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A Hayao Miyazaki Film

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Absolutely Endearing Anime Film By Hayao Miyazaki!

  • Sep 20, 2009
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 No Ponyo) has been imported by Disney to U.S. shores on a limited theatrical run. The way to approach any of Miyazaki’s films is to temper your expectations; although honestly, hearing about another Miyazaki film is just so delightful that any Miyazaki fan would become excited. “Ponyo” is more a family-friendly film that uses the traditional hand drawn animation instead of CGI. This has been promoted as Miyazaki’s last film.
Sosuke (voiced by Doi Hiroki) is a young boy who lives with his young mom Lisa (voiced by Yamaguchi Tomoko) in a small house on a cliff that overlooks a small port in Japan (Based on Seto Island) One day, he encounters a magical sea sprite/goldfish that he found on the beach who he names “Ponyo”. Taking the magical creature to wherever he goes, the two have such a good bonding because of a certain cured meat called “ham’. But as soon as the two become close, Fujimoto (Tokoro Joji) a former human who has rejected the surface world who has become a sea sorcerer who collects magical elixirs is hot on Ponyo’s trail. He takes Ponyo back (who he calls Brunhilde) back to the depths, but Ponyo now desires to become human and to be with Sosuke; a desire so strong that she breaks out of Fujimoto’s undersea lair that causes the his elixirs to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world that causes a major storm that threatens the island. Fujimoto seeks out the aid of Ponyo’s mother, a water element dubbed as the Mother of the Sea (voiced by Yuki Amami) to try and put things back to normal before the sea engulfs the surface…

                           Ponyo and Sosuke in "Ponyo."

                           Gran Mamare in "Ponyo."
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, “Ponyo” is a film with a very simple premise that borrows some elements from “The Little Mermaid”. As with Miyazaki’s past films, the film has strong messages about ecology and environmentalism that focuses on the well-being of the world’s oceans. The opening scene with all the pollution, debris and garbage in the ocean makes a very strong commentary, these sequences give justification as to why Fujimoto would leave the life of a surface dweller. Fujimoto has taken it upon himself to try to repair the damage this has caused, but all appears to be fruitless as the oceans are damaged faster than he could anticipate. Some of the environmental messages may appear too heavy-handed but Miyazaki is a master of fantasy-storytelling and he manages to overcome the film’s flaws.
The film’s central focus falls on the friendship between Sosuke and Ponyo. Sosuke exhibits this optimistic innocence that is just so full of life. Ponyo as the sea sprite is just so cute and adorable. I admit to a certain extent, that the film does take its time getting to its goals. However, the first half is also full of charm, warmth and endearing scenes that would please any viewer of any age. Once Ponyo reverts to a human however, the film gets into gear as the viewer is treated to an animated visual marvel that is quite refreshing to see in these days dominated by CGI animation. Seeing a colorful, great visual achievement using traditional cell animation is so cool to look at, Miyazaki still proves that one doesn’t need CGI to deliver a good animated film. Miyazaki has the eye to deliver something truly fantastic as well as bizarre and outrageous; Miyazaki intentionally made the drawings to resemble the use of crayons and pencils to make them superbly reflective of a child’s imagination. The animation work is truly charming that retains the look of a kid’s coloring book given life and motion. The animation work by Katsuma Kondo is excellent for the film’s tone.

                            Ponyo in "Ponyo."

                           Sosuke and Ponyo in "Ponyo."
Child actors Nara Yuria and Doi Hiroki do magnificent work as Ponyo and Sosuke. I will NOT give credit to the English voice cast by Disney at all, since I saw this in its original form. Anime is meant to be seen in Japanese, English dubbed work is often abysmal. Nara Yuria is magnificent as Ponyo. Her voice portrayal fits the infantile charm and wit exhibited by her animated counterpart. She sounds so cute and adorable on some scenes, it comes as no surprise that Doi Hiroki would fall for the magical sea sprite turned human. Tomoko Yamaguchi is also awesome as Sosuke’s mom. Tomoko is a model and I could just feel her ‘vibe’ as her youthful, energetic young woman. I was a little confused as to why Sosuke kept on referring to her as Lisa instead of mom, but perhaps this is just a reflection on the more modern Japanese family. Comedian Joji Tokoro is great as Fujimoto. His character is full of weird potential but sadly, Miyazaki doesn’t really flesh his character out more thoroughly. I would have loved to see more of the relationships between Sosuke and his father as well as more of Fujimoto’s background. Everything did feel like they had to take a back seat in favor of the visuals. I also would have liked more undersea world detail as rendered by Miyazaki.
In this world, Ponyo represents the oceans and Sosuke represents the surface world. There are some parallels to the friendship between the two to the relationship between Fujimoto and the Mother of the Sea. Miyazaki seems to be giving the viewer that for the world to succeed, man and his environment need to work in unison. Man needs to respect and love his environment for what it is, and not change anything for his own selfish motives. Love, sincerity and compassion are needed to save the planet.

                       Noriko, Sosuke, Yoshie and Toki in "Ponyo."

                       Fujimoto and Ponyo in "Ponyo."
Miyazaki Hayao’s “Ponyo” is a little light in the dramatic areas and ends up better as an adventure ‘exploration’ film than an actual undersea journey. It will not match “Princess Mononoke” and “Spirited Away” in raw brilliance. The film does suffer a bit within the limits it imposed on itself, Miyazaki’s talent still shines through and I hope that this isn‘t his last film. Miyazaki has crafted another modern fairy tale that can be appreciated by the young and old alike. It is a timeless story of friendship, love and adventure that exhibit’s an endearing warmth that cannot be soon forgotten.
Highly Recommended!! [3 ½+ Stars]
Note: Watching this film in its original Japanese Language with English Subs is highly advisable.

The Region-3 Asian release features stellar anamorphic widescreen PQ and DTS audio Japanese track.

U.S. poster water scene sea mother Sosuke and Ponyo poster poster

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December 23, 2009
I hadn't heard that it may be Miyazaki's last film. That's sad, but he's created several titles for people to be thankful for. I personally would have liked to see Sosuke's father developed more, and I wish that the ending could have been expanded upon (seeing Lisa re-unite with her husband, etc.), but overall, I agree with you. This film was very endearing.
December 23, 2009
Thanks! Miyazaki will be lending his guiding hand to Ghibli but won't be directing anymore from what I've heard. But I predict that the call of creativity may be too much to fight and I predict him coming back to the fold sooner than he expects.
December 23, 2009
Probably. I read somewhere that he had planned to retire after Princess Mononoke, but came out of it after being inspired to write Spirited Away.
September 28, 2009
Hey Woo, just wanted to let you know that I moved your review over to where all the other Ponyo reviews are as you requested (I can't wait for that data point merger!).  Great review as always!  It's too bad to hear that this doesn't compare to Spirited Away because I absolutely love that movie.  Oh well, I still want to see Ponyo!  Thanks for sharing :)
September 28, 2009
You're the best, Devora!! I'll see if I can rewatch Spirited Away and do a write up for yah! I can't wait for that data point merger myself, I hope we can do the deed ourselves so we can take some stuff out of the staff's hands. Will this new merger be able to merge those linked to exhilarate games also?
September 27, 2009
I can't believe that the Japanese would have become so modern as to have a kid calling his mother by her given name. Is it possible that she might be an older sister?
September 27, 2009
Nope. She is the mother because Sosuke called her his mom once or twice. I know it's stunning, but I've also heard that sometimes they replace 'mother' with a pet name on occasion. This movie is definitely for the kids, Karen.
September 27, 2009
Wow. So it might be a pet name rather than a given name?
September 27, 2009
OKASAN is the word for mother and OTOSAN is the word for father in Japanese, I know for a fact that Kabei was used by a family portrayed by a movie called Kabei Our Mother (dvd's out on Netflix). It was a family during World War II. I guess it depends on which area in Japan.
September 27, 2009
September 21, 2009
My one major problem with Miyazaki is that his films always feel the same to me. I've seen about a half-dozen or more and I enjoyed most of them, but I can never keep track of which is which. I know I've seen "Kiki's Delivery Service", "Howl's Moving Castle", "Spirited Away", and a few others as well. But I'll be damned if I could recall the plots for any of them except "Kiki's Delivery Service" (something about a young witch that starts a delivery service that's easy to remember). I'm a little surprised that you only gave this a 3 1/2. Based upon your praises, I thought it would be at least a 4 1/2. I think I'll wait till this comes to DVD and go with the rental. It looks to colorful to be seen on the big screen... LOL!
September 27, 2009
Dude, see PRINCESS MONONOKE, IMHO it is Miyazaki's best film. I do know what you mean, the art and style is pretty similar. I was tempted to give this a solid 4, but some of the characterization missed several opportunities. (no doubt to keep its pace) It was damned colorful in the was real nice to look at that Miyazaki seemed to have made a coloring book come to life.
More Ponyo reviews
review by . March 03, 2013
posted in ASIANatomy
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, …
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 . 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 …
review by . December 13, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Ponyo is a young fish-girl who loves to explore, but her father, a great wizard of the sea, fears the chaos her untamed powers could unleash upon the world. He's right to worry, since she, like every young undomesticated child, is an elemental force of nature who has little respect for the boundaries that grownups take so seriously. She escapes and meets up with a young boy whose imagination at least is a match for her magical powers - and it is love at first sight. Not romantic love but something …
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!
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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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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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