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It's like drugs....good drugs,....but still drugs! And drugs that the whole family can enjoy!
MartinHafer16 August 2009
I have a strong feeling that what you think of this film will strongly depend on your frame of reference. If you've never seen a Miyazaki film before, then it will probably confuse the heck out of you. If you have seen a Miyazaki film before, then it will still probably confuse the heck out of you....but you won't really care! That's because I found that the first time I saw one of his animated films, I tried too hard to figure out what was happening and why--and it impacted my enjoyment of the film. Now that I have seen just about every Miyazaki film, I see the bizarreness and just take it all in--enjoying the beauty of it all. In many ways, these films (at least to Western audiences) is like drugs--lots of strange and beautiful images that don't always initially make sense but sure feel great to see!! Of all the Miyazaki films, this might have the most unusual and incomprehensible story line--even more so than SPIRITED AWAY and PRINCESS MONONOKE or MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO. But, like these and many other Studio Gibli films, if you just sit back and watch you are rewarded with a fabulous tale. But, because it is so hard to describe (and others have already done so), I won't even go there.

As for the artwork, it's very typical of one of these Japanese films, though there was one noticeable change. There was a very extensive use of what looked like colored pencils for the backgrounds. This was NOT a bad thing at all--the lovely pastel-like look was very pleasing and unique. In some ways it looked like a tiny bit of Bill Plympton's art style was infused into a typical Miyazaki film. With a high frame-rate, exceptional character animation (which imbued them with tons of personality) and a great "wow-factor", this is an exceptional film for all ages. Though clearly designed more for younger audiences (the TOTORO fans especially), it is a bit scary here and there (during the storm segments) but there is plenty of great stuff for adults. As an adult (at least chronologically so), I loved the cute stuff and applaud the other-worldliness of the film.

A great film--among Miyazaki's best. I don't give it a 10 because I am hesitant to ever do that--plus I did like a few of the studio's other films a bit more (particularly TOTORO). But that DOESN'T mean you shouldn't rush out now and see it--do it and do yourself a favor.
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A magical and charming delight
TheLittleSongbird23 November 2010
This is not my absolute favourite from Miyazaki, but I still loved it. Ponyo was very magical and charming. I did feel though the ending could have had a little more to it, I am not sure whether I'd use the word incomplete but it didn't leave me completely satisfied. Small criticism aside, the animation is exquisite, typical Miyazaki really- Ethereal colours, beautiful backgrounds and interesting character designs make up the animation here. Another delight was the music, melodious, memorable and of sheer beauty. The script is good too, and I also loved the simple yet magical story and the charming characters especially the very sweet protagonist. The voice acting is top notch too, it is quite emotive and never feels bland. In conclusion, really quite charming and I wouldn't mind seeing it again. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Terrific Studio Ghibli movie
Leofwine_draca4 April 2013
Well, what can I say? I absolutely adored PONYO, Studio Ghibli's answer to THE LITTLE MERMAID, which takes the Disney cartoon and bypasses it in every way imaginable. This is a tremendously entertaining children's film made with real heart and imagination. Although there's an environmental message, it isn't shoved down the viewer's throat (like in PRINCESS MONONOKE) and despite copious sentimentality this is never saccharine sweet or sickening; it's just a really good film.

The story is simple, straightforward and works all the better for being so: it's the tale of a goldfish called Ponyo who yearns to be human, and the young boy living on the coast who befriends her. Although there are journeys into a fantastic undersea kingdom, much of the film is set in the real world, where the human characters have to deal with the very real threats of tsunamis and the like.

The animation is stunning, the characters are lovely and the story as a whole has a warm fuzzy glow to it. Yes, this is a kid's film through and through, but it's one I watched and loved as an adult. PONYO is my second favourite Ghibli movie, just behind GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES.
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not as good as the best from Studio Ghibli
SnoopyStyle18 May 2014
Fujimoto is a wizard who turned his back on the human world. He works on the balance of nature and the welfare of the oceans. Brunhilde is Fujimoto's offspring who escapes from his father to find land. On the shores, little boy Sosuke finds Brunhilde trapped in a jar. He renames the goldfish Ponyo. Fujimoto goes searching for her spraying water to walk on. When he brings her back underwater, he find that she is turning into a human. He tries to stop her transformation but eventually they can't be stopped. When she sets off to escape the underwater home, she opened the door to Fujimoto's elixirs. It sets off a dangerous imbalance in the world while transforming her into a human girl. Ponyo finds Sosuke and together help the world find its balance again. Sosuke needs to pass the love test.

This is Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki's take on 'The Little Mermaid'. Fujimoto is not really a villain and the story needs a good villain. It's a weird movie marrying the fantasy underwater world with a realistic human world. Overall it is a very cool oddly compelling fanciful movie. The few problems I have are mostly minor ones that I can ignore.

First I was confused by all the little fishes with Ponyo. I assumed that Ponyo was their mother and she was running away from her kids. It sets the tone of the character off on the wrong foot. It takes about 30 minutes before the movie explains the situation. That explanation needs to happen at the start. While I like the underwater world, I wish it had more of a Japanese feel whatever that may be. As for the story, it's a lot of craziness going on. Sometimes it's awkward but it's certainly unique.
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Very much for kids but still has plenty of charm and good animation
bob the moo28 December 2012
I recently watched Omohide Poro Poro and it put me in the mood for some more Studio Ghibli that I hadn't seen before, which led me to Ponyo. The film is similar to Disney's Little Mermaid as it sees a fish wishing to become human as she builds a friendship with a human. This change causes real problems with the balance between the worlds of land and water, not least with her father who is desperate to get her back. Although it appears quite a childish film, I am used to these films having plenty for adults as well and indeed I thought that the themes of tsunamis and friendship would have plenty behind it for those looking, but sadly this was not the case and this is pretty much a film with everything front and centre.

This is not a massive problem though because it is basically a kids movie and does no harm by playing to its target audience. The story is a nice simple one of friendship and adventure and I appreciated it being told in a straight and warming fashion, even if the adult part of me wanted a bit more than I was being given. The characters are simple too – from the central children through to the adults. The animation is the saving grace for an adult watching with kids, because it is visually really good with plenty of interest that is imaginative and beautifully drawn; perhaps not a consistent factor but for sure a large proportion of the film is a feast.

Ponyo is still a film for kids first and foremost though and, like me, those coming to the film hoping for Spirited Away etc may be disappointed to find that it is a much simpler film than those others may have led them to believe and indeed they are likely to get bored with it as adults, animation excepted. However it is still a warming and charming kids film with bright simple characters and action and as such it is worth a look if you plan to share it with children.
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Fish out of water
kosmasp6 June 2020
Quite literally in this case. But apart from the fantasy part of this, this is a very human (if child based or through the eyes of a child) story. Studio Ghibli has or rather had a certain fame. And they really deserved it. You can be a fan of Pixar movies and also really love Studio Ghibli! There can be more than one! In this case it may only be one (water friend) our main character/kid befriends, but what a friendship and relationship they create.

I imagine even hearts of stone might melt while watching this. You have to let yourself into this world of course, which especially for some adults may be difficult to do (for various reasons), but if you do, there is such a treasure to discover here. Old school animation, which elevates and helps to convey what the movie is about. Values, humanity, not losing that inner kid of yourself ... and so many more things. And all that "education" while being also very entertaining to say the least.
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jboothmillard13 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
From Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle), I recognised the title of this Japanese cartoon film from possibly seeing the poster or DVD, so I was keen to watch it. Basically five year old Sôsuke (Frankie Jonas) is the son of a sailor and lives a quiet life on a cliff next to the ocean with his mother Lisa (Tina Fey). A beautiful goldfish (Noah Lindsey Cyrus) is a sea goddess and the daughter of masterful wizard and Fujimoto (Liam Neeson), and she longs to live within the human world, and she steals some of her father's powers to do it. One fateful day Sôsuke finds the goldfish trapped in a bottle on the beach, he names her Ponyo, and they become very close, and her newfound powers enable her to transform into human form and fall for him. But she is unaware that using these powers in the human world has a dramatic effect and has created a dangerous imbalance in the world, where the moon has been brought closer to Earth and caused the tides to rise. While Fujimoto goes in search of his daughter to help get the world back to the way it should be, Sôsuke and Ponyo go to help the old people and Lisa at the retirement home, and they are also in search of Sôsuke's father Kôichi (Matt Damon). After many adventures with the magic being used, the children becoming closer, and ocean spirit and Ponyo's mother Granmamare (Cate Blanchett) restoring the waters, Fujimoto sees it in his heart to let Ponyo stay human and live in the world that she loves. Also starring Cloris Leachman as Noriko, Nine to Five's Lily Tomlin as Toki and Betty White as Yoshie. I can see that the story was definitely influenced by The Little Mermaid, but that's not a bad thing, it is only similar with the fish wanting to be human concept, the rest has original ideas with weird and wonderful creatures, the English cast of voicing stars is splendid, and of course the vivid colours and imaginative cartoon style we have seen before makes this a fantastic watch, a great animated fantasy adventure. Very good!
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A delight for young children and adults alike.
Tweekums19 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
To date the films of director Hayao Miyazaki have not disappointed me and 'Ponyo' is no exception. While this film as aimed at younger children it is a delight for adults too, transporting them to a magical childhood world. Ponyo is a goldfish who one day swims out to explore the sea around her home, as a trawler approaches she gets trapped in a jar that was amongst the rubbish it dragged up from the seabed. Even in the jar she manages to swim to the shore where Susuke rescues her. He puts her in a bucket and takes her to school and also shows her to the ladies at the old folks' home where her mother works. One of the ladies is shocked to see a fish with a face and warns that it is an omen of an impending tsunami. When Susuke goes down to the shore again a large wave washes Ponyo away and he thinks he has lost her. She has other ideas and manages to escape from her father again, summoning a giant wave to transport her back to Susuke. Something else has changed too… Ponyo is now a little girl! Transformed by the potions made by her father, a wizard who has abandoned life on land to live under the sea. He is desperate to get her back and in searching for her causes a huge flood that covers most of the town. Luckily Susuke's house is at the top of a cliff so he is all right, he is however worried for his mother Lisa who attempted to drive to the old people's home. With the help of Ponyo's magical powers they set off to find her and to face a test which will decide whether Ponyo can remain human.

This film was an utter delight from start to finish, possibly the most delightful Studio Ghibli film since 'My Neighbour Totoro'. The animation was stunning throughout, although it did have a slightly different style to previous films. The story was such that very small children could probably follow it as well as enjoying the visuals. There were plenty of laughs to be had along the way such as when Ponyo the Goldfish ate the ham out of Susuke's sandwich and his mother's somewhat reckless driving.

These comments are based on watching the film in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Welcome to the magical world of Japanese animation.
TxMike21 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
My wife and I watched this at home on DVD from our public library. Even though this is a 2008 movie the library only recently added copies.

The animation is old style but very good. For this English version a whole new cast added vocals. The two main ones are the two youngsters, Noah Cyrus (Miley's little sister) as Ponyo and Frankie Jonas as Sôsuke .

As the story starts Ponyo is a small fish in the ocean, but with a cute girl-like face. At some point she starts to long to be a real girl and she has an encounter with 5-yr-old Sôsuke when she gets stuck in a clear glass jar. He saves her. But her father and mother, wizards of the ocean, aren't sure. In the end Sôsuke has to show that he will love Ponyo and that will complete her transition.
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Miyazaki's most adorable work since Totoro... that it's a masterpiece should be a given
Quinoa198414 August 2009
Ponyo is the kind of movie you'll want to see to enjoy the- insert superlative/great-awesome-wonderful adjective here- animation, the outstanding and eye-popping wonders of water (yes, water) and all of the characters who have a purity and goodness that reaches to everyone, even the supposed villain. But it's also a movie you will *need* to see if you've had a bad day, or unsure that humanity is worth a damn or has people who can actually be caring and thoughtful or unselfish. Sometimes those of us who aren't children need these kinds of stories and works of art, that lift the spirit and get us going on our day a little brighter, if only for a little while, thanks to a piece of anti-cynicism. My Neighbor Totoro was like that, as are Miyazaki's other great films, and this is another.

Oh sure, if you have a little kid- or if somehow you're a kid reading this- you should not be wasting any more time and rush out to see it. A clue to its appeal as a modern-day work of the extraordinary is that the English dubbed version, the one that I and American and English audiences are seeing in theaters, was written by Melissa Matheson, the writer of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. And no wonder: it's about a little boy living with his mother- we get the sense, as in E.T., that the parents have some problems getting along, though in this case it's because the father works on a ship out at sea- and one day he finds a goldfish by the water at his home (the 'cliff by the sea' that the Japanese title originally had), accidentally cuts his little finger which the goldfish suckles at, and takes the goldfish home.

Unbenownst to the little boy, Sosuke, little Ponyo as she is called turns into a human - or rather, wants to become human once she is taken away by her father, the underwater wizard-of-sorts Fujimoto (voiced perfectly by Liam Neeson). She comes back to Sosuke after a daring escape thanks to a horde of other little goldfish, and the little boy and half-girl-half-magical-fish become best friends. If this sounds silly, maybe it is. In other hands this could be mangled kiddie-movie fodder that might play out to only that little-kiddie movie audience. In the hands of Hayao Miyazaki, it's a one-of-a-kind marvel that will make one think of other movies and things, like E.T. or the Little Mermaid or even Pinocchio. It would be, I hope, the highest of compliments to say that Miyazaki's own love of Disney has at this point in his career reached another high-water mark; I would possibly want to watch this movie just as much, if not more, than the classic Disney at its best. It's that frickin' awe-inspiring.

To give you an idea of the kind of awe it conjures, and the point of view that Miyazaki operates here as he has before in Totoro, a little tangent. For those who may have played the video game Katamari Damacy, there are little scenes that play in-between the individual boards where we see a story develop with two little kids who are being taken along to the airport by their mother. They keep looking out their window in the car and on the airplane and see so many wonders: the Cosmos himself, a crazy universe-god-thing, and other wild visions, and the kids say simply "Mom, it's the Cosmos!" "That's nice dear, there's our flight," the mother replies. There's a scene just like this in Ponyo, where we see more clearly than even before this point of view, of a child's wonderment and happiness at fantastical things, and the adult's deadpan understanding of this. Only in Ponyo, it's nowhere near as campy or unintentionally hilarious as in Katamari.

This is such magical material; I say that in the way that you'll be smiling even when you know there's nothing too extraordinary on the screen. But Miyazaki pushes his animators to another level than before, with his use of watercolors and pastels creating the underwater world like we might imagine or dream about after reading a book. Things move that normally wouldn't in animation, flow and vibrate with electricity, and the story keeps things lively and fun. And yet, Miyazaki has serious touches too, and like in Totoro we have that moment where a very hard moment for a child comes up (namely the possible peril or mortal danger their mother is in), but its done delicately and with tact, and the resolution just adds to the magic element in the material.

Ponyo will make you giddy and squeal in delight. It's made not just for those who love animation (forget 'anime'), but for those who go to the cinema for something extra than just escape. It's the cinematic equivalent of a gigantic, all-encompassing hug - for 100 minutes. You don't want to leave it, and the only sadness is that it ends, even in that as-adorable-as-Totoro theme song over the credits. It's one of the best films of the decade, nevermind year.
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Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo was another of his animated masterpieces
tavm14 August 2009
My first exposure to Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli production company was when an English-dubbed version of Spirited Away was released about 7 years ago. What a wonderfully creative and unique film experience that was! So on that note, I managed to get my movie theatre-employed friend to see this new film of Miyazaki with me especially since he loves all things Disney (this movie's U.S. distributor). Once again, all I can say is "Wow!" What awesome visuals concerning the way water is depicted as the ocean...and what about the title character's transformation from a goldfish to...and seeing how some characters' demeanor changes...and, well, watch this movie if you want to know what I'm talking about. Oh, and the voices being used for this American-dubbed version: Tina Fey, Betty White, Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman, and Lily Tomlin. Good choices all. Does everything make sense? No, but that's part of the childlike charm that permeates throughout. There's plenty of funny scenes concerning Ponyo and the boy and many other people they encounter. Oh, I think I've written too much so I'll just highly recommend Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo.
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Let your imagination run wild
Gordon-1118 July 2009
This film is about the magical friendship between a five year old Japanese boy who lives by the sea, and a goldfish princess who possesses unearthly powers.

"Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" is a very imaginative tale. There are so many visual surprises, such as waves turning into fish, transformation of Ponyo and the sea Goddess. These visual delights adds to the film's power to delight and entertain. The main characters, Sosuke and Ponyo are both adorable and pure, just like five year old children should be. They remind us what it is like to be a child again.

"Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" brings our lost childhood and vivid imagination back. It is an enjoyable journey.
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Miysazaki's best animation in a film with a muddled story
dbborroughs23 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The plot of the film has a little sea creature, Ponyo, escaping from a sea wizard and then getting stranded near land where she is found by a little boy who becomes her protector. Eventually returning home, not so willingly, Ponyo decides to use magic and return to her friend.

Let's cut to the chase I'm of mixed emotion about this film.

The animation in the film is amazing with the opening sequence likely to be talked about for years to come. The film is filled with sequences that are truly amazing to look at (and will also be talked about). Clearly Miyazaki wanted to send out the message that he is the master animator at Studio Ghibli. Hands down this ranks with some of his best animation. Yes, it is that good-even when it become a throw back to his early anime days. (And while I'm at it it should be noted that there are references to his earlier films either intentionally or because its his style-which unfortunately results in so many of the women all looking the same)

The problem for me is that some of the story is patentedly weird. It really is surreal at times. I mean that both in a good way and a bad way. The "typhoon" sequence where Ponyo goes back to he friend is both glorious and weird as the world seems to become flooded no one freaks out about. Okay, yea I'm an adult and the film is aimed at kids, but the film which gets so much real reaction and interaction right suddenly becomes overly fantastic and it doesn't bother anyone. Granted this leads into some magical sequences, but the films internal logic becomes nackered. I will follow things along to a point at the same time...stay consistent. I don't know what else to say...this film can get odd. Each sequence works but they don't always connect.

I've seen everything except the Ghibli museum films that Miyazaki has done. I've seen many of his films in different translations, subs, dubs, what have you. I have problems with the end of Howl(which ceases to be fully clear). I prefer the English dub to the sub of Spirited Away (the dub is clearer in one or two points) and the Ghibli translation of Mononoke is better than any other (its poetic and explains things better). This is the first film Miyazaki has done that I'm really am at sixes and sevens about. Its both the best and worst of Miyazaki.

Some examples

The Bad: -The score is dreadful. Its a pastiche of European classical pieces that are too loud and booming for the story. It over powers the visuals. I mean do we really need a Ride of the Valkyrie rip off? I really really hate the music and I think its the cause of much of my dislike.-Several sequences go on too long. There are too many shots that serve no purpose, which is unheard of in a Miyazaki film. Do we really need repeated shots of ship propellers? Look at the sequence where Ponyo gets caught in the net at the start, there are shots that don't belong there since they detract from the suspense. It would be okay if he did it once or twice but he does it repeatedly, especially in the early part of the film (Its filler). The sequence at the kindergarten is kind of pointless. I don't know why its there its just moving Ponyo in a bucket around. -There was for me at times a sense of forced whimsy. Its as if he's trying too hard to be cute and lovable.Some of the sea wizard sequences have it.

The film feels like some of the odd Euro-animation of the 1950's and 60's, in both a good and bad way. It reminds me of Paul Grimault's The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird (aka The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep).

The Good: -The opening sequence with Ponyo's escape and the wizard creating.They did this by hand?(a refrain I repeated often) -The animation of the mother grabbing her son and hugging him. It is so right in every way both physically and emotionally -Ponyo's escape and return to her friend. The image of her running on the fish waves is glorious even if its under cut by the Ride of the Valkyrie knock off. -Taking the real toy boat out. -Ponyo eating and just being in the isolated house on the hill.

Ponyo is pure innocence and its magical. The characters work so much better than the script. I would rather have watched Ponyo and the little Boy wander about for 100 minutes then watch they story unfold as it does.

It has so much good and so much bad...Its probably the least of Miyzaki's films despite having some his best work. I have a sense as more and more people see it they are going to scratch their heads. Okay yes, its for little kids, but even the best kids films work for adults (Nocturna, some of The Pirates that Don't Do Anything spring to mind from just this year. And Totoro from Miyazaki's own work-never mind the wonderful Ghibli museum short where the kindergarten pretends to go sailing and meets whales.)

Is it a bad film? no. Is it a great film? no, but it has greatness in it. Forgive me for being a semi-naysayer but I will not give any film a pass on any level just because a certain person directed it.

Ultimately you really do want to see this, preferably on a big screen since you will say WOW several times.(though I don't know if its going to happen since I don't know what the American studio suits will make of it)

7ish out of 10
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Disney, go home
TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews17 March 2011
Sosuke, a five-year old Japanese boy living near the sea suddenly comes upon a strange-looking fish, and when they both enjoy each other's company so much, she soon becomes a young girl. But this upsets the way of things, resulting in a massive flood. This take on Hans Christian Andersen's much loved fairy(or should I say mermaid) tale is full of wonder over nature(as with much of Miyazaki's work), life, magic and this time, sea creatures. The animation is amazing, with astonishingly high level of detail. This is some of the most beautifully animated water you will ever see. The pastels surprisingly do not strain the eyes. The measure of cute, silly and sweet is through the roof, and it will be too much for some viewers. This is told at children's level, and the dialog is realistic. It is also exciting, fun and imaginative. While the "learning to be human" scenes aren't original, they get the job done. The score is great, and this builds mood smoothly. This is 95 minutes sans credits. The DVD comes with trailers for this and others by studio Ghibli. I recommend this to fans of Animé. 8/10
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neil-47617 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not unfamiliar with Studio Ghibli's offerings. I have watched and enjoyed Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle. The one thing they have in common is a profound sense of unfamiliarity - they exist in some sort of dream-like alternative world which, for full comprehension, assumes that I have a set of cultural reference, experiences and values which I simply don't. For all that I have enjoyed them, there is something about all of them which simply slips past me. They are weird.

Ponyo is no exception. If I had to describe it, I would suggest imagining that Andersen's Little Mermaid and Collodi's Pinocchio had a love child. Then imagine that offspring was a merrily insane Japanese ecologist on an acid trip in a monsoon. That's Ponyo.

Ponyo is a fish who wants to be a little girl. She is able to carry out magic and this is all tied in with the moon nearing the earth and pulling the tides out of whack. The only way the world can be saved is if Ponyo's human little boy friend will accept her as both fish and human.

The animation is often less than sophisticated, but this doesn't matter because the design is wildly imaginative. There are sequences of great power and beauty and downright oddness. The high powered voice cast has been recruited for the English dub, and I'm afraid I thought they were not at their best. Liam Neeson was the only voice I recognised on hearing. The music is rather pleasing, and very western.

In summary, always interesting, always entertaining, always weird.
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Remarkably beautiful
zetes16 August 2009
Perhaps not Miyazaki's best work, but I couldn't help but love it to death. A five-year old boy finds what he thinks is a goldfish stuck in a bottle. He saves its life and keeps it in a bucket as a pet, but it really is a magical being, the daughter of a human wizard and a sea goddess. Ponyo, as the boy names her, is taken back to the sea by her father, who tries to discourage her from returning to land and becoming human, but she gets into his magic elixirs and does what she wants to do. The story is simple and cute. Where the film really comes alive, though, is in its tremendous artwork. The drawings are more child-like than in any of Miyazaki's other works, but there's beauty in its simplicity. As with all of his films, Miyazaki creates this world of imagination that I was just so in awe of. Seeing it in the theater brought back memories of what it was like when the opening notes of Jo Hisaishi's score for Princess Mononoke washed over me and gave me goosebumps just short of a decade ago (the score here is equally as wonderful). I wanted to live in this world and never leave it.
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A Nutshell Review: Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea
DICK STEEL25 December 2008
Hayao Miyazaki's magic continues with this absolute crowd pleaser Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, his latest animated film, which turns on the usual sweetness to charm your socks off. I thought that the trailer featured its song which was quietly hypnotic, and I didn't have to wait for an invite to make sure I got my ticket for the sneak preview of the movie, scheduled to open here next week.

For fans of Studio Ghibli films, you'll probably know what you're in for, as Miyazaki has yet another winner in his filmography, that will win new fans over. I'm embarrassed to say the least that I've so far watched only My Neighbour Totoro (eyes that pile of Ghibli DVDs) and love it to bits, but I guess this would serve as a final push for me not to continue missing what would likely be animated films that I would enjoy.

Ponyo (voiced by Nara Yuria) is a magic goldfish that yearns to know what is life beyond the sea, with her constant forays in a bubble to the surface of the water to sneak a peek. Nonetheless these ambitions do not bode well with her humanoid dad Fujimoto (Tokoro Joji), who harbours some hatred toward the human race for pollution, and briefly touching a subplot on environmental protection / revenge by Mother Nature as well. An accident one day sees Ponyo being washed ashore, and picked up by five year old boy Sosuke (Doi Hiroki) who lives on a house on the said cliff with his mother Lisa (Yamaguchi Tomoko), while dad Koichi (Nagashima Kazushige) is mostly out to sea since he's a sailor. And you can expect some moments of throwback to the likes of The Little Mermaid, or Splash made for kids. Saying anything more would be to spoil the fun.

The artwork here is still simply astounding even though it's in 2D glory, knowing that each cell is painstakingly worked on. There are so many things going on at the same time within the same frame, that you'll probably be game for repeated viewings just to spot them all. This definitely beats any 3D or CG animated production any day given its beauty coming from its simplicity, and not only from the artwork department, but on its story too, despite complaints coming in that it took a leaf from the Hans Christian Andersen classic. While there are avenues to make this film extremely dark, it only suggested certain dark themes, but opted instead for a film with more positive emotions, suitable for both kids and adults alike.

At its core, its about love, that between the family members of Koichi, Lisa and Sosuke, and especially between mother and son. More so, it's about the love between the boy and his new pet fish which he christened Ponyo, and I tell you Ponyo herself has enough cuteness in her to beat the likes of Bolt, WallE and Eve all hands down. Characterization here is top notch, and it's hard not to fall in love with Ponyo, in whichever form adopted, especially when she's such a playful being who doesn't hide her emotions - if she's upset with you, either she turns away or you could expect a jet stream come spewing from her mouth into your face!

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is a definite shoo-in to my top films of this year without hesitation. And the next time I go to Tokyo, I'm sure as hell going to make my way to the Ghibli Museum to bask under the magical world brought to us by Hayao Miyazaki. Highly recommended film, so don't you go missing this on the big screen!
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Vincentiu12 February 2012
Gentle. Nice. Impressive. A boy and his little world. A magic meeting and escape behind limits. A movie like a love declaration. Honest, shied, no complicated. About small things in skin of modern fairy tale. Victory of good and ecologist lights. Delicat drawing and balls of emotions. Slices from childhood universe and basic story. Result - charming adventure , magic mirror in which image of every day events has different colors but same soul. Friendship, sacrifice, little mermaid, apocalyptic accents, reminder of Geea as good fairy, wizard as damned genius, father far from family, links between people and nature are ingredients of this diaphanous trip to essence of reality. A seed for adults. Joy for children. A kind of parable for everybody.
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Great animation and a quirky story. Perfect child movie.
siderite24 February 2010
Hayao Miyazaki is a genius of animation, his films usually bringing complex stories, detailed animation and original stories. Ponyo is not an exception, although it did seem more child oriented than most of his movies. It's like a mermaid story on steroids, both in complexity and beauty, where the main characters are 5 year old children and the focus is on wonder and friendship rather than banal romantic stories with no basis.

There was a lot of work visible in the environment animation. The sea is alive, fish are everywhere, there is magic that pervades everything. There is a catch, a choice between being a magical creature or a human. In the end, even if such a choice is made, it represents but a little part of the story.

Bottom line: a beautiful film, but a simple story. Fun to watch for adults, I think a delight for smaller children. As expected, perfect animation.
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Cool storms
jdesando10 August 2009
"I have heard the mermaids singing each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me." T.S. Eliot's Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

For Sosuke, they sing loud and clear.

Because I never much cared for the sweetness of Disney's Little Mermaid, I was prepared for a sugar overload in Ponyo, a Japanese anime from acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki. Then I remembered how genuinely adorable his Princess Mononke is and how creative Howl's Moving Castle.

In short, I was pleased with the startlingly imaginative animation in his Ponyo, with a roiling dark sea befitting Homer and flat characters that yet jump out of the screen with affection for each other and expressions both wildly off center and yet perfectly tuned to their love of nature and each other. The vivid colors add both depth to characterization and vitality to nature.

The plot—it amuses me, as it did with Wall-E and Eve, to have either children or robots expressing a purity of love we usually express only in poetry or song lyrics. Yes, Sosuke is just five, and his undersea love, Ponyo, is probably younger. Yet their love and respect for each other is exhilarating,

Oh, yes, plot: in the best mythopoetic tradition, she wants to become human, much to the displeasure of her Prospero-like father but supported by her larger than life fairy mother, Gran Mamere. Sosuke's mother, Lisa, is an energetic do-gooder whose love for her son is memorable.

While Dad seems conflicted about his powers and his affection for his many fish/children, the film has a way of making you see that this is the way many fathers are about their children. Such is Miyazaki's approach to imagination and reality—they co-exist in a mythical world of challenge, contradiction, and conciliation.

You can guess what happens, but not after some cool storms.
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Ponyo wants ham!
tieman647 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Master animator Hayao Miyazaki directs "Ponyo", one of his weakest films. It offers the usual Miyazaki environmentalism – a little boy's love for a goldfish prevents a kind of apocalyptic climate change – but all nuance is ejected and the film's characters never behave in any believable way.

Still, "Ponyo" contains some marvellous atmosphere, scenery and at least four great sequences. These include a boy's brave boat-trek across a flooded island, a cliff-top car ride, and a pair of beautiful sequences involving giant ships, which spend the film lazily drifting across horizons. Unfortunately these moments of beauty, grace and poetry are undermined by a grating plot, a horrendous ending, generic light shows and much forced sentimentality, in which the "power of inter-species love saves the world".

7.9/10 – Along with "Howl's Moving Castle", this is the weakest of Miyazaki's films. Worth one viewing.
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Not one of my favorite Miyazaki movie, but still a magical experience
KineticSeoul18 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is probably a Miyazaki film that is more leaning towards the kids, not saying his other movies wasn't but I personally think kids, will enjoy it more than adults compared to his previous works. This is also Miyazaki's more down to earth animated movie compared to his previous work as well, despite the relationship with a fish girl and a 5 yr old boy. Anyways Miyazaki has yet again produced another magical film experience for the audiences, and the art work is very well done although you know it's a animated film the movements of the characters are very life like, even compared to movies that use real life characters. Although it isn't one of my favorite Miyazaki movie, if your a fan of Studio Ghibli, it really is worth watching even if you are not a fan of Miyazaki movie this may not be a good start because I liked some of his previous films a bit better, but it still is a magical experience.

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A Tsunami of Emotions from Master Miyazaki...
ElMaruecan822 September 2017
Whether on Earth, Air or Water, Hayao Miyazaki is always in his element. The Master can depict a hostile or kindly wilderness, a sky filled with thunderous clouds or a tidal wave or any possible natural setting or ecosystem with a scientific caution for details, but always with a delicacy in the line that only hand-drawn animation can provide. I think there's a reason that goes beyond aesthetic considerations: CGI can make everything possible, but going for the hard way deepens the spiritual connection with the subject and we know how deeply Miyazaki feels about Nature.

Watching the magnificent jelly-fish ballet at the opening made me realize how CGI almost ruined the magic of animation. There's no doubt that "Finding Nemo" rendered a more spectacular vision of the ocean but remember the bubbles in "Little Mermaid", the flood in "Fantasia"'s 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' or the 'Monstro' sequence in "Pinocchio", the depiction of sea demands a level of painstaking efforts that computer imagery solved too instantly to carry any form of poetry. And the merit of Miyazaki is to make a film that looks drawn, even more cheaply than the films I mentioned, you can spot some coarse circles when you freeze the images and realize that when taken alone, they don't invite for wide-eyed reactions, but put together, they do justice to the majestic beauty of nature and more than anything, they're accessible. We feel like we want to drown into it. CGI makes beauty an inaccessible thing, too beautiful to be true.

Animation for Miyazaki almost works on a spiritual level, the more efforts you put, the more devotion you display to your subject and the more emotionally rewarding the experience is. To put it simply, the effects of "Ponyo" are actually less impressive than "Chihiro" or "Mono-noke" (which isn't saying much) but the effect of the story is no less powerful. It also seems like with age, Miyazaki has developed more serenity and doesn't even try to spice up his plots with antagonists, even three dimensional ones. "Ponyo" is a villain-less story about a little half fish/half human creature who hazardously drifts ashore in a small fishing town, to be rescued from the jar bottle she was stuck in, by a five-year old little boy named Sosuke. She thanks him back by licking his and healing his blood wound. When she's taken back by her father, a sort of wizard/ scientist she says she wants to live among humans and is immediately locked in. We learn later it's one of the side-effects of licking human blood.

But her siblings (little fishes with anthropomorphic faces) allow her to grow some magical powers and become a little girl. What follows is one of the most epic scenes of any animated film, and I'm glad that "The Ride of the Valkiries" won't be forever associated to a deadly bombing in Vietnam but also the exhilaration of a little girl's joy, literally running over the waves, causing a tsunami over the sea side. This scene is too epic for words but it settles the film's status as one of Miyazaki's best, he literally gets intoxicated by his own wizardry and provides one moment we didn't see coming. The strangest thing is that a tidal wave was a possible scenario but one would have expected a bad guy to cause it, here it's the very joy of Ponyo that will cause troubles on Earth, as if things were easily getting out of control with children, even with the best intentions, so adults aren't totally useless.

I love movies that can both say a child must follow his dream but listen sometimes to his parent, like Disney's "Pinocchio". Ponyo has some connection with the little boy, with a father who proves to be a responsible man, worried that her disappearance provokes a loss of imbalance and threatens the Earth, and a mother who carries some resemblance with the fairy who gave him life. Sosuke's mother is a strong-willed woman who braves danger in order to save old women from a nursery home, and even the old ladies have enough wisdom to provide some good lessons to Sosuke and complete the positive depiction of humanity over three generations. This is a film where children can act like adults, through the beautiful friendship between Sosuke and Ponyo and when old women can act like children too. And then there's Ponyo, one of the most fascinating animated characters of recent memories.

Just from the start you can tell there's energy pumping in her little body, she just wants to get the hell out, and no matter how hard you squeeze her, there are not enough bubbles to contain her. Her head takes a human form, she grows palms that turns into hands and feet and the connection with human evolution are unmistakable. We all came from the water, and maybe we should value the luck we had to grow as complex but fully functioning creatures. Yes, we'd rather have Ponyo as a girl than a fish; she's more relatable that way, especially since it's driven by friendship, another relatable human emotion, like love or joy. And maybe "Ponyo" is an invitation is an invitation to value our gifts as human beings and thus respect nature.

The film also shows the ravages of pollution, the trash left in the sea in sequences that recalls the mysterious guest's wash in "Spirited Away".Miyazaki is known for his environmentalist views, but the message doesn't come as a warning or a threat but a simple invitation to respect the creatures who didn't "choose" to get off the sea, respect their environment, their source of life which happens to be ours. Sure, it's relevant for Japan, an Island that has always been dependent on the benefits of sea but the film is also a universal hymn for love, friendship and harmony between men and nature. And it's also a terrific feel-good movie!
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Fish out of water.
Pjtaylor-96-13804411 January 2021
'Ponyo (2008)' is the Studio Ghibli take on Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Little Mermaid' (and, more directly, the 1989 Disney adaptation), except one of the leads is a literal fish with a face instead of a mermaid and the other is a five-year-old boy instead of a handsome prince. With a distinct visual style and some truly astounding animation (anything set underwater or during a tsunami is breathtaking), the piece vividly conveys its imaginative and energetic central story. It has a certain charm to it and is always relatively enjoyable. However, it isn't actually all that compelling and it sort of gets worse as it goes along. It just gets weirder and weirder, taking several sharp turns before rushing into - and out of - a relatively unfulfilling finale. It isn't bad, of course, but it definitely more closely resembles a nonsensical dream or, even, drug-induced trip than it does a traditional narrative. You can't help but laugh at it, not with it, when it chucks some of its strangest moments at you. Still, at least you're laughing. Generally, it's an entertaining animation that's delightful to look at. It's good enough. 6/10
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Great to see Miyazaki again!
ericstevenson26 April 2016
It's been way too long since I've seen a Miyazaki film. It's a shame that his films don't do near the box office reception of something like that awful Yu-Gi-Oh movie. Of course, this is still the highest grossing of his films. I truly believe this is close to "Spirited Away" as one of his best works. I guess it's because the animation is just so wonderful. I mean, it really seems like every moment of this film there is movement involved. There's a slight change in the outlines of all the characters.

I had no idea this was inspired by "The Little Mermaid". It certainly seems nothing like the Disney movie. I personally don't find that one of my favorite Disney films and I find this much better. The voice work is fantastic. I'm generally not into celebrity voice actors but they make it work so well here. This film might be his most adorable. I guess it's just great to see Ponyo's miniature sisters swimming around everywhere.

The plot is that there's this fish that escapes from her underwater home and meets a boy named Sosuke (yep, that reminds me of Sasuke from Naruto), making her want to become human. Every character is just teeming with cuteness. I especially love how realistic all the underwater creatures are. I think my favorite part might just be the first six minutes without dialogue as we see how well detailed they are. This really is one of the best movies I've ever seen. Not only is the pacing wonderful, but it's great to see a lot of the more mundane scenes like Sosuke's mother getting through her day. It shows that as strange as any animated film may be, it does in fact work hard to be realistic.

This is only my third Miyazaki film, but already you can call me a fan. It even seemed like he was trying to imitate western animation more here. Ponyo as a fish and her sisters look a lot less like his normal style. It's always great to experiment with something new, especially for someone as great as him. Even every bit of the credits is adorable.

I wish this guy would work for Pokemon! Hey, it's my first IMDb review! This is easily a 10/10!
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