Having had 'Spirited Away' and 'Howl's Moving Castle' for a while, we bought this film primarily for our 4-year-old grandson to watch. I'm quite sure he doesn't understand the storyline, except in its simplest essentials (neither do we, really), but the fact is that he has watched it four times right through in two weeks, totally absorbed. The nature and quality of the animation has a lot to do with this. It's not just the fish/girl (Ponyo) that's cute - Sosoke and his mum, Lisa are too, and indeed the old ladies at the Senior Citizens' Facility. Lisa is intriguing - an impetuous Mum, a very bad driver, a poor timekeeper, living on top of a cliff with her very nice and trustworthy little boy (of whom she is extremely fond), her husband a sea-captain in one of the very many coastal ships which pass and repass along the heavily polluted coastline. It's not a pretty-pretty film, and environmental issues are very much on the agenda, but there's magic too, both literal (worked by Ponyo, her father and her mother) and metaphorical, in the effect the film has on its watchers. It works whether you are 4 or 64 - believe me. Recommended.
Hayao Miyazaki is one of those rare directors who can take the magic of nature and childhood, then somehow capture it for the screen.
And his tenth Ghibli movie "Ponyo" is no exception -- it's a reimagined tale of a "little mermaid" who wants to become human so she can be with a little human boy she loves. It's a simple story told in a simple manner (occasionally TOO simple), but it has a lush oceanic beauty and an innocent sweetness that really capture your heart and imagination.
A little boy named Sosuke finds a tiny "goldfish" with a human face on a beach, trapped in a bottle. He names her Ponyo, and goes to great lengths to care for his little fishy friend. But then the sea wizard Fujimoto, Ponyo's overprotective dad, appears and snatches Ponyo back into the sea -- and she decides that she wants to become human so she can be with Sosuke. Having tasted a bit of Sosuke's blood, she sprouts chickenleggy limbs and starts to change, but inadvertently disrupts a magical well that causes the moon to drop, the seas to rise over the land, and prehistoric magic to rise once more.
Sosuke and Ponyo are delighted to be reunited, despite the raging storm that is engulfing the city and causing ships to go missing. While the children go searching for Sosuke's missing mother, Fujimoto struggles to fix the balance of nature before the entire world is destroyed, with the help of Ponyo's sea goddess mother. The only hope of restoring balance lies in Ponyo and Sosuke -- and if Sosuke's love is not true, then Ponyo will be reduced to sea foam.
Compared to Miyazaki's other movies, "Ponyo" is a very simple story -- it's basically a boy-meets-fishgirl story, with lots of children running around being adorable and exquisite looks at the sea. Even its theme is simple -- the story is dependent on on true selfless love and how it knows no boundaries of age, experience or even species. Not to mention parents letting go of their children.
If there's a downside to the story, it's the lack of internal conflict. Example: the "test" that Fujimoto and the sea goddess use for Sosuke... well, it's far less impressive than it seems.
And Miyazaki does not disappoint animationwise -- he conjures a waterworld of luminous sea life, sparkling ships, prehistoric creatures, finned submarines and a town that has been swallowed by the sea (complete with boats floating over the rooftops). It's an exquisite piece of work that turns the ocean into a magical, otherworldly realm where wizards work in coral-encrusted towers and shimmering jellyfish take little mermaids to the surface.
Ponyo herself provides a lot of the movie's charm -- she's effusive, hyperactive, has a babylike fascination with the human world ("HAM!"), and an array of handy magical powers. Sosuke is a likable lad who is fascinated by Ponyo and her world, and Fujimoto makes a enjoyable anti-hero -- spindly, gaunt and with a mane of messy red hair, he's like a rock'n'roll embodiment of parental stress.
The extras are pretty promising on this blu-ray, and they seem to be the same as the regular DVD edition's extras (rather than stiffing or one or the other group of buyers) -- a slew of documentaries and interviews (including with Miyazaki himself), storyboards, explorations of the story's background, et cetera. And most striking is the "World of Ghibli," an interactive creation which apparently allows people to "enter" the worlds of various Miyazaki movies -- "Ponyo's," "Kiki's," "Castle in the Sky's," and so on. And given how luminous and lush the colors are, the movie itself should be spellbinding visually.
"Ponyo" is simpler and more childlike fare than most of Miyazaki's past films, but it's still a sweet and lushly-animated piece of work. At the very least, it will transport you to a magical childhood.
on 4 March 2010
Some of the scenes where Hayao just loosely hand-draws the whole screen, with a few scribbles, are beyond belief.
The "sense of water" is unprecedented - amazing.
This is Art -- in an age with very little Art.
it's difficult to overstate how astonishing this is ... the works of Miyazaki are, really, like the ouvre of Shakespeare for our times.
(BTW, bizarrely the FRENCH version of Ponyo has already been available, in France, for months! It's great!)
Something to consider - simply watch the film IN JAPANESE. It's not that there's anything wrong with the English version, but, the film is so incredibly ... operatic .. like an animation "tone poem" that it's almost better if you are not distracted by ANY language. (It could be a wordless film...the incredible music only)
As you probably know already, this is Miyazaki for the youngest viewers. It is absolutely perfect from age 2 onwards!
I played it literally three (3) times in a row nonstop the first time...from the first frame onwards it is breathtaking. You just sit there with your mouth open.
The scenes that are already famous are breathless, the most amazing animation ever, the greatest expression of joie de vivre certainly in any film output, perhaps in any artform for a century or two. Staggering.
The only question is, can Hayao do ANYTHING, EVER to top this??
on 24 August 2010
No matter how old you are, whether your 6 or 96 all will love this film.
It's cute, funny, and has very catchy theme music.
For anyone who has never seen any type of anime please be warned you may find this (Like most of Studio Ghibli films) bizarre. Stick with it as it does make sense after a while.
I love all of Studio Ghibli films and recommend 'Whisper of the Heart' as well as 'Spirited Away' and also 'Princess Mononoke'.
on 11 June 2011
Please, people! STOP reviewing this film as if intended itself to be the next Princess Mononoke or Howl's Moving Castle! It isn't and was never meant to be. But don't worry Ghibli fans! It still has that unique, indescribable Ghibli quality which keeps us on the edge of our seats, it's just that this time it's been carefully fitted into a film made purely for a YOUNGER audience. Got it? Good.
To the people fretting over Ghibli's decision to make a film relevant to younger kids: I don't understand their complaints. With the release of My Neighbour Totoro, Ghibli has already proved that just because a film is aimed at the tinie tots, doesn't mean it can't still be enjoyed and marvelled over by people of ANY age. It's just one of the (many) things which makes the company so brilliant. Some adults will love Totoro and some will prefer Ponyo, but trust me, as a babysitter of kids aged 3 - 13 on a regular basis, ALL kids will adore both.
Based on Hans Christian Andersons book of The Little Mermaid, it's wonderful to see Miyazaki take on a story which is so familiar... and out-standing how the concept appears to be so original on screen! Trust Ghibli to take an old premise and return it to us all sparkling and fresh from the studio. Ponyo is another gorgeous character; funny, adorable and completely oblivious to anything dangerous. The plot is simple, but again, this is to cater for the viewers too young for the complexities of Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Likewise, when I 'simple', it's never patronisingly so, neither does it come close to the fear of "talking down" to the kids watching it.
Looking at critisism for the film: Personally, I think some of Ghibli's older fans need to learn that occasionally face-value is the best way to enjoy films such as Ponyo. If your constantly looking for hidden meanings other than the obvious 'be yourself', how can you laugh at Ponyo's insistant love of ham? Or be enchanted by the brilliance of sailing through a neighbourhood of prehistoric fish? You wouldn't do it to the latest Disney release (yes, its a weak comparison but bear with me), so why do it to something which still has 10 times the uniqueness and charm? Even it IS simple enough for someone under 5...
Finally, there's one last complaint which has cropped up repetitivley and which I'm about to explain away using experience (Warning: Minor spoiler alert). Sosuke's final task that he has to complete, in order to make Ponyo human forever, it to say that he will always love her no matter if she's a fish or a girl (yes, I know they're 5! It's only meant to mean that he loves her as FAMILY!). To the people arguing that this is a lame, easy challenge, I say:
Be honest. How many 5 year old boys do you know who will admit to liking a girl... Never mind loving her even if she's a fish! Seriously, I've babysat kids that age and they'd never say something like that willingly, too afraid of catching "girl cooties!" To me, that's the hardest challenge she could have set the kid, and he passed with flying colours!
Conclusion: Loveable characters, mind-blowing graphics and overall, a plot which is simple but still incorporates all the magic, comedy and high-drama necessary to make this a lovely, family film... just remember SG fans, don't take it too seriously!
on 18 February 2010
Saw this at the Duke of Yorks cinema on a wet half-term Thursday afternoon with my four year-old lad and it blew us both away. A cinema full of kids with them all transfixed by a film is a
rare thing to see.
This cartoon animation blows away its Pixar rivals in terms of sheer imagination, and is a total delight to see.
It made me realise why i go to the cinema in the first place, I will order it on DVD asap.
on 27 May 2015
I just didn't get this movie the first time, but on a rewatch I was totally engaged, a close relative to my neighbour totoro, the animation just leaps from the screen, backgrounds almost like pencil crayon absolutely stunning! I could pause this movie at any point and study what's there, Ghibli movies are so different from Disney but easily equal their best, before watching maybe it's worth exploring some of ghiblis early work, then you know what you in for. Really can't fault this movie. My early gripes were with the soundtrack it has a fantastic score but is in 5.1 lpcm which will not decode on my surround sound set up so the sound was disappointing, however the stereo English track on Dolby surround is stunning.
This much anticipated film by Hayao Miyazaki is inspired by The Little Mermaid, but it's otherwise a fairly unique tale with plenty of the fantastical magic you expect from a Studio Ghibli production.
The story centres around a young goldfish who is given the name "Ponyo" after meeting with a boy, after their encounter Ponyo decides she'd like to become human herself. Her desire to become a girl leads her to grow arms and legs - well, with the help of a drop of blood and a bit of magic - then her quest to live outside the water begins.
Miyazaki's films often have an environmental or anti-war message, and with Ponyo that is quite evident though it is never allowed to become preachy or overpower the general story. Ponyo's father is the focus of any ecological observations, he makes frequent remarks about the state of the ocean at the hand of mankind, and it is revealed that he used to be a land-dweller himself before he chose to take to the sea.
The animation is of the highest quality, but then again you expect nothing less. The artistic style seems to vary depending on the scene and what is being depicted. We get bold, bright, vibrant colours for most of the time, and at other times there's more of a pastel effect which captures the essence of a children's drawing. There are also moments of simplicity where detail is abandoned and we are left to just marvel at the sheer scope of what is on screen. The film itself is staggeringly beautiful and the colours make this the brightest film in the Ghibli library, Miyazaki's trademark style is there and not just in the imagery.
I'd read a book about the production of this film and one of the main factors Miyazaki wanted to capture was that of the sea, he wanted it to be more than simply a watery medium in which various aquatic creatures dwelled, he wanted it to feel like a character itself - an entity in it's own right. He certainly achieved that, the ocean looks almost organic and there's a definite sense that there's a conscience behind it.
The film meanders and almost seems to lose any sense of direction, but this isn't because of scrappy writing or a lack of ideas, it's because Miyazaki loves characters and Japanese cinema isn't scared to explore the abstract. This results in scenes which don't necessarily appear to be adding to the plot, but instead allow us to experience more of some of the characters. This occurs mostly with a set of pensioners who are there to add a bit of humour, diversity, and alternative perspective rather than anything else.
The film ends somewhat predictably but it's seems natural for a film which accommodates younger viewers. The film is certainly not guilty of sticking to a regular format and although many elements are inspired from existing stories, this definitely stands out as a bespoke piece of cinema.
In a nutshell: A great looking film and a nice little adventure. This feels like a fairy story which has been taken and given twist of magic and fantasy by the creative genius of Hayao Miyazaki. It lacks the depth of other family friendly Ghibli films such as My Neighbour Totoro (a personal favourite of mine) and Kiki's Delivery Service but it still has that level of wonder and charm which sets it apart from most other animated features.
on 25 May 2014
I love Ponyo. The animation, characters, music and especially the chemistry between Sosuke and Ponyo makes this a great Anime and one of my favourite Studio Ghibli films. It's cute, creative, colourful and all-around likeable.
on 3 December 2013
The Blu ray is exacly the same as the double play no enhanced feature If i recall, so your basically paing an extra £10 for the steelbook,
great for collectors, not so great for the wallet.
the anime is nice, can be scary at times for younger children,
kept my young ones occupied for a while,
Another Ghibli masterpiece,
not too sure about the translated songs though