tek's rating:

Ponyo (G)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

The original title is "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea." The movie is sort of based on (or at least inspired by) Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Little Mermaid." Though I haven't actually read the story, I'm pretty sure this is fairly different (certainly it's different from the Disney version of that story). But of course, the basic concept is recognizably similar. There's a fish-girl who falls in love with a human boy.

First, let me say that there's a guy named Fujimoto, who looks pretty much human, and indeed he once was human... in fact, maybe he still is, though he doesn't think of himself as such. Either way, he's a wizard, and at some point in the past, he gave up his life as a human. Now he lives under the sea, in a sort of castle, and travels around on a weird submarine with flippers. He hates humans and all they do to the sea, or whatever. He's been working to fill a pit with magical elixir that will eventually restore balance to the world.

But all that comes later. He, um, has a bunch of children, sort of. But they're like these little goldfish, though they have sort of humanish faces (and their bodies look sort of like nightgowns or something). One of the fish-girls, Brunhilda, is bigger than the others, apparently because she was exposed to some of her father's magic. Although I suppose they all have some magic in them, naturally, because their mother, Granmamare, is some kind of sea goddess. But we don't see her til much later on. Though she's beautiful, she's clearly not human, mostly because she's very large, though her size does seem variable, so that sometimes she can be human-sized. Anyway, it's unclear exactly what her relationship is or was with Fujimoto, though one does get the impression they love each other, even if they rarely see each other.

But I keep getting ahead of myself. Brunhilda swims to shore, where she's found by a 5-year-old boy named Sosuke, who puts her in a bucket of water and names her Ponyo. Sosuke lives on a cliff by the sea, with his mother, Lisa. They rarely see Sosuke's father, Koichi, who is the captain of a ship, and often at sea. Apparently his ship is often close enough that he and his family can signal each other with lights flashing morse code, but even so... it's hard on them not getting to see him. Anyway, Lisa works at a seniors center, where she takes care of a few old ladies, who are friendly with Sosuke (though one of them is always pretty grumpy).

Well, eventually Ponyo learns to speak (I assume she didn't know how before), and tells Sosuke she loves him. But her father finds her and takes her home. She tries to change herself into a human girl, but he prevents it, with some difficulty, because her own magic is growing more powerful. When he goes out to find her mother, to help control Ponyo, her little sisters help her escape. She does change into a girl, and as she looks for Sosuke, a major storm comes up, and the moon gets closer to the Earth, and the world is getting more out of balance. Finally she does find Sosuke and Lisa, and the storm begins to subside, though things are still out of balance. Sosuke soon realizes this girl is Ponyo, the goldfish he's been sorely missing. Lisa somehow takes this whole goldfish-becoming-human thing remarkably, and somewhat amusingly, in stride.

Anyway, after taking Ponyo into their home and feeding her and Sosuke, she heads back to the senior center to try and help. In the morning, Ponyo and Sosuke wake up and find the town is flooded, with the water coming right up to the door of their house on the cliff. Ponyo makes Sosuke's toy boat a bit bigger, and the two of them ride in it (it's powered by a candle), to look for Lisa. Along the way, Ponyo eventually turns back into a fish.

Meanwhile, Fujimoto and Granmamare decide Sosuke will have to pass a test of his love, to see if Ponyo can turn into a human permanently (and give up her magic), thus restoring balance to the world. The test itself isn't much of one, and the end is just too easy and quick. But otherwise, as with all Miyazaki films, the movie is pure magic, and great fun. Very cute and sweet and innocent and amusing. And I guess that's all I can think to say, for now.... Except of course, that while I usually think Miyazaki's films skew a bit young, this one is clearly geared even more than most of them toward children. Even so, it should be enjoyed by people of all ages....


anime index

films by Hayao Miyazaki and/or Studio Ghibli

The Castle of Cagliostro * Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind * Castle in the Sky * Grave of the Fireflies * My Neighbor Totoro * Kiki's Delivery Service * Only Yesterday * Porco Rosso * Pom Poko * Whisper of the Heart * Princess Mononoke * My Neighbors the Yamadas * Spirited Away * The Cat Returns * Howl's Moving Castle * Tales from Earthsea * Ponyo * The Secret World of Arrietty * From Up on Poppy Hill * The Wind Rises * The Tale of the Princess Kaguya * When Marnie Was There