“Ponyo” stars Yuria Nara, Hiroki Doi, Tomoko Yamaguchi, Kazushige Nagashima, and George Tokoro. Released on July 19, 2008, the film is about a goldfish who dreams about being human.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Last year, I took the opportunity to review most of the animated features that were created by the Japanese animation company, Studio Ghibli, and acclaimed animation filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki. I found this series of classic reviews pretty fun to work on, so I decided to look at the other ones that I haven’t talked about yet, starting with one of Miyazaki’s latest films. This year marks the 10th anniversary of “Ponyo”, which is the first Studio Ghibli film that I saw in the theater. Everything else before that? Never got the chance to. With that in mind, I figured that now’s the time for me to share my personal thoughts on this latest family-friendly gem with you guys. For this review, I will be looking at the English dub version, which features the voice talents of Noah Cyrus, Frankie Jonas, Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and Liam Neeson.
The film takes the inspiration of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and places it in a traditional Japanese setting. The plot is pretty familiar to The Little Mermaid, in which a sea creature, who is half-human and half-fish, dreams of exploring the human world. However, “Ponyo” offered a few elements that made itself stand on its own instead of being a Japanese carbon copy of Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid, so don’t expect a singing Jamaican crab or an evil sea witch to make an appearance in this film. This is also one of the few Studio Ghibli films that receive a G rating from the MPAA due to its amount of innocence and kid-friendly charm, which would be good for very young children who needed a good introduction to the famous animation studio. But what about the film itself? Did it hold up well against the test of time? Well, obviously, yes. Is it another animated masterpiece? Not exactly, but it still has the imagination and wonder that made Studio Ghibli a powerhouse of Japanese animation. Despite the absence of emotional weight in terms of storytelling, the film has plenty of simplicity and heart to unlock the inner child inside all of us. It’s sweet, charming, and just plain adorable. Like the other Studio Ghibli films that are translated into English, “Ponyo” gathers a bunch of well-known celebrities together to voice the characters, and you can clearly tell that they got some pretty good talent on board. The characters of Sosuke and Ponyo are voiced by Frankie Jonas and Noah Cyrus, respectively, both of which are related to former Disney Channel stars. Frankie Jonas is the youngest member of the Jonas Brothers and Noah Cyrus is the younger sister of Miley Cyrus. Both of these kids delivered some really good chemistry together, although in some scenes, Cyrus’ voice can be a bit tedious for those who can get annoyed very easily. The other cast members also did a solid job with their vocal performances, mostly Tina Fey as Sosuke’s mother and Liam Neeson as Fujimoto, Ponyo’s father who really dislikes humans. Looks like King Triton and Fujimoto have something in common after all. The animation is something that you would find in a children’s storybook, and it is a gorgeous sight. Using the style of traditional animation, the film boasts its brilliant colors to make the sequences and its locations look dazzling and imaginative. The musical score by Joe Hisaishi was also impressive to listen to in terms of its childlike sense of adventure despite not being as memorable as his other scores.
Overall, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Ponyo” continues his trend of imaginative and masterful storytelling. While it doesn’t compare to the likes of Totoro or Spirited Away, the film has enough oomph in its storytelling and its colorful animation to impress many Studio Ghibli fans of all ages. I would also highly recommend it to families and their young kids who are in need for some innocence in their lives. Happy 10th anniversary, Ponyo. May your adorableness continue to live on for many years to come.