Ponyo is the magical tale of a goldfish who becomes human to be with her best friend Sosuke. Little does she know that by using magic to make herself human that she has sent nature out of alignment, with potentially catastrophic results.
For those of you who have no idea who Hayao Miyazaki is, let me inform you. Miyazaki is the director who brought us the wonderful Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. His residence is with Studio Ghibli, the only studio still making hand drawn animated films – until Disney jumped back on board with The Princess and the Frog.
Ponyo is a similar tale to The Little Mermaid – Ponyo herself is a fish, and after she gets stuck in a jar, she is rescued by Sosuke. Sosuke and Ponyo spend a day together until she is taken back to the sea by her father Fujimoto. With the aid of some magic, Ponyo turns herself human and sets out to find her friend.
The animation in this film is just gorgeous, the sea feels full of fish and a place of adventure, especially when it floods and takes over the roads on land. That said, there are some creatures that are a little scary – like the wriggling beasties that Fujimoto sends out to find and reclaim Ponyo – and the tsunami unleashed by Ponyo’s misuse of magic is at first beautiful, then just plain unnerving.
For us adults watching the film, yes there is a ecological agenda – this film is Miyazaki’s meditation on the treatment of the oceans – but it done subtly enough that the film never feels like a lecture, and the moral never overwhelms the story.
I watched the film in Japanese with English subtitles, and I am glad I did, the sound of the language fits with the look of the film, even if I can’t understand it. That said, don’t let the dubbing turn you off, Ponyo is a pretty enough, well made enough film for it not to matter.