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All the Enthusiasm of Finger Paints
tinulthin27 July 2008
Gake no Ue no Ponyo is like something you might get if you mashed My Neighbour Totoro into The Little Mermaid, then put the entire project in the hands of a five-year-old animation prodigy. The film is simultaneously stunning in its beauty and endearing in its simplicity, unrestrained enthusiasm walking the edge between inspired brilliance and mind-addling delirium.

In the opening sequences, literally thousands of individually animated fish swirl across the screen—a task Western animators wouldn't touch without a room full of computers. And yet the film's omnipresent water is defined by hard lines that seem to have been drawn in with crayons and coloured by pastels. In style and content, this is clearly a children's fantasy, and yet it isn't.

Remarkably, Miyazaki has yet again achieved what he created in Totoro: a film that draws the viewer indelibly into the world of children, reminding us of the time when every discovery was unique, every possession precious, and the agony of loss crouched behind every well-meaning mistake. Perhaps this is why the film has appealed more to adults than to children in Japan: children still live in this world. They need no such reminders.

Sousuke, a five-year-old who retrieves the eponymous Ponyo from the ocean, is not another Pinocchio-like screen caricature. He is a real boy. He is intelligent yet careless, deeply conscientious but distracted by impulse. He grounds us in a world that wavers between the real and the surreal.

Wide-eyed wizard Fujimoto, voiced with narcoleptic mania by comedian Tokoro Joji, is by far the most rational of the film's fantastical creations. He's an oddball, but he makes sense. But when waves begin to lap at the doorstep to Sousuke's hilltop home and the townsfolk jovially pile into rowboats to scud over a swollen sea of prehistoric fish, we begin to wonder whether this is the real world or some beatific daydream. Miyazaki draws no clear distinction.

Gake no Ue no Ponyo is a children's love story, driven with monomaniacal ferocity by Ponyo and Sousuke's pure mutual affection. Composer Joe Hisaishi underscores this intensity, calling up mighty swells of strings to accompany Ponyo's first ascent to the surface, and later evoking Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries in a stunning sequence where Ponyo chases down a speeding car while running atop a cascading tsunami of gigantic fish.

While the film loses much of its energy—though none of its eccentricity—in the final act, Miyazaki has nonetheless succeeded in creating yet another modern fairy tale. It is a simple, pure vision, guilelessly washed across with a devoted kindergartener's finger paints.
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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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Another Classic Miyazaki
dballred19 July 2008
Whenever Hayao Miyazaki does the "tri-fecta," (writes, directs, and animates a movie) he makes a classic film for the ages. He has done it again with Gake no ue no Ponyo.

The story is about a girl fish who is kept on a very tight leash along with her younger sisters by her father, a bitter ex-human wizard named Fujimoto. The fish escapes from her father and rides a jellyfish to shore, where she is caught up in a dredging operation and finds herself stuck in a bottle. This underwater sequence must be one of the most elaborately drawn animated scenes ever undertaken and stands on its own as a reason to search out the theatrical release. Miyazaki, who shows no fear of having a busy scene, has outdone himself. There were literally hundreds of individually-drawn sea creatures of every imaginable size all in motion at the same time.

When the fish escapes the dredging operation while still trapped in the bottle, a five-year old boy named Sousuke spots her in the water and is able to break the bottle, saving her. Since she is the result of her father's magic, she is capable of magic herself--and her father actively tries to retrieve her. The boy names the fish Ponyo. Just when Sousuke learns that Ponyo can speak, her father successfully retrieves her back into captivity.

After a war of wills with her father, Ponyo manages to escape again with the ability to change herself into a human. She meets up again with Sousuke in a storm and the story continues from there in many interesting ways. There is a cuteness factor in this film rivaling and arguably surpassing that of Tonari no Totoro. Joe Hisaishi, once again, provided outstanding musical support.

The story itself is simple--as are Miyazaki's films in general--and should appeal to a broad spectrum of viewers. While I haven't viewed it enough to be sure, the film doesn't seem to be one which will keep scholars in long discussions as Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi did. Nonetheless, this is the ultimate feel-good entertainment movie. I gave the movie a ten out of ten rating.
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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 whimsical, fantastic and visually amazing film that is a pure delight for all ages.
jmaruyama27 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Hayao Miyazaki's latest and eighth film for Studio Ghibili, "Gake No Ue No Ponyo" (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) is a wonderfully fun and imaginative look at childhood. At a time when it seems that film animation has been dominated by Disney/Pixar's CGI masterpieces, it is both refreshing and comforting to know that Miyazaki is still relying on traditional hand-drawn animation to tell his charming and enchanting stories.

The story revolves around the friendship between a magical sea sprite/goldfish and the human child that she encounters during a curious outing to see the human world. The human child, Sosuke (Doi Hiroki) lives in a small house on a cliff overlooking a small port city in Southern Japan (based on Seto Island) where he lives with his young mom, Lisa (Yamaguchi Tomoko). Sosuke names the strange goldfish "Ponyo" and takes it to the daycare/nursing center that Lisa works at. Ponyo is definitely not your typical goldfish and soon begins to adapt and take on human aspects (she develops human speech and an appetite for ham meat) by sampling some blood from a cut on Sosuke's finger.

Yet just as Sosuke and Ponyo begin to develop a bond, Ponyo is taken back by her father, Fujimoto (Tokoro Joji) who is a former human who has rejected the surface world and is now attempting to collect and develop magical elixirs taken from the sea that aid him in repairing and rejuvenating the world's oceans.

Ponyo's desire to become human has become so strong however that Fujimoto is unable to contain her anymore and she takes on a more human appearance and breaks free from her water world home and goes back to see Sosuke.

During her breakout, Ponyo unintentionally releases Fujimoto's cache of magical elixirs which unleashes all sorts of magical sea creatures that causes a violent storm in the seas surrounding Sosuke's town. Desperate to resolve Ponyo's rebellion, he soon calls upon the help of his beautiful wife, Ponyo's mother - the water elemental, Mother/Lady of the Sea (Amami Yuki).

As with his past films, Miyazaki's "Gake No Ue No Ponyo" touches upon various themes of ecology and environmentalism, this time focusing on the health and vitality of the world's oceans. The opening sequence is at times sobering when Ponyo encounters a drudging vessel which is scraping the ocean's floor, uncovering mountains of garbage and debris. One can understand the anger and frustration of the character of Fujimoto who has spent his lifetime trying to repair the damage civilization is doing to its oceans, yet finding it an daunting and almost fruitless endeavor.

Enough can not be said of the remarkable animation in this film. It is at times bizarre and outrageous but at the same time charming and curious. Clearly Miyazaki wanted to capture the sense and style of a child's imagination. The art style has the appearance of crayon/pencil drawings and is wonderfully colorful and fanciful. It is almost like a child's color book come to life.

Child actors Nara Yuria and Doi Hiroki do great work as Ponyo and Sosuke. They bring adorable charm to their roles. Nara Yuria in particular sounds so darn cute as Ponyo that it is little wonder that Doi's Sosuke falls for the magical girl. Former campaign girl/model and actress Yamaguchi Tomoko (Shichinin No Otaku, Swallowtail) is also very good in her role as Sosuke's modern mom, Lisa. I was a bit confused at first by her character as I initially thought she was Sosuke's older sister. It also didn't help that Sosuke kept referring to her as "Lisa" rather than Mom but I guess it is perhaps a sign of the times and an indicator of the modern Japanese family (in the anime series Crayon Shinchan, Shinnosuke also refers to his mom by first name as well).

80s comedian Tokoro Joji sounds totally different as the serious Fujimoto but wisely doesn't make his character sound cartoony villainous or goofy menacing. While we don't get to know his character more, former pro-baseball player and actor Nagashima Kazushige ( who portrays Sosuke's father Koichi) also delivers some nice voice work. The opening theme "Umi No Okasan" by Japanese soprano Masako Hayashi is simply beautiful and stirring. In contrast the Fujimaki Fujioka and Nozomi Ohashi "Geke No Ue No Ponyo" theme is light and amusing and evokes images of a traditional Japanese nursery rhyme. During one brilliant sequence the soundtrack takes on an almost Wagnerian operatic sound with music that sounds like "Die Walküre".

The film is not perfect however and does suffer from moments where the central story of Ponyo and Sosuke takes a back seat to some of Miyazaki's overwhelming fantastical visuals. I also had wished we had more time to explore Fujimoto's back-story as well as the relationship between Sosuke and his father.

Like "Kiki's Delivery Service/Majo No Takkyubin", "Howl's Moving Castle", "Princess Momonoke/Momonoke Hime" and "My Neighbor Totoro/Tonari No Totoro", "Gake No Ue No Ponyo" is another Miyazaki classic that is a marvelous feast for the eyes. Like a modern day fairytale, the film tells a timeless story of friendship and love that will surely be cherished in years to come.
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Great movie for kids but something was missing
dave-it20 July 2008
As a long-time fan of Studio Ghibli and especially Hayao Miyazaki films, I went to the film right on the opening day. When I went out of the theater I had this strange feeling that something was missing, this "magical" feeling I was experiencing in all Miyazaki films before, but I couldn't say why it failed this time. After I thought about the other Ghibli movies, I may know the reason: this film had most of the elements of a great Miyazaki anime: cute characters, wonderful key animation, a great soundtrack composed by Joe Hisaishi and the warm story telling giving you the feeling of watching a high quality Japanese animation film. However, two elements were lacking: a deep story and dramaturgy. The purpose of this film was obviously to entertain small children with a simple story line as in case of "Totoro", so a complicated story as been told in "Spirited Away" or "Princess Mononoke" is not really necessary, but on the other hand, this story was simply too superficial. I could not connect to the main characters, because there was no character development, dramatic scenes were only limited and did not last very long. I really hate to give only 7 stars for a Miyazaki film, because I would give 10 stars to all previous movies right away, but this time it was simply not this wonderful "ghibli experience".
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A Totoro for the Noughties
QueenNadine13 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
After the epic fairytale worlds of Howl's Moving Castle and (the underwhelming) Tales from Earthsea, Studio Ghibli's latest is a return to good old 80s Ghibli.

The brainchild of Master Miyazaki himself, it lacks the elaborate plot of the likes of Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away and makes do with far less characters. Instead we finally go back to seeing the world through the curious, wide-open eyes of a child.

The story is based on Andersen's The Little Mermaid, but as the film progresses it becomes its own dreamlike vision. Ponyo is a 5-year old fish princess living in her family's underwater kingdom, and when she meets Sousuke, a boy of the same age, decides she wants to become human herself, much to her father's dismay.

The underwater scenes are spectacular; as one would expect in a Miyazaki picture, they are full of strange, wonderful creatures that resemble something we may have seen in reality and yet are completely unique in their own right. During the initial sequence that's set in this colourful, mysteriously illuminated realm, the first point of comparison that came to my mind was the impressive ocean setting in Finding Nemo. However, where the Pixar film uses 3D graphics of all sorts to create stunningly realistic and impressive images, Ponyo uses a wide range of colours and shapes to create an equally, if not more, stunning fantasy kingdom. There is not a single CGI pixel anywhere in this film, yet the textures are lavishly rich, and the movements of light, the sea and its inhabitants incredibly fluent. The underwater scenes alone are a stunning artistic achievement.

The rest of the film's visuals, however, impress just as much with their lovely but never kitschy pastel palette and the ever-loving detail that can be found in every single frame. The casual drawing style of Sousuke's house against the lavish green field in the background, the gorgeously peaceful town, or a glowing, golden moon are only a few examples of the many memorable images.

Like in the now-20 year old classic, My Neighbour Totoro, the protagonists are young children, and a large part of the film's charm lies in their portrayal. Ever since I was a child and watched Heidi or Anne of Green Gables, (though I've only realised now), what's fascinated me about Miyazaki's animation is the accuracy in which it replicates children's movements, mimicry and mannerisms. Ponyo is a stubborn girl who, like any little princess, can get quite angry if not given what she wants ( though with more serious consequences than with most other children). And when she does, she behaves and moves in the exact same way that you see little kids do it every day in real life. 8-year old voice actress Nara Yuria also does a fantastic job in bringing Ponyo to life and making her the unbelievably lovable, cheeky little sh!t that she is. While she is delightfully hilarious in her half-fish, half-child shape that defies classification, Ponyo never becomes boring once she assumes her human shape. One of the most (literally) heartwarming moments of the film is when, as a human child, Ponyo tastes milk with honey for the first time, truly savouring the experience. The delighted expression on her little face reminded me of my own childhood firsts and gave me that warm fuzzy feeling in my chest. In many ways, Ponyo is very reminiscent of Mei in Totoro.

Like Totoro, Ponyo also has a good old-fashioned opening sequence, and a title song you won't forget too soon after hearing it. Performed by little Ohashi Nozomi, the terribly catchy tune is a perfect sing-along for any child, young or old.

And again, like its famous predecessor, some reviewers have noted (somewhat critically at times), that Ponyo is aimed at a much younger audience than the more recent Ghibli films. I'd like to phrase it differently and say that this is the first Ghibli in a while that doesn't exclude this target group completely. This film is of course for children, but (yes, as with Totoro) its merit lies in its many delights – the lovingly precise portrayal of children's behaviour, the many moments of wonder and the sheer artistic vision.

By the end of the fastest one-hundred minutes ever, I had that silly smile on my face, and I knew I'd once again witnessed true Miyazaki magic.

Of course we'll have to see how well this one will hold up over repeated viewings and how it will be regarded in a decades time, but for now I'll say: Move over, Totoro.

10/10. Now go see it!
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Master is on form and welcomes a new generation of Miyasaki followers
mstaboo24 January 2009
Quite simply, i was tickled pink watching this in the movie theatre and grinned from ear to ear; eyes wide open whilst trying to take all the details in that are at the same time insanely simple, fresh, yet incredibly sophisticated, breathtaking and in imaginative.

In terms of audience age range, it is probably pre Totoro. The plot works because of the pure heart of 5 years olds who are focused in what they want and conscientious in their pursuit. They lives in a world that is unspoilt by cynicism and cultural learning of how everything is 'suppose' to work. While most critics might disregard this film due to the lack of a 'message' or 'plot' film (Although it is in there somewhere), it is precisely for this reason the film should be cherished. Too often our judgement are impeded by our own limitations of cinematic and cultural standing. Like most of Miyasaki's film, each is totally unique but undeniably Miyasaki. Ponyo may at times feel so unique and fresh, it may feel alien like.

The viewing experience provide a wonderful change from all the generic children's products that are generally commercialised to please the adult demographics (ie/ Animals that talks like their human counterparts, Eddie Murphy in Shrek.) It is perhaps comforting to know that good old fashioned hand drawn cells still work so incredibly well in this digital era where Toystory/WallE/Shrek/Cars generally triumph. It therefore feeling rather nostalgic at the same time makes the film feels timeless, a bit like how Totoro and Jungle Book hasn't really aged.

The subtleties of each character's expression and body language is captured in such nuanced interpretation that digital films like Wall-e can never compete on, or if it does, it would be a very expensive process. It would be a big pity for Wall-E to win over this one at the Oscars, and it probably will this year. Yet it might be quite unfair to compare the 2 mediums, as it is really the craftsmanship and the story telling that wins at the end of the day. For this, Miyasaki is a true master of
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More juvenile than Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle but still gorgeous.
eddax27 May 2009
While Hayao Miyazaki's movies have always been hit-or-miss with me with regards to story, they are unequivocally gorgeous to the eye, with characters of simple animation against a backdrop of artistic images. Ponyo sticks to that formula, with a lead character so adorable I want a plush doll of her and scenery so pretty it wouldn't look out of place framed up as a picture on a wall.

The story, on the other hand, I didn't enjoy quite as much as his last two wide-releases, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. It was just a tad too juvenile, coming across as more for kids and leaving adults to just enjoy the animation.

I was also disappointed that the score done by Joe Hisaishi, who also the scores for the above-mentioned two movies, wasn't nearly as memorable this time around. While I can't quite recall Howl's score now, I still remember it being one of the most beautiful I had ever heard. Ditto Spirited's - though I only remember it being very complementary to the movie. Maybe it's because Ponyo is more juvenile fare that the score isn't quite as haunting. In any case, this movie is still a must-watch for fans of anime or Miyazaki.
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Not your usual Ghibli fare but wonderful nonetheless
trpnallday21 August 2008
This is the latest Ghibli movie and it is also a MAJOR departure from the studio's established style. First of all, this film was obviously aimed at young children, much more so than any of their previous films. It lacks the depth of the other films and features a brand new far less realistic style of animation… and yet it is ever so entertaining. Even though there is nothing put in to attract adults, I still found myself drawn to the screen and fully immersed in the story. The movie's secret is brutal honesty with regard to the plot and the characters. The story and the characters are very upfront with their feelings/intentions etc. but that makes them all the more endearing. Special attention was also paid to the soundtrack which is absolutely amazing despite being way different from previous Ghibli soundtracks. I find myself singing the cute theme song all the time as will anyone who sees this movie!
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Miyazaki's best after Totoro
lordyupa200426 March 2009
Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli shows his wonderful touch animating, infusing life, in every little action of the characters in Ponyo. When Sosuke puts down so carefully his little boat to reach for the red fish you know that you'll have a very good time watching this movie.

The characters are interesting and you really care for them. They recall visually other stories, Riisa seems a grown up Nausicaa with a son, an old lady in wheelchair remembers the witch in Howl's Moving Castle.

The presence of the elements, wind, rain, and the sea with its great, powerful waves, is so strong that I think it has never been evoked in such a way in any other movie. It is a simple story, loosely inspired by "the little mermaid", and it reach for the very heart of the audience, just like Totoro, the other Miyazaki's true masterpiece.

An instant classic, with a great soundtrack and a catchy song during the ending credits. Don't miss it.
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Gake no Ue no Ponyo
eva_luke200315 October 2008
I have recently watched this film, and have decided to comment on it.

the best way to watch this film is to not expect what you have seen in the past by Miyazaki. Miyazaki is well known for his work on on Spirited away and Howl's moving castle. well for western viewers anyway. both of them films were kind of similar to each other but at the same time completely different. However Ponyo is a whole different type of story and animation all together.

The story follows "Ponyo" a fish that has the face a girl. After Ponyo runs away from her home at the bottom of the sea, she find a whole new world she never knew was out there, and new trouble as well, when she almost caught by a fishing boat, she was rescued by a five year old boy known as Sousuke.

the story then follows the two of them and the pure friendship between a boy and a fish. can Ponyo really stay with Sousuke forever ?

I feel the movie was inspired by "The little mermaid" and at the same time similar to "Tonari no Totoro"

the movie is very short and you have very little time to learn about the characters in this movie. But the Characters a fish and a little boy so how much are you expecting to learn about them? the film is set over about what seems to be 3 days, I think this is why the movie is so short.

I really enjoyed watching this movie and I hope you all enjoy this movie as well
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For kids, yes; but more
harry_tk_yung1 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Knowing full well that this movie is targeting small kids and will therefore not be as thought-provoking as "Spirited away", I went to watch it because it is Hayao Miyazaki. In a way, his 2-D, CGI-free screens are even more aesthetically absorbing than 3-D Pixar. The Japanese language version, while more authentic, has the drawback of subtitles vying with the beautiful, detail-rich screen for you attention. But then, Tomoko Yamaguchi's voice is so wonderful as the absolutely adorable mother Lisa.

To say that Miyazaki excels in creative imagination is like saying the sun rises in the east. What is so exceptional about this man is that he also gives you, the audience, room for your own imagination. Even a kids' movie like "Ponyo" is no exception.

In addition to imagination, there is also thought association. While the obvious, declared association is with Anderson's "Little Mermaid", there are other associations abound. The menacing ocean echoes Frank Schatzing's Sci-fi thriller "The swarm". The rejuvenation process easily brings to mind the wonderful movie "Cocoon" (1985). And then, the background music when Ponyo is running on top of towering waves resembles Ride of the Valkries. From a quick glimpse of the subtitle, Ponyo's original name seems to be Brunnhilde (or very close to it) in The Ring Cycle, and she only has sisters. Maybe it's just me, but could there be an Wagnerian subconscious in the movie-making?
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Where Anything Can Happen, Who Cares What Does?
RichardSRussell-115 August 2009
Ponyo (G, 1:43) — Fantasy: Fairy Tales, 2nd string, remake

Well, I suppose it was unrealistic to expect to hit the trifecta in a single weekend, but I must confess my surprise that the flik that proved to be the dud in the trio was this confection from Hayao Miyazaki, acknowledged master of anime and the genius behind My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke.

As expected, the artwork was ethereal, whimsical, and utterly charming. It's all hand-drawn in the original 2-D cel-animation style that was state of the art for 7 decades. It's Miyazaki's trademark, and it doesn't disappoint.

Unfortunately, this time around it's in service of a wandering, inchoate, ultimately pointless plot loosely drawn from Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" (which is why I somewhat hesitantly label it a remake).

You would not recognize the mermaid, however, and certainly shouldn't be expecting Disney's Ariel. Ponyo (Noah Lindsey Cyrus) starts out, we are told, as a goldfish, but the strangest little goldfish you ever saw, with a human face, bright orange hair, no fins, and a lower trunk that looks like that of a Hummel figurine, except wiggly. Oh, and she's about the size of your fist. At that, she's 3-4 times bigger than the hundreds of other goldfish — a giggling gaggle of miniature Ponyettes (her sisters?) — who inhabit the same hole in the seabed and continue to put in guest appearances thruout the movie.

Ponyo is carried to the surface atop a jellyfish following in the wake of her "father" Fujimoto. He apparently qualifies for the title not because he's the King Goldfish (he looks like an overdressed David Bowie) but because he's the father of everything in the sea, as well as their self-appointed protector. He purports to loathe human beings and, in one of several incongruously technical geological references, says he wants to bring about a new Cambrian Explosion. (I'm usually happy to encounter mention of Darwinian processes, but what the heck this is doing in a kids' fairy tale is beyond me.)

Once near the surface, Ponyo gets her head trapped in a jelly jar, but she's freed by 5-year- old Sosuke (Frankie Jonas), an unfailingly kind and polite little boy whose mom (Risa or Lisa, Tina Fey) works in a retirement home and whose dad (Koichi, Matt Damon) is a frequently absent ship's captain. The family lives in a big rambling house on a cliff overlooking the sea, and it is here they repair after Ponyo sprouts legs, arms, and a hankering for ham sandwiches. Oh, and balloons up to the same size as Sosuke.

There's a Greek chorus of old ladies at Lisa's workplace, the Moon comes to visit for an extended stay, a typhoon covers everything in 20 metres of standing water but causes no damage, ocean waves turn into fish with eyes, a toy boat gets magically enlarged to become a seaworthy craft, and Guran Mamere (Cate Blanchett), the spirit of the sea, arrives in time to help rebalance the karmic equilibrium of the planet.

Wonders to behold, to be sure, but bearing no obvious connection to each other, just a bunch of novel ideas thrown together at random. It's clearly silly to expect cause-effect relationships, let alone explanations, but a certain minimal amount of coherence is necessary. In a world where anything can happen, who cares what does?
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atlihafsteinsson1 April 2010
I thought long and hard before giving the film this score, but there are simply too many things that make Ponyo not work for me. This latest animated movie from Miyazaki, who needs no introductions, had the intriguing premise of the sea. He spoke of the sea being a character in itself. I was intrigued to see the movie. I knew it had two children as the frontline, but being a fan of My Neighbour Totoro, I knew that Miyazaki has an unreal insight into the mindset of children.

The very first scene of Ponyo is breathtaking. Hundreds of fishes and jellyfish accompanied by breathtaking, oceanic music, finally zooming in on a man in a pinstriped suit, creating a bubble around his ship. We later find out that he is the father of one of the main characters, the fish girl Ponyo who wants to become human after befriending Sotsuke, a 5-year old boy living in a house by the sea. She is able to do this with a mixture of her father's magic (which she's inherited) and Sotsuke's blood (a drop of which she licked when he cut himself).

The problem with Ponyo is the vagueness of the story. There is practically no sense of conflict to the story at all. There is no substantial threat to the characters, and they have very little development. That the characters are so young shouldn't justify this, if we remember Mei in My Neighbour Totoro. Also, Ponyo's father is so at odds with practically everything in the movie's universe, it's hilarious and off-putting at the same time. Ponyo herself is, personally, creepy rather than cute (and her numerous little siblings are no different). I don't understand how nobody finds it peculiar that Ponyo, supposedly a goldfish, has a humanoid face (and Sotsuke shows her to quite a few people). It's even weirder when Lisa (Sotsuke's mother, whom he oddly always refers to by name), an intelligent woman, sees Ponyo eat a slice of ham in whole (as a goldfish) and isn't at all surprised about it. The only really developed character, and the warmest, is the loudest of the old women at the retirement home where Lisa works.

What Ponyo lacks in substance, it makes up for in visuals. The movie's highlight in my opinion is where Lisa and Sotsuke are driving down a road continually drenched in waves, on top of which Ponyo is running. These waves take on the form of giant fish. A wonderful piece of animation. The many underwater scenes are beautiful, with underwater creatures big and small swimming. Something about the overall production values of the visuals feel a bit unfocused, though. The morse code scene is then hilarious.

On the whole, however, Ponyo feels like a lot of elements that just don't work together. Sotsuke faces no real trials like other young Miyazaki protagonists have faced. None of the characters feel like they serve any real purpose other than to bring Sotsuke and Ponyo together. The film's subplot of Ponyo's magic causing a rift in the natural order and causing the moon to come closer (which explains the flood) is never sufficiently delivered to the audience.

I was simply expecting a better delivery from a master storyteller like Miyazaki. Ponyo may only really work for the smallest children, but that's excluding a large part of Miyazaki's fanbase. He's one of those filmmakers whom I respect for continually showing people that animated movies can be for people of all ages. Ponyo obviously aims at a lower age group, but I just hope that the children will be more drawn into Sotsuke and Ponyo's story than I was (there is so much courteous and/or cute dialogue that I felt downright embarrassed at points).

Decent, but definitely not the brightest spot in Miyazaki's repertoire.
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Return to Innocence - A Review of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea
andydreamseeker6 February 2009
Said to be inspired from Disney's The Little Mermaid, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is Japanese animation master, Hayao Miyazaki's next big work after the well-received Spirited Away in 2001 and Howl's Moving Castle in 2004. In Ponyo, his signature style of animating fantasy realms and children characters are on display once again.

Sosuke (Hiroki Doi), the boy lead in the film discovers a 'goldfish' trapped in a glass jar while playing by the seaside below the cliff. He stays with his mum, Lisa (Tomoko Yamaguchi) above and atop it. Sosuke shakes the jar forcefully to try and get the 'goldfish' out but the little 'goldfish' is stuck. He then tries to pull it out but it just cannot come loose. Sosuke then place the jar on the ground before smashing a small rock onto it, breaking it into pieces instantly while suffering a small cut on the finger. He then checks inquisitively to see if the 'goldfish' is still alive. As he observes it, the 'goldfish' reacts by licking the blood off his finger suddenly. Excited, Sosuke quickly rushes back to the house and put the 'goldfish' in a small bucket of water in hope that it will survive. It did and he named it 'Ponyo'(Yuria Nara).

The above scene would signify what is to come for the remainder of the film. It is of the interactions between Sosuke and Ponyo. And it is one that Hayao Miyazaki did meticulously well in portraying. He must have a keen sense of observation and understanding of how children behave before he depicts this chemistry of communication between the two main characters. The behavior of the children would also extend into the rest of the film in their further encounters.

The affection between Sosuke and Ponyo grew as the film progresses from the moment Sosuke brought Ponyo to school in Lisa's car. The best moment came when the two were reunited after a brief separation when Ponyo's father, Fujimoto (George Tokoro), a magical sea dweller recaptures the errant Ponyo before encapsulating her in a magic bubble with kind intention.

Fujimoto who was once human has grown to refer humans with disgust for polluting the sea and stealing its life. But all Ponyo wants is to be human and be with Sosuke so for a second time she escapes, accidentally emptying his father's precious store of magical elixir into the sea, creating a storm of tidal waves and engulfing the small town in the process.

What follows are the adventures of Sosuke and Ponyo in the flooded town.

Is there a happily ever after in this one? Would true love prevail? You find out.

Looking at the art in Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, there appears to be a deviation from Miyazaki's past works in terms of rendering. It looks unfamiliar because the environment apart from the characters at play in every scene is not colored in the usual fashion as in Spirited Away (2001) and Howl's Moving Castle (2004). The aesthetical appeal is discounted from what appears to be color penciled drawings. The objects and characters are also not as detailed as before.

This is peculiar if taken on face value but from the way the story is written and told, the possible explanation is that Miyazaki is allowing the audience to view the film with a child's tint, yet allowing the adults to reminisce on a Japan when they were younger. This move could have prevented prospective moviegoers, new to Miyazaki's work to see it. The trailer did nothing to promote Ponyo as well. Taking the case to Japan however would be a different story as Miyazaki's credential far than exceed any marketing technique.

In summary though, the whole did not equal to its parts. Aside from Miyazaki's ability to cast vivacious and animated characters, the film lacks elements of thrill and wonder when measured against previous works, resulting in a deficit of big screen presence.

The sparks of Ponyo and Sosuke failed to light up the film in a big way but moments of warmth, kindness, and love can still be found in recognizing the film as one that is not made for the kids, but of the kids who everyone is or once was.
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Ponyo is very lovable
rampant197020 September 2009
Ponyo is a beautiful animated film with some dark undertones. It features a kid-sized story of longing and love with ecological implications, but it is not preachy. Hayao Miyazaki has fused Andersen's Little Mermaid with Japan's native myths and his trademark steam punk flights of fancy, and the result is very rewarding. There are some scary moments of oceanside storms and flooding, but they are thrilling, not horrific.

If you've ever wanted to run with the waves along the shore, ride on a jellyfish as an elevator, completely transform yourself, or make a friend for life, Ponyo is a fable for you.
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Less memorable and magical than Miyazaki's other films, but still cute and charming.
JTurner8217 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
It has been widely agreed that Hayao Miyazaki is a master at his craft when it comes to combining rich animation with thoughtful story lines and similarly imaginative characters. His movies, from NAUSICAA, TOTORO, KIKI, LAPUTA, and MONONOKE to the recent HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE are all not only gorgeously rendered in terms of art, but in terms of movie-making as well. Can this man do no wrong? Not really, but it is impossible to expect everyone of his movies to always be five star marvels. His newest film, PONYO, an unashamedly family-friendly tale of a "goldfish out of water", is as lushly animated and alive with interesting characters as you would expect... and yet this is the first film of his which treads into "lesser" territory. Don't get me wrong, PONYO is not a bad movie by any means. As mentioned, it is a sight for the eyes and is as charming and adorable as TOTORO and KIKI. The problem is that the story doesn't stay afloat to satisfy anyone eager for another engrossing, in-depth plot.

For its opening hour, PONYO is Miyazaki storytelling at its finest, in which a rowdy and overeager young goldfish (who later becomes named Ponyo) makes a forbidden trip to the human world where she is subsequently adopted by a boy her own age named Sosuke (modeled, interestingly, after the director's own son). This does not please Ponyo's father, a mysterious wizard named Fujimoto, who is very angry at the humans for their destruction of the sea (this environmentalist theme is not much different from Miyazaki's other films)... a problem he very much intends to rectify by creating jellyfish from the prow of his submarine. He separates the pair and tries to talk Ponyo into staying underwater with him. The goldfish, however, has already tasted both Sosuke's blood (healing a cut on his finger) AND some of the human food (ham, which she becomes inexplicably addicted to), and of course steals into her father's forbidden potions, transforming into a hyperactive young girl (who is the spitting image of Mei from MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO). This triggers a dangerous tsunami which threatens to engulf the entire world with water. Conspiring with his wife, Gran Mamare, a diaphanous sea goddess who alternatingly shifts from super-sized titan to human-size form, Fujimoto decides to test the two youngsters' love for each other. They do this by elevating the sea to the level of Sosuke's house, prompting the youngsters to set out across their now ocean-infested world in an over-sized toy-boat (made possible by Ponyo's own magical powers).

It is at this point where PONYO begins to run out of steam. Although Ponyo and Sosuke are adorable and the scenes involving them are funny and cute, they slow down the film. Where the film really takes on water, unfortunately, is at the climax in which Sosuke must prove his love to Ponyo, presented in a way which is strangely anticlimactic and rushed, bringing an otherwise charming tale to an abrupt halt. This will likely underwhelm viewers expecting another instant masterpiece from the man who has delivered far more interesting finales for many of his other movies. Remember the destruction of Laputa? Satsuki's search for little Mei? Kiki's rescue of Tombo? Porco Rosso's fight with Curtis? The rescue of the Forest Spirit's head? Or even the test between Chihiro and Yubaba? All those resolutions were far more satisfying and felt more complete than this one.

On a technical level, PONYO cannot be faulted. The animation is absolutely gorgeous to look at, produced entirely without a single shot of computer-generated-imagery, and naturally Joe Hisaishi provides us with yet another breathtaking musical score; the best moments being the rousing sequences underwater, accompanied by a chorus and a soprano voice. And the backgrounds are lovingly painted and detailed as any other Ghibli movies.

Having proved themselves worthy on translating and dubbing Ghibli's previous movies into English with top-quality results, Disney Studios and Pixar once again provide an English dub complete with a mostly capable cast of actors. Frankie Jonas is surprisingly good as Sosuke, sounding very natural and believable throughout. Noah Cyrus as Ponyo, on the other hand, sometimes goes overboard in shouting her lines before eventually settling down toward the end. Leads aside, the rest of the cast includes Liam Neeson as the overprotective Fujimoto (who manages himself unsurprisingly well in the character), Cate Blanchett as Gran Mamare (in an omnipresent tone which is not much different from her Galadriel in LORD OF THE RINGS), Matt Damon as Sosuke's constantly seafaring father Koichi (who is good but nothing to write home about), and Tina Fey as Lisa. Of them, Fey is the best voice in the entire cast, imbuing the character with just the right amount of spirit and personality. Her scenes with Sosuke show real chemistry. On the other hand, Cloris Leachman, who was spectacular as Dola in CASTLE IN THE SKY, is disappointingly wasted as one of three handicapped elderly women (she barely has ANY lines!), who are also voiced by Betty White and Lily Tomlin. Of them, only Tomlin's character, a cantankerous woman named Toki, shows any real personality, but if I were casting the movie, I'd switch Tomlin with Leachman. Probably the only really jarring drawback of the dub is a blasty techno-remix of the film's catchy (but ridiculously repetitive) title song, which thankfully doesn't occur until midway through the closing credits.

On the whole, PONYO is a good film; a fine piece of animated work which is perfect for youngsters and family audiences. Due to the loss of momentum toward the end, though, it falls far short of classic status. Since Miyazaki at his least is still better than a majority of other animated films, though, I'll be generous and give PONYO a full star recommendation, because any feature of his is still very much worth watching, particularly on the big screen. (Be sure to catch it in the theaters while you can.)
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Sad how Miyazaki completely misses the mark...
funkonfire7 September 2009
I'd like to preface my review by mentioning that I've grown up with Miyazaki films; they have colored my childhood and given me the myths and stories that I cherish. That being said, Miyazaki is to me what most Disney films are to most Americans. We have fond memories attached to artifacts from our childhood, and as a result, they command our attention and respect even as we grow into adults.

Despite the warm place that Miyazaki's works have in my heart, I was deeply disappointed in PONYO. The art direction and animation was sub-par, lazy, and ultimately rushed. The story had an overly sentimental aspect to it that I feel like earlier Miyazaki films were able to avoid without sacrificing a heartwarming/touching feeling to it. In addition to the sappy "story", was there a story? The narrative was all over the place, lacked focus, and I was so sad and surprised to find myself bored and checking my watch 20-minutes into the film! As an example of the simplicity (and not in a good way) of the story, what was with the "test" that Ponyo's mother conducts? It's a question of whether Sousuke loves Ponyo? What? He's 5 years old!

There are some positive elements of the film, although I was hard-pressed to identify them. First, the opening sequence was absolutely beautiful in its multi-layered presentation. The colors were popping, with a balanced approach to detail and simple shapes that it gave the entire sea world life. Other parts of the animation that were great were Ponyo's Mother's hair, the fish waves, and...that's it.

In closing, I'm having a hard time wondering why there are so many glowing reviews. I understand everyone is entitled to their opinion. It seems like many people are so starved for Miyazaki films in the U.S. that they're willing to give glowing reviews to make the film successful in order to keep his films distributed on a wide scale. While I can understand this argument and position, I feel that we should voice our opinions when a work of art is not up to par, and when we know that the artist has it in him to do so much better.
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Hayao Miyazaki's Newest Classic
ja_kitty_7131 May 2009
I had heard news about this film from anime-legend Hayao Miyazaki, and I SO wanted to see it. But I was lucky enough to the film online at YouTube. After watching the film, I knew that it is another Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli classic.

This film, inspired by my favorite fairy-tale "The Little Mermaid," is about a 5-year-old boy named Sosuke, and his relationship with a goldfish princess, whom he named Ponyo, who longs to become human and be with Sosuke. I won't give you anymore details, you'll have to see the film for yourself. So overall, this is one of the best animated movies ever made, with plenty of fantasy, adventure, and humor...I loved it.
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Doesn't make you feel like a child again; it makes you a child again
tuomas_gimli10 October 2012
Ponyo is without a doubt one of the loveliest films I've seen. I don't think anyone with a soul can be without smiling at least once during this wonderful piece of work from the hands of animation legend Hayao Miyazaki. There is so much to love about Ponyo.

The story bears a vague resemblance to Little Mermaid. The main character, a 5-year old boy named Sosuke, finds a goldfish in a bottle on the beach and decides to name it Ponyo. Through a series of events Ponyo ends up wanting to become human, and then they have a little adventure together. In traditional terms, there hardly is a story: there's no conflict, no main villain, no overall goal to achieve and very little character development. Yet none of this will ever bother, because the visuals, the animation and the pure joy the film absolutely oozes of are so overwhelming they drown out any complaints I might have about the film.

That said, the movie really has to have a visual edge if it is to drown out everything else. In that regard Ponyo truly delivers. Everything looks eye-poppingly gorgeous from the water effects to the expressive and instantly distinguishable characters. Most have praised the water effects as the show stealer, but for me it is the animation of the children. Just watching Ponyo run, jump and bounce around with the sheer unbridled joy of a child is a wonder to watch. Look at Sosuke's expressions the first time he hears Ponyo talk: I bet that's exactly how you would have looked like if you'd found as a child that your pet could talk. The audio is also excellent, with thudding sound effects and a riveting musical score that makes even the smallest moments feel meaningful. Ponyo's voice actor is the icing on the cake, giving a performance so adorable it's almost unbearable.

But the most effective part of Ponyo is its atmosphere, which is quite hard to describe. In short, Ponyo makes you feel like a child adventuring in the woods again. The seemingly limitless positive energy the film has reminds us of the innocence of childhood, when nothing bad could really happen, because there always was someone looking after you. It's also in the little details: for example, we hardly ever see Sosuke's mother unless he himself is in the same scene. The main conflict is only slightly hinted at, resembling the kind of things only grownups talked about and understood when we were kids.

In summation, Ponyo is a fantastic, beautiful work of pure joy that can be enjoyed by any ages. You need to see this film last week.
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A fine return to form for Studio Ghibli.
lewiskendell8 April 2010
I'm a 24 year old male, and I'm proud to say that Ponyo is one of the cutest and most delightful movies that I've ever seen in my life. I watched the entire movie with a big, silly grin on my face. 

I needed a good animated experience to remove the mediocrity of Howl's Moving Castle from my brain, and Ponyo more than delivered. It's a simply beautiful movie (which is to be expected), but so was Howl. What makes Ponyo so much better, is that it sticks to a simple story, and tells it very well. This was obviously made so a younger child could easily follow it, but it's equally as captivating for adult viewers.

There's no big world-ending disaster to prevent, no dastardly villain to escape, and no heavy-handed moral. There is a very slight message about taking care of the oceans, but that never interferes with the charming little story that's being told. Things never become bigger than the relationship between a 5 year-old boy, and his unusual new friend. And the plot greatly benefits from that narrow focus. If I absolutely must nitpick, the middle of the movie wasn't quiet as marvelous as the excellent beginning and strong ending. Still, I'd recommend this movie to absolutely anyone. If you don't like it, you just don't have a heart.     
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colinrgeorge6 April 2010
For a select few, the arrival of a new Hayao Miyazaki film is more celebrated than any of Pixar's blockbusters, and with good reason, as each of the renowned Japanese director's traditionally animated features takes upwards of three years to produce. The worlds he depicts are beautiful, teeming with life, color, and spirit, and "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea," his latest, is no exception.

Allegedly Miyazaki's final film, he abandoned even the aid of computers in crafting "Ponyo," each frame being hand drawn and colored by his Studio Ghibli artists, and with stunning results. From its lush island vistas to busy underwater seascapes, the film offers definitive proof to the superiority (or if nothing else, credence for the continuation) of traditional animation.

The sweeping elegance of the art renders Miyazaki's films generally unhatable, but the emotional honesty of his characters is what makes them timeless. As a father of two, his knack for exploring the family dynamic from a child's perspective is revelatory. The children lucky enough to live in Miyazaki's imagination exemplify not only what makes real children cute or endearing, but also what makes them stubborn and vulnerable.

Enter Sosuke, voiced in the English dub by baby Jonas brother, Frankie, who transcends his gimmicky casting and delivers a warm and compelling performance as "Ponyo's" protagonist. Opposite him (fittingly enough) is teenybopper Miley Cyrus' little sister Noah, who does a fine job as well, though is limited mostly to high-pitched sentence fragments like "Ponyo loves Sosuke!"

The two meet on the shore below Sosuke's cliffside home after Ponyo, a princess of the sea, has eluded her father and unwittingly caught herself in a tiny glass jar, from which Sosuke frees her. The plot is more freeform than some of Miyazaki's previous works, but perhaps all the more magic for it. The universe of "Ponyo" isn't painstakingly established, and the supernatural and the incredible routinely go unquestioned, existing in an alternate plane of reality which keeps the film feeling spontaneous and often wonderful.

If "Ponyo" does prove to be Miyazaki's last film, it could potentially suffer from "Eyes Wide Shut" syndrome, symptoms of which include unfair comparisons to its director's previous work and microscope-level nitpicking, which is entirely undeserved. The film is not his career-redefining masterwork, nor is it in any way unworthy of the legacy that preceded it. It's objectively, independently great. "Ponyo" has a simple beauty to it that rivals that of "My Neighbor Totoro," and fantasy sequences that recall the best of "Spirited Away."

For its great cast (Tina Fey, Matt Damon Cate Blanchett, and Liam Neeson comprise a great dub, however blasphemous that may sound to Miyazaki purists), easy-going earnestness, and beautifully inventive visuals, "Ponyo" is my pick for animated film of the year, 'up- setting' Pixar's 2009 heavyweight, which had emotion to spare but came up short in adventure.

But those select few will share my disappointment when the envelope is opened and the monosyllabic winner is read on Oscar night. Miyazaki's latest is worthwhile even for those who associate Japanese animated films with stuffy conventions and overweight teens in costumes. "Ponyo" is a modern family classic on par with "The Little Mermaid" and the rest of the Disney golden-era library.

Miyazaki is a magician, and like a magician, everything he shows you isn't essential to your comprehension of the trick, but the end result is so beautiful that there's no sense in questioning it.
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Fish be with you
Jay_Exiomo7 July 2009
Like the 5-year old protagonists of his latest opus, Hayao Miyazaki's "Ponyo" enchants with its unbridled innocence as though the anime-meister has become a child himself in weaving a narrative that relishes in its simplicity and emits an infectious charm in the process. Miyazaki, recalling his earlier works, paints a brightly-colored world obviously geared for the younger audiences and the raw effervescence gleefully strips off the grim thematic elements that distinguish its immediate predecessors.

Ponyo (voiced lovably by Yuria Nara), a fish with a young girl's face (making her look like a cuddly child in a pink overgrown Halloween costume), escapes away from her underwater home and her school of siblings to explore the surface. Stranded ashore, she is rescued by Sosuke (Hiroki Doi), a five-year old boy who, along with his mom Risa (Tomoko Yamaguchi), resides in a house on the nearby cliff. This initial encounter and, eventually, friendship, has a profound effect on Ponyo who now wishes to become human, but by becoming so inadvertently tips nature's balance and unleashes a maelstrom on land. With Sosuke's help, Ponyo must pass a test to lift this curse and completely become a human.

Despite the plot lacking the philosophical sophistication of, say, his most recent "Spirited Away," "Ponyo" is nothing short of an astounding follow-up, characterized by the extremely diligent attention to detail and masterful balancing of the real and the fantastic, and of the simple joys and great fears. It's a straightforward tale that, though at times stalled by its tendency to ramble like a toddler, keeps in tune with its youthful pedigree to magically enthrall. "I will protect you," Sosuke tells Ponyo matter-of-factly, a childlike assertion not unlike the manner in which Miyazaki endows his story with artful spirit.
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A Miyazaki classic geared towards a much, much younger audience
jpnzrunna202 July 2009
I have been reading a lot of different opinions and reviews of this movie, and I understand why a lot of people get mixed feelings about Ponyo, whether it be the story line, animation, dialogue, and so forth. And I believe the most simple way I can answer to this, is that it's a movie for a much, much younger age bracket. An age bracket much younger than that of Tonarino Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro).

Being a Miyazaki fan like the majority of the surfers on this site, I expected the wonderful animation, music composition, complex story telling, the great steady development of characters, how the story intertwines with today's society, etc etc etc of a typical Miyazaki film that we grew up with. And to tell you the truth, I didn't quite understand what the hell this story was supposed to be about or what the hell was going on until an hour and twenty minutes (with twenty minutes left in the movie), that this movie is NOT for the deep thinkers and hard core Ghibli-ists, but for the toddlers and youngins' and happy go lucky Japanese people. Also, I believe this movie is based on simplicity and creative animation; straight-up grass roots Ghibli Studios style.

The fact that a villain is not present really surprised me, other than the father and maybe that crazy-ass typhoon. But other than that, this movie is just plain fun; to stimulate a young one's mind, and to make happy good time feeling. That's all.

The animation goes back to the old-school mid-80s early-90s era of Miyazaki's films, where very specific detail wasn't a big focus, unlike Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke) and the latter. I admire the simplicity which kind of created some small nostalgia when I first watched Ghibli movies like Tonarino Totoro when I was a child. The reaction and movement of the children are all very similar to that of kids, and a lot of Studio Ghibli's body language is very noticeable. Studio Ghibli added some creative moments and sceneries that they can only do with it's wonderful animators, but it probably won't take the ritual Ghibli-ist in awe.

The Japanese dialogue also sounded very child friendly and a lot of scenes and dialogues are very, very relative from what Japanese kids and mothers would say and act. The music if very hoppy and "fluffy" I guess you could say (similar to Totoro) from beginning to end. Even the darker scenes didn't seem assertive.

In the end this movie is one of a kind. Just about every aspect of this movie is for children. And I waited a whole 80 mins to realize that. Quite frankly, I have never seen a movie told or shown it the way Miyazaki did. It's refreshing to see that Studio Ghibli can still tell a story for a wider, and much different scale of audience, and still keep that trademark Ghibli impression.
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