy that makes it fresh, spontaneous and understandable to all ages and all latitudes.
Note: This review is based on a fansub and not the Disney dubbed version. Although I do want to check out the Disney dub, because Disney’s Ghibli adaptations are the rare movies where I think the voice dubs are really well done.
Ponyo is a simple love story at it’s heart. And I say "love" in its purest sense, because it’s not quite familial love, but it’s not quite romantic love as well. The relationship between the two kids is unique and full of life. If Sosuke is a bit disturbed by Ponyo’s fish roots, or her tendency to look like a chicken when she’s
drawing upon her magical powers, he doesn’t let on at all. Conversely, Ponyo’s love is pure dedication as she literally transforms from a fish into a human and travels across the oceans to get back to Sosuke. The love story is cute, sweet and free from all the typical angsty drama.
Unfortunately, there’s also a more supernatural and dramatic element to the story which is woefully underdeveloped. There’s no backstory to why Ponyo’s father cast aside his humanity to retreat to the seas. There’s also no backstory on what Ponyo’s mother is and what she does. But more egregiously, we’re told at the end that Sosuke’s true love for Ponyo saved the world from annihilation. Why or what that annihilation was is a complete mystery. I think it had to do with the moon getting too close to Earth, but I have no clue, and it’s a curious missing piece from the story.
It’s beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. Maybe not as steampunk detailed like Howl’s Moving Castle, or as bizarre and otherworldly as Spirited Away, but the attention to detail is amazing. You’ll notice an interesting detail, or a flourish of movement in every scene. It’s mind-boggling to me that all this was done without CGI. The character designs are interesting, but typical Miyazaki. But I did like Ponyo in goldfish form actually. She was just so adorably cute.
If the story was somewhat lacking, the animation and sound more than make up for it. The opening sequence reminded me of Fantasia, with the orchestral background and the myriad of sea creatures on screen. From there, it’s just orchestral bliss throughout. It feels like there’s never a moment where there’s not at least a woodwind or a violin playing quietly in the background. You definitely notice it every step of the way, but not because it’s distracting, but because of how good it sounds, and how it always seems to complement the mood so fittingly. I didn’t recognize any of the voice actors, but the VA work is solid, and I especially liked Ponyo’s seiyuu, especially when she’s saying "I want ham!"
Ponyo is a movie for kids, so there’s not a whole lot of character development. Ponyo is a headstrong, high-energy, heart on her sleeve goldfish. Sosuke is the naive but bright-eyed and good natured kid. Risa is the strong backbone of her family and community. While Ponyo’s parents balance out the eccentricity scale. They are what they are, and they don’t change too much during the movie. But the chemistry between all the characters feels so natural, that the characters don’t feel like cardboard cutouts, and instead everything feels natural – even when you’re literally a fish out of water.
It’s not really fair to compare Ponyo to Miyazaki's recent works like Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, because they’re intended for different audiences. Ponyo is a much more straightforward, "what you see is what you get" story. And like I mentioned, even some of the deeper stuff under the surface isn’t developed enough to bother thinking too deeply about. But if you level-set your expectations and you watch it for what it is – a kids story about love – I think it’d be hard to deny the feel-good, cuteness of the movie.
Too Long, Didn't Read Version: Really, really pretty. Buy the Blu-Ray and some controlled substances made illegal under state, federal,and international law when it hits stores. This kicks the Little Mermaid's ass, Sebastion de Stereotype be damned, mon.
When was the last time watching a movie left you feeling physically weak?
As the sing-a-long ending credits for Ponyo bubbled forth from the theatre speakers, I got up and started to ehad for the door...only to have my knees literally buckle underneath me. I felt light-headed, woozy, and couldn't maintain an erection for several days after. I'd suffered a diabetic coma by way of cuteness.
After manning the fuck
up for a few weeks by burning my pubes with a blowtorch, (that I used to light a cigar wrapped with 100 dollar bills rolled by Cuban slave children) getting in fights with Libertarians, and more or less going straight up barbarian and cleansing my mental palate with a bit of ultra-violence, I can finally write a proper review without any psychic pollution:
I LIKE HAAAAAAAAAAAM
Jesus titty-sucking Christ babe in a cradle, Ponyo was adorable. Mind-blowingly adorable. Everything in the movie dripped with color and glee: there was not a dark, edgy moment to be found. Even the fucking CARS looked like they were all kawaii-ko and shit--their headlights looked like little Disney eyes and the wiggled as they traveled up the roads. All of the dialog, acting, visuals, sounds, EVERYTHING in Ponyo seems almost scientifically engineered to psychologically castrate everyone who laid eyes upon it. This feat alone makes it worth watching.
Not only was Ponyo cute, but it was gorgeous. Fucking gorgeous. The first 10 minutes or so (or was it 5? Time seemed to crystalize and melt over, maaaan)are so beautiful and lovingly detailed that they could only be described as sumptuous. It's an almost mystical Yellow-Submarine storybook LSD fantasy wonderland trip through the ocean.
Imagine that Walt Disney had a hand in the funding for the movie and sent a time traveler to gather up the budgets of all of their major features and the revenues from all of their theme parks over the years, gave it to Chibli and said: "Here's a metric fuckton of money. Yeah, that much-I weighed it. Make this movie pretty." And the collectively, the animation department said, "Dude, get out the AWESOME ANIMATION button and some shovels for the money furnaces. We're gonna draw some water."
Water bubbles, wiggles, flows, crashes, and moves in ways I've never comprehended. The ocean water itself is literally alive. Fish and sea creatures are fucking EVERYWHERE. There's maybe an inch of screen that isn't populate by some kind of lavishly-rendered water-color sea animal of some kind.
"My god", I said to my friend, "Why didn't I drop acid before watching this?"
Now, I don't know or care about your feelings on the subject of drug use, it's legality, and anime viewing, but sweet god, if you do psychedelics,you might want to FUCKING DROP/EAT/SNORT/WHATEVER before you watch Ponyo. I *know* this movie would be on my top favorites and would have inspired me to become a marine biologist had I taken some LSD beforehand. Now, I'm not advocating it, but let's just say I'm not discouraging it.
Okay, so, back to the visuals. The gooey water sprites, and the gooey elixirs, and the gooey water energy...
Studio Chibli loves goo and liquid. Think back: Spirited away: mud/goo. Naussica: poison. Princess Mononoke: gooey forest-spirit poo. Even Laputa had goo, and I wouldn't be surprised if Castle of Cagliastro had goo somewhere. Liquids are really hard to render properly, let alone beautifully, and really good liquid/goo is the ultimate "Check out how well-funded our animation department" boast an animator can probably make besides a good fight scene and human movement in general.
But Pony has the fluctuating water-goo hybrid thing and it's just... Oh, god, let's just say the Blu-Ray version's going to be a first-day purchase for me.
So, now that the animation-nerds are already locked into see it, let's talk about the rest of it: the voice acting and the story.
I balked at the names "Jonas" and "Cyrus" int he previews for Ponyo. I was like "Seriously, Disney? Haven't you whored their families out enough?" But the little kids did a serviceable job in their roles, and dare I say it...little Cyrus was...so moe. That bitch REALLY loves ham.
Now, I just about popped a boner when I saw Tina Fey's name in the credits. Yes, Liz Lemon plays the male lead's bitchy yet lovable mom. She doesn't sound that enthusiastic at first, but her voice is perfectly exasperated, and so...cute herself. Oh, why won't you answer my phone calls, Tina?
Oh, and Qui-Gon Jinn is this Magical Naval Wizard thing.. Whatever. His voice is cool.
Now, the story...was decent. At first it seems like a typical Miyazaki "Fuck humans, they need to learn to love the earth" thing, and I was expecting the male lead to fight a giant trash beast after his little quest. i would have been cool with that...but that doesn't happen. It takes a sappy turn, but it's so saccharine you just throw up your hands and say, "Well isn't that just adawwwwable?"
And it was.
Now, were did I put my spiritual resonance fluctuating in cool moonbreeze from space heaven archaic acid mothers temple of gods pink twilight mothrain thunderstar?
Hayao Miyazaki's work is and always will be outstanding. Although some may complain because Ponyo wasn't up to par with some of his more serious work, we do have to keep in mind that Ponyo is geared to small children. With this knowledge on hand, it's a heart warming movie that is meant to showcase the innocence and purity of a child's heart. At least that's what I gathered from it. I've seen the Japanese version and not the Disney dub. These are my own opinions after all, sorry if they disagree with anyone's. Enjoy!
The story itself is kind of like a loose interpretation of
the little mermaid, sans evil octopus witch. There is no clear "villain" to the story, as with many of Miyazaki's other works. The closest thing I'd have to say is Ponyo's father, a sorcerer who believes humans are vile creatures who destroy the ocean. It's really a lighthearted story about a fish and a boy who share a really pure and innocent love for each other. These days everything is tainted and complicated and blah blah, so it was a nice break to see Ponyo, which really showcases how beautiful a child's heart and emotions can be. The movie wasn't really in-depth and complex, but I think that's part of it's charm. Not everything has to be super complex, full of plot-twists and deep, revealing moments for it to be a good and enjoyable story. Ponyo tells it's story in a simplistic manner, calling for an emotional response rather than a rational one. If you're expecting Matrix level depth, look elsewhere...
As always, Miyazaki's works are visually dazzling. From the very first scene to the last, you'll be amazed at all of that hand-drawn magic. From the calm scene of thousands of detailed sea creatures to the action-packed, awe-inspiring waves of giant fish clashing against the roads and mountains, you wont be able to believe how beautiful the world that was created in Ponyo truly is. The characters are lovable and endearing in the way they were drawn, especially fish-form Ponyo and her little sisters (you'll certainly be screaming "KAWAII!" more than a few times). As always, Miyazaki's work is an animation masterpiece.
Unfortunately, I don't pay attention to sound as often as I should! Ponyo's sound went along fine with each of the scenes as a complement rather than a distraction. The end song was pretty cute also!
Ponyo and Sousuke as the main characters certainly achieved a heartwarming sensation on me and the rest of the viewers. They're lovable characters you instantly take a liking to and as far as Ponyo goes, you cheer for her all the way. Even Fujimoto is a likable character, and as stated before, he's as close to a villain as you'll get in this movie. You are introduced to a few other characters, each with their own amount of appeal. I don't believe that the movie achieved any super in-depth look into the characters but I also think that because of the audience it was aimed to and the story itself, it was best this way.
Simply fantastic. It's a fun movie that everyone in the family can watch and enjoy. It's not something that will cause you to have an epiphany or that will reveal some sort of universal truth, but it'll definitely show you something about what we all once had and unfortunately lost along the way.... and kids will certainly love it!
This movie was not exactly my favorite to watch, especially considering it was directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Ponyo had his artistic style, but my reaction was not at all similar to that of other works of his. I expected a story that had me thinking about anything ranging from questioning humanity or questioning what it means to love another. Ponyo's themes were more family-oriented, but it did not capture the same emotions and mindsets that previous Hayao Miyazaki films had.
Nonetheless, it's a good family film; but if you're a Hayao Miyazaki fan, it's not my favorite pick.
Very adorable movie. This is possibly one of the cutest animes I have seen in a while.
Story - The story definetly wasn't what made this a good movie. While it was a good story, I felt that it went by too slow. That and the fact the subs that were released obviously weren't made by someone fluent with the english language. I guess it's kind of soon to be jumping into rating the story as the real english version might make it a little more tolerable.
Other than that, this is definitely a children's movie, thus the story wasn't too deep. Think Totoro with a tad
bit more plot.
Art - I was absolutely amazed by the art. As usual for a Miyazaki film, the art made the movie really enjoyable, despite the lack of a real story. I got the feel of an older disney movie while watching it and that made it really enjoyable for me. This movie could be completely enjoyable without any dialougue, as most of the story unfolds in the visual aspects.
Sound - The music, like the animation, reminded me of an older disney movie (For example, The Fox and The Hound or Pinocchio). It mde the movie easy to watch and added to the enjoyment factor. I also absolutely adore the main theme. It's catchy and will probably be in my head for weeks to come.
Character - The main characters of this movie were absolutely ADORABLE. Throughout the whole movie the words "I want one!" went through my mind. I felt the characters were for the most part pretty well developed.
Enjoyment - The overall cuteness of this movie made me squee with joy. Within the very first 5 minutes, I had a huge smile on my face and felt overall warmth enveloping me. It was a very easy movie to enjoy.
Ponyo is a Studio Ghibli film from 2008. Like Nausicaa, it was written and directed by Miyazaki Hayao. Although, in this case, it's loosely based on the legend of the little mermaid rather than an entirely original work. Let's see how that turned out.
Our story opens underwater where undersea David Bowie is moving around in his magical submarine spawning jellyfish. Yes, I know that isn't his actual name, but he looks kind of like David Bowie, so that's what I'm going to call him. Anyway, one of his young fish daughters escapes the submarine and makes her way to the surface where she's found
by a young boy named Sousuke. He decides to keep her in a bucket as a pet, but undersea David Bowie is not pleased and decides to rescue his daughter. But she decides that she'd rather live on the surface as a human with Sousuke, whom she knew for maybe an hour... and the story progresses from there. This one does have some pretty glaring weaknesses. The biggest one being the characters' ages. This story really doesn't work when the main characters are five. It just makes the romance seem stupid and contrived. It also makes the climax seem really idiotic and the adults come across as really irresponsible. That being said, the film does have some really epic moments in it and a lot of it is a lot of fun.
Then we have the characters, I've already hit on this a bit, but the major characters in this one are pretty weak. With Ponyo and Sousuke a lot of it is just that they don't have a developed relationship and a lot of their actions seem to be entirely because the plot says so. Lisa is pretty badass though, and one of the most developed characters in the film. One character who is done really well is undersea David Bowie. I like that he's a sympathetic antagonist with actual developed motivations. One thing that sets him apart from other Ghibli antagonists is that he's a well-intentioned and jaded environmentalist rather than someone carelessly or shortsightedly causing harm to the environment. I also really like the elderly female characters in this. They're just a lot of fun.
The art is stellar. As expected of Studio Ghibli. The environments are rich and vibrant. The character designs are well done and the action sequences are really cool.
The vocal cast in this is strong. Even the child actors like Nara Yuria ad Doi Hiroki deliver great performances. But the best are definitely Yamaguchi Tomoko and Tokoro Jouji. The music is really beautiful and really helps the atmosphere.
The ho-yay factor is a 1/10. This film doesn't have any.
That's Ponyo. How does it fare? Well, it's certainly not as strong as Nausicaa. It's biggest weakness is that it made the two main characters far too young. They really should have been teenagers, minimally. They also don't spend much time developing them. That being said, the film does look and sound lovely. The adult characters are pretty well handled and interesting and it does have some great moments. My final rating is going to be a 6/10. It's a decent little film, but it certainly has its issues. Next week, the Cat Returns.
The spectacle that is Ponyo is every bit as magnificent as any of Miyazaki`s works, or perhaps any animated work ever. There are memorable sequences abound, and in typical Miyazaki style, they may be notable as wildly imaginative or as heartwarmingly human. Anything in the underwater world would fall into the former category, while the affection between the two main characters is so lifelike that it may cause you to up and grab the nearest person and give him/her a nice squeeze. Ponyo is just about the sweetest thing that exists, and it`s not only because of the cute quasi-romance between the two 5 year-olds.
From the borderline senile old ladies, to the tiny spat between Sosuke`s parents, to the way Ponyo`s father, the antagonist, swoons in the presence of her mother, it`s a sugar fest from top to bottom.
The extremity of the cuteness will make this film difficult for some. As someone who enjoys a nice family friendly movie, I still found it cloying at times. The other problem with Ponyo is that it is essentially an adventure like Spirited Away or Howl`s Moving Castle, but it`s filled with all the inanity of My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki`s Delivery Service. In Kiki`s Delivery Service, there isn`t a central conflict established in the beginning and resolved at the end, but in its exploration of Kiki`s problems, it feels like an insightful look at a slice of her life. In Spirited Away, you have a gratifying and epic adventure with a clear and powerful climax. Ponyo is set up like an adventure, with making Ponyo human as the primary goal, but in the journey the plot meanders to much smaller conflicts while potentially plot enriching points such as the discovery of the wizard`s plan to destroy humanity or the final test that must be passed to make Ponyo human are resolved in painfully anticlimactic fashion.
I watched the English version, localized by Disney, so I cannot comment on the original regarding music or voices since Disney is notorious for filling in the silence. The music is orchestral and epic at times, and whimsical and skippy at others, but it can get intrusive. While the epic scenes are beautifully accompanied by the soundtrack, many of the cuter, smaller scenes don`t require the bouncy and somewhat loud music to make it more saccharin that it already is. Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, and Cate Blanchette all do a notably good job with their characters. Noah Cyrus`s Ponyo captures her essence well enough, but there is something a little off about Sosuke. The little Jonas runt that voices him makes Sousuke sound like he`s in a rehearsal for a bad elementary school play.
Ponyo`s eccentric, borderline crazy "villain" of a father is just one aspect of many that makes this film memorable. I think from this day forward, anyone who references "Respect your father!" will get a chuckle from me. It`s just hard to forget a movie as sweet as this is, for better or worse. The beautiful visuals are the perfect medium for expressing Miyazaki`s sentimentality as well as his whimsy, but the directionless plot will leave most at least slightly unsatisfied when walking out of the theater.
Ah, Ponyo. I remember watching the very early commercials for this movie. I absolutely couldn't wait for it to come out on DVD. I stopped by Walmart every day until I finally got my hands on yet another one of Hayao Miyazaki's films. My reaction after sitting through almost two hours of the film is a bit difficult to explain.
I do believe that any anime's quality is based really on characters. You can have a freakin' awful storyline, but the cast of characters can be so funny, original and entertaining that it doesn't even matter. I can't quite say that Ponyo's characters reached that
level of ingenuity.
With that, we have our infamous Ponyo. One moment she's a goldfish, the next she's a human, with wild red hair, and yet, in the next moment, she's something strangely in-between the two, which comes off looking somewhat like a frog and a duck at the same time, if thats something you can picture. She's very cute when she's fully human; don't get me wrong. But like all cute little girls, she does have this air about her thats like, "Wow. You're a brat," which is especially prominent in the way she addresses her father, and the way she's constantly bossing around the poor boy who so gracefully rescued her. Perhaps thats just Noah Cyrus' poor dubbing of Ponyo, though, she does have some cute lines, including her yelling at the top of her lungs, "IT'S HAM!!"
Sousuke is a different character all together. He's actually someone I could stand being around, because of his adorable little hair cut, his caring spirit for Ponyo, and the way he just is that makes me wanna scream, "YOU'RE JUST SO CUTE, YA KNOW?!" But that aside, Miyazaki did well in creating a loving, caring character thats very believable as a little boy, though, I did forget at times that he was a kindergardener, 5 years old to be exact, because of his voice and just manner of maturity... which is not really a bad thing, I guess. We all wish 5 year old would act older than they really are, right?
Other characters include Ponyo's father, whose name escapes me, but if you've seen the movie, or seen pictures of the movie, he's the guy that you look at and just think "What... is... that...?" His only definition: Weird. Just plain weird. He does have some pretty interesting lines, however, one of which left me rolling around on the floor laughing. At least there is comedy in the movie, if nothing else!
But, like all Miyazaki films, the Art is not something that can be overlooked. It was absolutely flawless. The underwater scenes were so beautiful, I watched the whole movie again just for the art. Miyazaki's animation NEVER disappoints, even if his characters and story-line do.
So, my opinion on the movie? "Eeeehhh, it was alright. I wouldn't buy it. It was nice to see once or twice." But in all honestly, the film was just a little bit... boring. It didn't have Princess Mononoke's intensity, or Whisper of the Heart's romance, or Spirited Away's adventure, or Castle in the Sky's comedy. However, it did have a nice little contribution of beautiful art and a cute story. But thats really all it was. It was "cute". It was "okay". It was "eeh". It was "nice". It was, "Huh.... Well, that was weird."
I usually don't care for stories that have pre-school protagonists, but Hayao Miyazaki easily made me forget that as he wove his magic once again in "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea". This is a beautifully simple story that wonderfully demonstrates all of Miyazaki's strengths as a director and writer. It also demonstrates some of Miyazaki's weaknesses as a director and writer, but those only add to the overwhelming charm of the movie.
What we have here is a thoroughly modern movie that at the same time captures all the timelessness of great story telling. Ponyo is a dauntless heroine and Sousuke is her perfect
knight. Never-the-less, the screen is stolen every time Ponyo's father Fujimoto or Sousuke's mother Risa are on the screen.
But the real "heros" of the movie are the animation and the way that Miyazaki's imagination is let loose. The scenes of the "living sea" during Ponyo's storm are absolutely breathtaking, as are the scenes after the storm, which are reminiscent of the post-storm scenes in "Spirited Away".
But at the same time, Miyazaki's penchant for bringing in visually disconnected concepts also shows up in the post-storm scenes. The idea of having prehistoric fish and sea creatures appear is initially entertaining, but after a while their constant presence blunts their original surprise effect.
As with many Miyazaki films, "Ponyo" has periods of almost no dialog, particularly at the beginning. Never-the-less, the dialog that does show up is often quite entertaining, such as Ponyo's line when she asks Sousuke if his father is a "bad sorcerer" (implying of course that is what Ponyo thinks of her father).
All-in-all, the film is full of wonderful surprises about the characters, the situations, and the world where they live. This is a great film and definitely deserves to be on the collection shelf of all Miyazaki fans. I won't wait for the R1 to come out; I've already ordered the R2 release. When you eventually get a chance to watch "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea", don't miss the opportunity either.
It has been widely agreed that Hayao Miyazaki is a master at his craft when it comes to combining rich animation with thoughtful storylines and similarly imaginative characters. His movies, from Nausicaa, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky, and Princess Mononoke to the recent Howl's Moving Castle are all not only gorgeously rendered in terms of art, but in terms of moviemaking as well. Can this man do no wrong? Not really, but it is impossible to expect everyone of his movies to always be five star marvels. His newest film, Ponyo, an unashamedly family-friendly tale of
a "goldfish out of water", is as lushly animated and alive with interesting characters as you would expect... and yet this is the first film of his which treads into "lesser" territory. Don't get me wrong, Ponyo is not a bad movie by any means. As mentioned, it is a sight for the eyes and is as charming and adorable as Totoro and Kiki. The problem is that the story doesn't stay afloat to satisfy anyone eager for another engrossing, in-depth plot.
It starts out on a moonlit night underwater, in which we see one Fujimoto, a mysterious (and somewhat neurotic) magician on the prow of his submarine, metamorphosizing plankton into live-size jellyfish. During this, a cute little goldfish (with the head of a human) swims out of his craft and takes a forbidden voyage to the "human world". Before you know it, she finds herself in the arms of Sosuke, a little boy (who bears a strange resemblance to Kanta from Totoro but is more like Pazu from Castle; interestingly, the director created him after his own son) who finds himself quite taken with her. What begins is a variation of the "boy gets goldfish-struggles to hide goldfish-loses goldfish" scenario. This is the best part of the entire movie, in which it showcases Miyazaki's fascination with childlike discovery and the struggles of keeping a new friend a secret. It should be interesting to note that he never butts heads with his mother about this.
At this point I am going to take a break and talk about who is my favorite character in the movie--Lisa, the mother of Sosuke. She's caring, kind, and very supportive of her son, but also has a bit of an aggravated temper, particularly when she gets annoyed with her seafaring husband, Koichi, for continually staying out at sea instead of keeping his promise to return home. In one memorable and hilarious scene, where Sosuke is sending a flash signal from the front porch of his house, an incensed Lisa makes no secret showing her disdain for her husband staying away from his family (Sosuke, naturally, softens the whole thing by sending a friendlier message after seeing a light show from his father's ship). She is also a VERY reckless driver, as witnessed in the scenes where she narrowly zooms her car across a dock where a ship is about to pull in. It helps, too, that I happen to have a parent named Lisa, who is pretty much the same person (save for the driving part).
Anyway, Fujimoto takes the goldfish (whom Sosuke has named Ponyo) back to his underwater farm and tries to talk her into staying away from humans. Ponyo, however, who has taken a liking to Sosuke's hand sandwich (and tasted his human blood from a cut on his finger) insists on becoming human. So, of course, she breaks into her father's secret chamber and drinks his magic elixir. Before you know it, Ponyo becomes a hyperactive four-year old with short crimson hair (the spitting image of Mei from Totoro) with magic powers; she rides on an oversized tsunami of fish across the ocean in search of Sosuke, sending a hurricane all over the entire town. (This sequence, in which gargantuan ocean waves threaten to swallow Sosuke and Lisa's car as they blaze toward their home on a cliff, is the most exciting in the entire movie.) The storm ends when Ponyo finally finds Sosuke and is subsequently taken in by Lisa.
It is after this moment, unfortunately, when Ponyo starts to run out of momentum. Although the scenes where Ponyo and Sosuke share a dinner of ham and noodles are cute and funny, many of the subsequent sequences slide into somewhat sluggish territory. The focal point of the plot is when environmentalist Fujimoto and his wife, a diaphanous sea-goddess named Gran Mamare (with the ability to shift from a titanic giant into a human sized woman) decide to test both Ponyo and Sosuke to see if the youngsters' love can save the entire planet, which, at this point, is in danger of becoming totally enveloped by water (the moon having grown to enormous size and satellites drifting into the ocean). Using a toy boat (oversized by Ponyo's magic), the two youngsters set out across their world, now transformed into an underwater aquarium, complete with gargantuan fish in search of Sosuke's mother. These scenes are still a lot of fun, especially when they are stopped by a fleet of friendly passengers, including a mother with her sickly baby.
Naturally, one would expect a finale of tension and real trauma to cap off such a story, and that is where Ponyo finally takes on water; the actual ending is both anti-climactic and undermines the joy and imagination that came before. It really is a shame, too, because for the opening hour and fifteen or so minutes, Ponyo is the embodiment of a child's watery fantasy captured on film. In fact, the entire aura of Ponyo feels like a fairy tale for children, and the movie plays out as such, and it is disappointing to discover that it doesn't finish as strongly as it starts.
On a technical level, Ponyo cannot be faulted. The animation is absolutely gorgeous to look at, produced entirely without a single shot of computer-generated-imagery, and naturally Joe Hisaishi provides us with yet another breathtaking musical score; the best moments being the rousing sequences underwater, accompanied by a chorus and a soprano voice. And the backgrounds are lovingly painted and detailed as any other Ghibli movies.
Having proved themselves worthy on translating and dubbing Ghibli's previous movies into English with top-quality results, Disney Studios and Pixar once again provide an English translation (courtesy of E.T.'s Melissa Mathison) and a mostly capable cast of actors. Compared to most of their other dubs, though, I do have some issues, although in all fairness, not enough to discourage anyone from giving it a view. Frankie Jonas (youngest member of the Jonas Brothers) is surprisingly good as Sosuke, sounding very natural and believable throughout. Noah Cyrus (younger sister of Miley Cyrus of Hannah Montana) as Ponyo, on the other hand, sometimes goes overboard in shouting her lines before eventually settling down toward the end. Leads aside, the rest of the cast includes Liam Neeson as the overprotective Fujimoto (who manages himself unsurprisingly well in the character), Cate Blanchett as Gran Mamare (in a reverberated voice and omnipresent tone which is not much different from her Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings), Matt Damon as Sosuke's father Koichi (who is good but nothing to write home about), and Tina Fey as Lisa. Of them, Fey is the best voice in the entire cast, imbuing the character with just the right amount of spirit and personality. Her scenes with Sosuke show real chemistry. On the other hand, Cloris Leachman, who was spectacular as Dola in Castle in the Sky, is disappointingly wasted as one of three handicapped elderly women (she barely has any lines!), who are also voiced by Betty White and Lily Tomlin. Of them, only Tomlin's character, a cantankerous woman named Toki, shows any real personality, but if I were casting the movie, I'd switch Tomlin with Leachman. The script adaptation flows well for the most part, although the inclusion of Japanese honorifics, like "sensei" and "san" feel somewhat out of place for a dub that's supposed to be targeted toward a wider audience. Probably the only really jarring drawback of the dub is a blasty techno-remix of the film's catchy (but ridiculously repetitive) title song, which thankfully doesn't occur until midway through the closing credits. Considering that the rest of the movie features a lovely score and a soprano-belted opera number at the beginning, it's a very curious, unfortunate marketing ploy. Compared to Disney's other dubs for Ghibli, this one is less seamless, but it still does its job well for the most part.
On the whole, Ponyo is a good film; a fine piece of animated work which is perfect for youngsters and family audiences. Due to the loss of momentum toward the end, though, it falls far short of classic status. Since Miyazaki at his least is still better than a majority of other animated films, though, I'll be generous and give Ponyo a full star recommendation, because any feature of his is still very much worth watching, particularly on the big screen. (Be sure to catch it in the theaters while you can.)
This is a very entertaining movie, I was pretty much smiling the whole time watching it. All the characters are very likeable from the five year old boy Sosuke and his mum Lisa, and even the minor characters like the residents of the rest home. The movie is well paced with a strong eco friendly theme throughout shown through many amazing shots of underwater scenes, and them being destroyed by man. The importance of love and being together is also emphasised in the movie, shown really well with Ponyo, Sosuke and their families.
Ponyo is just like infancy. Cute, genuine, fantastic, carefree, heartwarming, when everything is blossoming with colors, is cheerful, when everyone is friendly and well-spirited, even if their actions seem initially a little shady. Nothing bad ever happens, everything ends well, there's absolutely nothing to worry about at any moment.
A movie without conflict might seem, initially, pretty shallow, but if anything Ponyo ends up being more of a slice of life type of thing than a movie as we know of it. So much so the attention to details is painstaking - the characters' movements are genuine, realistic and offer extreme continuity. If Ponyo is holding
a bucket, in order to grab something on her backpack, it will be shown Ponyo dropping the bucket, picking her object and then grabbing the bucket back. This attention to minuteness makes Ponyo more interesting.
Completely devoid of any pretension, all this movie wants to do is be heartwarming and visually outstanding. And it succeeds.
Imo it fits perfectly on a melancholic day (to cheer up) or for a vividly bright day (to maximize the potential for happiness).
Miyazaki has been a favorite of mine for many years. If there is one artist I can say has never let me down, it is Miyazaki (well, him and Tolkien, so you see how highly I regard his work). Every one of his movies are amazing, from his epic masterpieces Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, to his more down to earth family affairs such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. So how does Ponyo stack up against the other films in Miyazaki's arsenal?
Well, not as well as I was hoping, though far from bad.
Ponyo is something different
from Miyazaki, a kind of movie he hasn't really done since Kiki's Delivery Service. This is a movie aimed at children and children alone. It’s a big change from Howls Moving Castle which, though enjoyable for kids, was aimed as much towards young adults as it was towards children. Ponyo is Miyazaki's take on the story in The Little Mermaid. A young goldfish, Ponyo, meets a boy named Soscay and decides against her father’s wishes that she wants to be human. What follows is a dazzling display of color and artistry that puts to shame most children’s movies made in America today. Let’s face it, American animation is mostly garbage with no style, no vision, and no heart. If Ponyo is anything, it’s a visually stunning work of art from a studio and director who don't mess around. Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki have been turning out amazing looking films for decades and Ponyo is simply the tip of the spear. Its visuals and creativity are outstanding in every way imaginable. It just leaves you lost in the moment in a way no other children's movies, with the exception of the better Pixar movies, can.
More than anything else, though, Ponyo is a cute film. Ponyo's character design is just perfect to portray a little girl of her age, and with her level of naivety considering she IS a fish who just recently learned to be human. Soscay's interactions with his mother during the first half of the film (and her interactions with her husband) are so real and heartwarming I couldn't help the giant smile that crept onto my face. This is a heartwarming film.
However there is a downside to this film. Miyazaki has always been one for incredible plots that, to the outside viewer, seem to make little sense. Trying to explain the plot of Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away to someone who's never seen those movies is next to impossible. But even those films had their right foot firmly planted in reality despite their fantasy settings. The people in those movies seemed like real people, and their problems like real problems. The plots, though fantastical, made perfect sense within the worlds they've created. Although it may seem like a trivial thing to point out in a children’s movie, Ponyo to be blunt is just nonsensical. For instance Soscay's mother, Leslie show's an alarming lack of concern for her five year old son who she leaves at home during a flood so bad it leaves her entire home town under water. Not only does she leave him there, but not once did she seem to worry about his safety. Miyazaki is famous for his incredible portrayal of realistic strong, independent women in his movies, so it’s a real shame that Leslie didn't a) have a bigger role in the film, or b) act all that realistic once the second act began. She's an extremely likeable and well-crafted character at the beginning of the film, but somewhere along the way it seems the writers forgot about her and just used whatever excuse they could to get Soscay and Ponyo alone together. Again, this may sound trivial considering it IS a children's movie, but again I would like to point out this isn't just ANY children's movie, it’s a MIYAZAKI children's movie, and that normally means it’s a family movie that everyone can enjoy. It also seems to me that the characters of Soscay and Ponyo could have been used better had they been a bit older. The plot centers around Soscay needing to love Ponyo in order to bring balance to the world (or something), but creating a love story like this around two five year olds just seems odd. Creating a love story between two young adults, ala Castle in the Sky, would have been more credible and would have made the stakes more real.
I just don't see many adults enjoying this film, or at least not enjoying it in the way they might enjoy Spirited Away or Castle in the Sky with their children. Don't let my negative tone fool you into thinking I didn't like Ponyo, by its own merits it’s a good movie and certainly better than the trash most children's films are these days. Hence the positive rating. But I come to expect a bit more than just good from Miyazaki, which may not be fair I know, but when a director has such a consistent record of excellence, when I get merely good it’s a bit of a letdown.
So if you’re going to see Ponyo, and you’re over the age of say sixteen, watch it with a kid. Any kid. I guarantee they will love it, and you'll get a kick out of watching them love it.