Miyazaki does it again.
By a customer
, 05 Jul 2009
A young magical fish girl escapes from her home in the sea but ends up stranded on the seashore. She is saved by Sōsuke, a five year old boy who lives on a small cliff top house with his mother. Sōsuke names the fish Ponyo and promises to protect her - but Ponyo is soon captured and returned home. Ponyo declares that she wants to be human and live with Sōsuke, and after an accidental dose of her fathers magical elixir, Ponyo escapes again now in human form, unaware that this transformation has created an imbalance in the world with serious consequences looming.
Expectations are always high whenever Hayao Miyazaki releases a new film and for Ponyo
that is no different. Yet within moments of the film starting, one begins to feel they are watching another hit in the making and by the end of it those feelings are confirmed. Whether Ponyo will be regarded as a Studio Ghibli classic, it is too early to tell but it will certainly make up for the bump in the road that was Miyazaki Jrs Tales from Earthsea.
This is essential Miyazaki, recalling the simplistic charm of My Neighbour Totoro combined with the fantastical elements of Spirited Away. Sōsuke is you archetypal Ghibli hero (only this time a male): young, impossibly intelligent and responsible beyond his infant years, resourceful and pure of heart. Ponyo in human form is a more hyperactive version of Mai from Totoro whose excitable helium voice and bouncing about (except when she is sleeping) may wear thin pretty quickly for some although Miyazaki manages to pull her from the brink of complete annoyance that some young females Anime characters dive headlong into.
Where the film falters slightly is in the story telling with some key matters left unexplored. For instance, we never learn why Sōsuke addresses his parents by their first names and not as Mum and Dad; nor is it explained what exactly the world threatening catastrophe is that will result in Ponyo becoming human.
The animation as one would expect cannot be faulted with Miyazaki once again eschewing CG technology for hand drawn cell animation, breaking his own recording for exceeding 170,000 images. The character designs are classic Miyazaki while the backgrounds and artwork are as sumptuous as ever. A special mention has to go to Joe Hiraishis excellent musical score that ranges from foreboding symphonic pieces for the storm scenes to gentle and emotive light orchestral numbers for the lighter scenes.
Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea is arguably Miyazaki at his most whimsical and accessible which should ensure a wide international audience. While not perfect, long time fans shouldnt feel disappointed by this film either and should rejoice that the master has put back his retirement - again!
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