Review of 'Ponyo (Gake no ue no Ponyo)'

ponyo.jpg Beautiful animation from the beloved master of Japanese anime, Hayao Miyazaki.

Ponyo (voiced by Noah Cyrus) is goldfish, one of many daughters of the wizard Fujimoto (voiced by Liam Neeson). One day she falls asleep on top of a jellyfish and is taken far away from her home where she is found by a young boy Sosuke (voiced by Frankie Jonas). She grows fond of the young boy but is taken back by her father. She again rebels, in the process releasing a great magic into the world, and changes herself into a young girl, returning again to Soskue.

Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's “The Little Mermaid” the classic tale is given a Miyazaki twist with no end of delightful visuals and charming characters. Aimed squarely at the children's market there is enough in this movie both visually and in the story to keep adults entertained. The entire story is told from a child's perspective so adults may have a hard time swallowing some of the things that happen (adult characters seemingly not even batting an eyelash when the world floods, or when a child says she has made friends with a fish…that is now a little girl…etc, etc).

With the opening of the movie under the ocean the drawing is simple (which caused us a bit of concern early on) but it is when the world above the ocean is shown do we see the intricacy of Miyazaki's craft with a stunningly realised and richly detailed landscape. The largely classical soundtrack only changes with the louder end credit music adding a very uplifting note to the experience…

In this english-language version of the movie, the voice actors generally are very good indeed, particularly Lisa, Sosuke's mother, voiced by Tina Fey whose subtle performance makes the character come to life. Liam Neeson, voicing Fujimoto, is forceful when required but always warm and loving when talking about Ponyo. With his soft voice we can believe that he is not a big, bad wizard but deep down just wants to do what is best for his daughter. It is only Cate Blanchett, voicing Gran Mamare, Ponyo's mother, that is largely forgettable with bland, but slightly warm, pronunciation (though, admittedly, this very well may be the most appropriate for the character).

With every movie Miyazaki-san says he will retire. This movie proves he still has what it takes and is capable of improving on the high standards he sets with each film released. It is clear that Ponyo will rank right up there with My Neighbour Totoro as a Miyazaki classic.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2010-02-05

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Year: 2008

Length: 101 minutes

Genre: Japanese Animation

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