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I love all the works of Hayao Miyazaki, so I fully expected Ponyo to amaze me. Maybe I should have kept my expectations slightly lower. Ponyo is very good but very good where I expected spectacular.

Ponyo is one of Miyazaki’s environmental message movies, and I personally find his style at message films a little heavy handed. I felt the same way about Naussica Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke. It’s not that I dislike them or feel they are in any way poor films, I just think Miyazaki lays the message on a little thick. And I felt that with Ponyo.

I normally find the Miyazaki designed creatures fascinating (No Face of Spirited Away) or adorable (everything in My Neighbor Totoro), but much less so in this film. The Ponyo character when a little girl is cute, but the fish-with-a-human-face and the mid-change-with-chicken-legs are just disturbing. Her Willy Wonka-like father looked pretty creepy most of the time, too, but also dangerously treading ridiculous. The only really interesting newly designed creatures were the moving, sentient water drops, black with a single eye.

The plot took some incomprehensible turns as well, including the fate of the planet apparently resting on the ability of a five year old boy to make a solid decision. I don’t care how mature he is for his age, if that’s ever the case this world is doomed. This plot point comes across as really forced.

Outside of having unreasonable expectations applied to them, though, Miyazaki captures children’s behavior as effortlessly as always. The way they play, the importance of it, all works perfectly on screen. Sosuke’s mother gets an unusually detailed amount of character for an adult in a Miyazaki film, which is a nice change of pace. The elderly home setting provides some new voices from which he can deliver additional perspectives in the film.

The animation is very well done, as one expects from Studio Ghibli. I would like to have seen more of an undersea setting than the room in which Ponyo’s father attempts to lock her away. The random scenes with the multicolored fish are gorgeous, so it feels like the landlocked scenes are pretty drab until the end.

There are some weaknesses in story and character but Ponyo is still a good film. I think children will find more in it than adults, which is a shame given how incredible Miyakazi’s works can be for both. 3 ½ stars

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2 Comments

  1. Oh, man did I hate this movie. As a fellow Miyazaki fan, I was disappointed enough to almost walk out.

    I agree, his message was a little heavy handed, but the film also felt quite thin on plot, and the animation quality was far below his other films.

    I still really support the director, though, and can’t wait for the next one…

    • I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. It just felt sorta half done, like there was more fantasy to be added but he subbed in a lame pollution message in its place.

      I too still look forward to his future films!


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