A goldfish sneaks away from home and floats off on the back of a jellyfish. After getting stuck in a glass jar, she drifts to the shore where she is freed by Sousuke, a five-year-old boy who lives with his mother Lisa in a house by the sea while his father Koichi works on a fishing boat. After healing a cut on Sousuke's finger by licking it, the goldfish is named Ponyo by her new friend.
Unknown to Sousuke, Ponyo already has a name and a family. Her father Fujimoto, a sorcerer who forsook his humanity to live underwater, searches frantically for his daughter Brunhilde. When found and captured, Ponyo rejects her birth name and declares that she wants to become a human. Using the power received from Sousuke's blood, she grows arms and legs and escapes to the surface once more. But the magic released into the ocean causes an imbalance in nature, causing the Moon to start falling out of orbit and the tides to grow dangerously stronger. Reunited with Ponyo, Sousuke must pass an ancient test to restore order in the world and let his companion live on as a human.
Gake no Ue no Ponyo—Miyazaki's 8th animated film with Studio Ghibli—grossed more than $201 million USD worldwide. It is made up of over 170,000 individual frames.
In 2009, the film won in five categories at the 8th Annual Tokyo Anime awards. It was also awarded with the 32nd Japan Academy Prize for both Animation of the Year and Outstanding Musical Achievement.
Many aspects of Ponyo drew from portions of day-to-day life. The seaside village, for example, is based on Tomonoura, Japan, with some sections inspired by Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre. The main character, Sosuke, is also named after the hero of The Gate by Natsume Soseki.
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.
Hayao Miyazaki, one of the most famous directors in the world, has produced many extraordinary works such as Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. Take a look at our countdown of Studio Ghibli films directed by Hayao Miyazaki based on MAL user ratings!