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Ponyo [2008 film] by Hayao Miyazaki
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Ponyo [2008 film]

by Hayao Miyazaki (Director), Melissa Mathison (Screenwriter)

Other authors: Yuki Amami (Actor), Cate Blanchett (Actor), Matt Damon (Actor), Tina Fey (Actor), Joe Hisaishi (Composer)7 more, Rose Jennessa (Actor), Cloris Leachman (Actor), Liam Neeson (Actor), George Tokoro (Actor), Lily Tomlin (Actor), Akiko Yano (Actor), Kazuko Yoshiyuki (Actor)

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Sosuke, a 5-year-old boy who lives in a little fishing town, finds and rescues Ponyo, a goldfish with a human face. The two quickly become friends, but they can't stay together - Ponyo's father is looking for her and is determined to keep her with him forever. A magical goldfish girl living with a human boy would disturb the balance of nature and potentially threaten all life everywhere.

This was...muddled. I thought it was at least so-so, up until it was suddenly shoehorned into the position of being a (sorta kinda) Little Mermaid adaptation. It had the usual features I like in Studio Ghibli films: friendship, a sense of wonder, the beauty and power of nature, environmental aspects (only briefly brought up, despite this being the driving force behind Ponyo's father's actions), etc. Sosuke's hometown was lovely, as were the ocean scenes, but my favorite parts were probably the shots of various prehistoric fish. Although I thought Ponyo and Sosuke's friendship developed overly quickly, it didn't bug me too much since they were both only about 5 years old. Sosuke's joy at finding Ponyo and figuring out how to take care of her was cute, and I laughed when Sosuke's mom, angry that her husband wasn't coming home that evening like he said he would, used a signal light to repeatedly tell him to "bug off."

When Ponyo's father found her and took her back to their home, I thought this might turn out to be a movie about an over-protective, overly controlling father who has to learn to let go and let his daughter be her own person. The movie preview indicated that Ponyo would need to save the world and restore the balance of nature, and parts of the beginning of the movie made it sound like there'd be an environmental thread to the story.

The environmental thread was dropped almost as quickly as it was introduced, and the whole "saving the world and restoring nature's balance" aspect was disappointing. Ponyo being both a magical goldfish girl and a human threw nature out of balance. In order to restore the balance, she had to either be a magical goldfish girl or a human. Being both was not an option. There was no question in her mind about what she wanted to do - she loved Sosuke and wanted to become a human girl. Her complete lack of worry or sadness over the thought of losing her life in the ocean, magic, and possibly all future contact with her siblings and parents was jarring - yes, she's a child and might not have been fully aware of the consequences, but still.

Since she knew what she wanted, that just left Sosuke, who Ponyo's mother and father decided to test. I honestly expected the "test" to be a bigger deal than it was. Supposedly Sosuke had to prove that he really loved Ponyo. I'm not sure how he managed this, aside from once again saying that he loved Ponyo, but Ponyo's parents accepted this and everyone was happy. I thought that there might be a scene where Sosuke would have to risk his life for Ponyo, or maybe find Ponyo in a crowd of her sisters (reminiscent of one of the later scenes in Spirited Away), but instead he didn't actually do much of anything. Sosuke's mother seemed perfectly happy to have suddenly acquired a second child, and who cares about the surprise her husband would be getting once he finally arrived home.


Ponyo had a lot of potential but fell apart in the end. I'll probably re-watch it with subtitles at some point to see if my feelings about it have changed after a bit more time to think, but at the moment it definitely isn't going on my list of Studio Ghibli favorites.

All that said, I think small children would love this. I can't recall anything in the way of scenes that could be considered frightening, and I imagine most kids would get a kick out of all the magical scenes, like Ponyo running on the waves and transforming Sosuke's boat, without the drawback of an adult brain butting in with thoughts like "Wow, Sosuke's mom is a terrifying driver."

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Mar 25, 2018 |
A magic fish leaves the sea.

The adorable bits are adorable enough to make up for the movie's problems. But damn is the plot a mess. There's the story of the relationship of the main characters, which is good. And then there's, simultaneously, the Anime story of inexplicable magic and deus ex machinas, which is crap. My theory is that it isn't supposed to make any sense. We're seeing things from the perspective of a five-year-old, so all that magic and giant fish waves and end of the world confusion is grown up stuff and over our heads. But more likely, it's just too damn Japanese for me.

Concept: C
Story: D
Characters: B
Dialog: C
Pacing: C
Cinematography: B
Special effects/design: A
Acting: B
Music: C

Enjoyment: B

GPA: 2.5/4 ( )
  comfypants | Jan 21, 2016 |
5 to 10 years. Miyazaki adapts Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid and weaves in a powerful environmental message. Ponyo is a little magical fish with a semi-human face. Her father was a once a human but now is an underwater dwelling sorcerer. He has left humanity behind and its nonenvironmental habits to recreate ancient ocean species. However unlike her father, Ponyo wants to become human and falls in love with a caring human boy named Sosuke. Her trying to be with the boy inadvertently unleashes a storm and balance will be restored only if the boy loves her as well. The sorcerer learns to believe in the possibility of human integrity through the boy. Miyazaki seems to be saying that balance for the world depends integrity and taking care of one another. Miyazaki's animation is stunning as ever. His depiction of ancient underwater life is extraordinary and breathtaking. The characters are drawn with cartoon like animated expressions but the background is highly realistic and detailed with a hint of soft edges. There is an all star Western cast for the English translation including Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, and Tina Fey. Ponyo as well as all Miyazki's movies are highly recommended to public libraries. ( )
  JeneenNammar | Dec 16, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miyazaki, HayaoDirectorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mathison, MelissaScreenwritermain authorall editionsconfirmed
Amami, YukiActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blanchett, CateActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Damon, MattActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fey, TinaActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hisaishi, JoeComposersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jennessa, RoseActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Leachman, ClorisActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Neeson, LiamActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tokoro, GeorgeActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tomlin, LilyActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yano, AkikoActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yoshiyuki, KazukoActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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A young boy named Sosuke rescues a goldfish named Ponyo, and they embark on a fantastic journey of friendship before Ponyo's father forces her to return to the sea. Ponyo's desire to be human upsets the balance of nature and only Ponyo's mother, a beautiful sea goddess, can restore nature's balance and make Ponyo's dreams come true.… (more)

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