Ponyo is a Studio Ghibli film from 2008. Like Nausicaa, it was written and directed by Miyazaki Hayao. Although, in this case, it’s loosely based on the legend of the little mermaid rather than an entirely original work. Let’s see how that turned out.
Our story opens underwater where undersea David Bowie is moving around in his magical submarine spawning jellyfish. Yes, I know that isn’t his actual name, but he looks kind of like David Bowie, so that’s what I’m going to call him. Anyway, one of his young fish daughters escapes the submarine and makes her way to the surface where she’s found by a young boy named Sousuke. He decides to keep her in a bucket as a pet, but undersea David Bowie is not pleased and decides to rescue his daughter. But she decides that she’d rather live on the surface as a human with Sousuke, whom she knew for maybe an hour… and the story progresses from there. This one does have some pretty glaring weaknesses. The biggest one being the characters’ ages. This story really doesn’t work when the main characters are five. It just makes the romance seem stupid and contrived. It also makes the climax seem really idiotic and the adults come across as really irresponsible. That being said, the film does have some really epic moments in it and a lot of it is a lot of fun.
Then we have the characters, I’ve already hit on this a bit, but the major characters in this one are pretty weak. With Ponyo and Sousuke a lot of it is just that they don’t have a developed relationship and a lot of their actions seem to be entirely because the plot says so. Lisa is pretty badass though, and one of the most developed characters in the film. One character who is done really well is undersea David Bowie. I like that he’s a sympathetic antagonist with actual developed motivations. One thing that sets him apart from other Ghibli antagonists is that he’s a well-intentioned and jaded environmentalist rather than someone carelessly or shortsightedly causing harm to the environment. I also really like the elderly female characters in this. They’re just a lot of fun.
The art is stellar. As expected of Studio Ghibli. The environments are rich and vibrant. The character designs are well done and the action sequences are really cool.
The vocal cast in this is strong. Even the child actors like Nara Yuria ad Doi Hiroki deliver great performances. But the best are definitely Yamaguchi Tomoko and Tokoro Jouji. The music is really beautiful and really helps the atmosphere.
The ho-yay factor is a 1/10. This film doesn’t have any.
That’s Ponyo. How does it fare? Well, it’s certainly not as strong as Nausicaa. It’s biggest weakness is that it made the two main characters far too young. They really should have been teenagers, minimally. They also don’t spend much time developing them. That being said, the film does look and sound lovely. The adult characters are pretty well handled and interesting and it does have some great moments. My final rating is going to be a 6/10. It’s a decent little film, but it certainly has its issues. Next week, the Cat Returns.