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A Hayao Miyazaki Film

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Colorful, magical, and completely nonsensical.

  • Mar 3, 2013
Rating:
+4
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.

Replay value; moderate.

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March 31, 2013
Have you seen Secret World of Arrietty yet? I'd like to read your opinion of it...
April 01, 2013
No, I haven't seen it yet. I'm currently catching up after a couple years of not watching much anime, SWoA is high on my list but there are a couple others I want to get to (The Girl Who Leaped Through Time, and Perfect Blue) before I tackle that one.
 
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More Ponyo reviews
review by . August 17, 2009
Ponyo is the latest creation by the master animation director Hayao Miyazaki, and it is completely hand drawn, and in the world of CG dominating the world of animation, this is a welcome and refreshing change of pace.      Ponyo is a magical gold fish, her father is a humanoid living under the sea named Fujimoto, and her mother is a goddess of the ocean, and one day, she was caught in a glass jar while escaping a fishing net, and was rescued by a little boy named Sosuke.  …
review by . September 20, 2009
posted in ASIANatomy
U.S. poster
     Among my favorite anime films are Hayao Miyazaki‘s “Princess Mononoke” and “Spirited Away” (won Best Animated film); those two films are truly masterworks of animation accompanied by a very intricate storyline. “Howl’s Moving Castle” was good but I thought it was a bit of a mixed bag. Miyazaki’s eighth film for Japanese animation company “Studio Ghibli”, “PONYO On The Cliff” (full title: Gake No Ue …
review by . August 17, 2009
Sosuke and Ponyo take a look underwater
Miyazaki's films are refreshing for their even pacing and tempered characters. A far cry from the neurosis of Disney characters where everyone is shouting and riding on high octane. Ponyo is almost completely silent in its first 10 or 15 minutes, and even when the dialoug begins it has more of a sobering effect. If you pair that with the gorgeous hand drawn characters and hand painted backgrounds you suddenly remember what animation felt like twenty-plus years ago.      The story …
review by . August 10, 2010
posted in ASIANatomy
Ponyo (which is also known as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) is a film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. For this film, Miyazaki chose to make a completely 2D film, and not utilize any 3D computer effects. This approach gives Ponyo a very distinct feel when compared to some of the more recent films that have been produced by Studio Ghibli. However, I believe that the simplicity of the animation really works well with the story being told in the film. Ponyo is a very family-friendly film, and …
review by . August 18, 2009
From Hayao Miyazaki, the master of Japanese animation, comes a story similar to The Little Mermaid, where a small and ever-so-cute fish-like female becomes infatuated with a land dwelling male, and moves heaven and earth, and a lot of ocean to try to make her dream come true.       Short attention span summary (SASS):       1. Fish girl lives with her father and siblings in an aquarium-like home inside a really cool submarine with flippers.    2. …
Quick Tip by . April 07, 2010
I really enjoyed the animation & music, but the story & characters were severely under-developed. Plot felt rushed.
review by . September 02, 2009
Title: Ponyo    Director: Hayao Miyzaki    Starring: Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Betty White    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1    Studio: Studio Ghibli    Genre(s): Family    Rated:            I'm not normally so blunt in my movie reviews, but I think to beat around the bush for a Hayao Miyazaki film is a futile attempt. So I'll put …
Quick Tip by . October 30, 2009
An endearing movie that will appeal more to younger viewers, but adults will also enjoy. See it If you liked Miyazaki films like Totoro!
About the reviewer
Jonathan J.D. Lane ()
Ranked #14
I am a member of the US Air Force and presently serve overseas at RAF Mildenhall about three hours north of London. I grew up in Pappilion Nebraska and Crestview Florida, but since joining the Air Force … more
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Wiki


Ponyo
is a 2008 Japanese animated film by Studio Ghibli, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is Miyazaki's eighth film for Ghibli, and his tenth overall. The plot centers on a goldfish named Ponyo who befriends a five-year-old human boy Sōsuke and wants to become a human girl.

The film has won several awards, including the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year. It was released in Japan on July 19, 2008 and August 14, 2009 in the US and Canada, where it reached #9 in the box office charts for its opening weekend.

The plot is centered on a fish girl who lives in an aquarium in her father's underwater castle with numerous smaller sisters. When her father takes her and her siblings on an outing in his four-flippered submarine, she is driven by a desire to see even more of the world and runs away. She ends up stranded on the shore and is rescued by Sōsuke, a five year old boy who lives on a cliff. After taking a great liking to her, Sōsuke names her Ponyo and promises to protect her forever. Meanwhile, her father, Fujimoto, is looking for his daughter, upset that she ran away. He calls his wave spirits to return Ponyo to him. Sōsuke is heartbroken by this, and goes home with his mother, Lisa (or "Risa" in some translations), who tries to cheer him up, but to no avail. Ponyo and her father have a confrontation, where Ponyo refuses to let her father call her "Brünnhilde". She declares her name to be Ponyo, and voices her desire to ...
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Details

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Family
Release Date: 14 August 2009 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G
Screen Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
DVD Release Date: March 2, 2010
Runtime: 101 minutes
Studio: Studio Ghibli
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