This is Ponyo (c) Ghibli/Disney
I am a massive Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli fan. Spirited Away is my all time favourite movie, closely followed by My Neighbour Totoro. These films bring such joy, beauty and warmth to the world, and they are an art form that is perfectly Japanese, with no competition from the West to dilute their uniqueness.
So I have just seen the latest Ghibli movie titled “Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea” (aka “Gake no ue no Ponyo”)…it is a much simpler story than the recent spate of Ghibli films, and reminds me very much of the likes of ‘”Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “Totoro” and “The Cat Returns”. The animation hasn’t taken any massive leaps forward, it is almost as if it has gone backwards a little, seeming much more hand-drawn and ‘cute’ rather than the sweeping CGI of “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle”. But this is no bad thing, as the plot doesn’t require such Michael Bay moments, it is a far gentler, more spiritual film. I have totally fallen in love with Ponyo, it is everything a Ghibli film should be – highly original, without competition, high adventure in a small setting, the world seen through the fascination of children, a message of friendship and companionship, and most of all, great characters in a beautiful setting.
Ponyo with her brothers & sisters (c) Ghibli/Disney
The story follows a small strange looking aquatic creature (a mermaid) that lives with her father, an undersea spirit. This creature decides it wants to see the world beyond its small home, and so steals away amongst some jellyfish. However, the creature gets more than it bargained for as it is soon accidentally washed up upon the nearby shore and found by a small boy. The boy saves the creature by putting it in a bucket of water, but then takes the creature to school with him. The boy lives with his mother, in a house on the top of a marvelously steep hill overlooking a small port town. He decides to call the creature Ponyo, and a friendship is soon formed. However, her father is not happy with Ponyo’s disappearance and sends the waves crashing to shore to find and retrieve Ponyo. But Ponyo doesn’t want to live with the spirit anymore, she wants to return to the shore and be with the little boy and his mother. in escaping, Ponyo causes the spirit’s magical potions to mix and spill and these lead to the ocean growing ever larger. Ponyo is also affected by the potions and gets the ability to turn herself into a little girl. She quickly returns to shore to find the little boy. But in the town all is panic as the oceans rise and rise, forcing people to flee. Eventually there is nothing left but the ocean and the hill-top home of the little boy. The boy’s mother heads out to try and rescue the townspeople and take them to safety, meanwhile the little boy and Ponyo remain in the house enjoying each other’s company. But as time passes, the little boy gets worried about his mother, and with Ponyo’s help, and her magic, they head off into the ocean to find her.
Ponyo with her father, Fujimoto (fantastic art by the talented nasou - click for link-through to nasou's site and work)
I won’t go any further as I don’t want to spoil the rest of the film. Suffice to say their adventure is full of mystery and magic, which builds to a climatic ending of typical Ghibli proportions!
As yet, I’ve only seen the Japanese version with rather poorly written English subtitles. If recent movies are anything to go by, the English cast and dub will be superbly chosen and no doubt extremely well acted. I’m really pleased to see Ghibli and Miyazaki make this move to the earlier style of work, there is an innocence and wonder about Ponyo that started to go missing with the bigger CGI films like “Earthsea”. I hope we get a few more like this over the coming years, mixed with some of the bigger-scope stories of course.
Ponyo as a little human girl (c) Ghibli/Disney
Hurrah for Ghibli, hurrah for Miyazaki and hurrah for Japanese animation. “Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea” is a first rate piece of entertainment. As soon as it comes out, make sure you catch it, you won’t be disappointed 🙂