a.k.a. Gake no Ue no Ponyo
In a small coastal village, a five year-old boy named Sosuke lives with his mother in a house high on the rocks overlooking the sea. One day, he comes upon a small goldfish trapped in a jar and rescues it. Only this is not a normal goldfish; it has a girl’s face and seems to understand him. He names her Ponyo and promises to take care of her. The two become fast friends. The only problem is that Ponyo’s father is an undersea sorcerer who has nothing but contempt for humans and wants to bring his daughter home as quickly as possible.
summary by Illjwamh
Highs: Unspeakably gorgeous animation; very likable protagonist
Lows: Simplistic; many things left unexplained
Studio Ghibli knows how to make great movies, and nobody can get them to do that better than Miyazaki Hayao. It comes as no surprise then that his latest project with them is one of the most visually impressive animated films I’ve ever seen.
I’m going to come right out and say it: the animation in Ponyo is simply spectacular. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, and when I call it awesome to my friends I’m not using the mundane colloquial definition of “pretty neat”, but rather the traditional one of “I am overwhelmed by a wondrous sense of awe upon witnessing it”. The detail put into every frame is extraordinary, even for Miyazaki, and the fluidity with which everything moves is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The water itself seems alive, even when it isn’t supposed to be. What Disney’s Tangled did for animating hair, this film has done for water, only to a far greater degree.
How was the movie itself, you ask? Eh, it was all right. Unlike Miyazaki’s other films, even My Neighbor Totoro with its “all ages” appeal, this movie is clearly geared towards children. What does this mean for older viewers? Not that we can’t enjoy it, certainly, but that things are going to be a lot more simplistic in terms of plot and motivations. There’s a lot of phlebotinum floating around in here, from the mysterious “elixir” that does…whatever it does, to the “old magic” that isn’t even very clearly defined when we see it used. Just accept these things for what they are and move on, or you’re going to make things very hard on yourself.
The main character, five year-old Sosuke, is supposedly based on Miyazaki’s son Goro at that age, and was intended by the filmmaker as a reconciliation of sorts to his estranged son. All I can say is Goro better have called his dad the next day, because I have rarely if ever seen a more likable protagonist, child or otherwise.
There’s not a lot of real conflict in this movie, and the fantastical things that do happen are accepted a little too readily by just about all of the population, but again that can be attributed to the target demographic. At its heart, it is simply the story of a young boy and his new friend, being together and maybe having a bit of an adventure. Long-time Ghibli fans might find themselves longing for something a little more complex. So yeah, the story’s a little dull in places and not a lot really happens, but in the end that’s okay because I just can’t stop looking at it.
Ponyo can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.