Ponyo

I recently popped along (on cheapie Tuesday) to see Ponyo, the newest offering from one of my favourite directors, Hayao Miyazaki.

A version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Ponyo is the name of a goldfish who befriends Sosuke, a five year old human boy. She forms an attachment to Sosuke and yearns to leave her home, the ocean, and become a little human girl, against the wishes of Fujimoto, her sea sorceror father.  So far, so fairytale. But a Miyazaki film has never taken the traditional route, in plot or execution.  Ponyo’s wish upsets the balance of nature and causes a tsunami and she and Sosuke must set out, without adult help, to make this wrong right.

The film features the usual Miyazaki elements – a young, feisty, independent-minded heroine; strong, older female characters, a good dose of magic and even greater lashings of whimsy.  And his films, magical though they may be, are more often than not about growing up and accepting responsibility, as well as subtle (and not so subtle, in the case of Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) statements about the damage which humankind is wreaking on the environment.  But his films are never gauche or sentimental. Rather Miyazaki’s strength lies in his skill in creating quiet moments – when his characters cook up a meal and sit down to eat, or have an out-of-sorts blue day, or experience the pain of a having to make difficult choice – without veering into Disney-like schmaltz.

He is also an old school animator, preferring hand-drawings (he drew many of the 17,000 plus drawings for Ponyo) to CGI. Apparently he lambasted his son Goro, the director of Studio Ghibli’s last offering, Tales from Earthsea, for utilising too much CGI.  Handdrawn animation might sound quaint and even a little yawnsome, but when it’s Miyazaki at the helm, you know you’re going to be in for a visual treat.  Miyazaki’s rendering of the underwater realm (which in this film substitutes for the sky and allows the director to indulge in his passion for animating flight, or swim, in this case) and its inhabitants, including dolourous fish, lugubrious octopii and bulbous jellyfish, is magical.

It’s a lovely film, aimed for the younger age bracket rather than some of his other offerings like Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle. But it’s still a wonderful, engaging watch for big kids of all ages.

A few stills from the movie below, taken from the official Australian site.

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Fujimoto's submarine

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Sosuke finds Ponyo

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Ponyo and her sisters

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Sosuke's mother, Lisa, takes the children home

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3 Comments to “Ponyo”

  1. Seems as magical and as other Miyazaki films. Still not released in the UK cinemas I think but we were lent a Japanese DVD, so I shall see it soon.

  2. It’s a quieter Miyazaki film, like Kiki’s Delivery Service or Totoro. Not a grand one, like Mononoke or Nausicaa, or even Spirited Away. But it’s lovely. Looking forward to getting it on DVD!

  3. I loved Totoro – I think it’s my favourite of what I’ve seen (others being Spirited Away & Howl’s moving Castle). I really enjoyed how gentle and, as you said, quiet it is.

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