Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 22 Mar 2010
Hayao Miyazaki does it again, in what is likely his cutest and most whimsical film to date.
A little fish’s dreams of the world grow when she is rescued a boy named Sosuke. Sosuke finds this little red fish trapped in a glass jar at the seashore near his home, so he frees it, gathers it into a pail, and names it Ponyo. After Ponyo returns to her home in the sea, she decides that she wants to become human, return to the land, and find Sosuke again.
The sense of childhood wonder is something that Hayao Miyazaki has already done to perfection with films such as My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service. With Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, he has truly outdone himself in the best way possible. Ponyo is a delightful fairytale, yet still touches on Miyazaki’s environmentalist themes without intruding on the story.
I hesitate to even describe the story in any more detail than I have in the summary. Like Totoro, Ponyo is a wonderful tale told with childrens’ sensibilities in mind, so I think that the best way to experience it is to just watch it for yourself and get lost in the story. Also akin to the other Ghibli films created with children in mind, Ponyo is leagues beyond much of what passes for children’s entertainment in the United States. Even adults should feel the sense of wonder while watching Ponyo.
The animation quality in Ponyo is nothing short of astounding, but that should come as no surprise for a film from Studio Ghibli. In this age of computer-assisted animation, Ponyo‘s hand-drawn production values are a remarkable example of traditional animation. I don’t know whether the film was hand-painted or digitally painted, but many of the backgrounds appear as though they were drawn with colored pencils. I couldn’t spot any computer-assisted special effects, either. Ponyo‘s visual appearance is impeccable, and a testament to the capabilities of traditional animation.
As it stands, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea has instantly become one of my top Ghibli picks, and is probably my favorite from the studio since 2001’s Spirited Away. If you enjoyed My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Hiroyuki Morita’s The Cat Returns, Ponyo should be next on your list.