Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Starring: Frankie Jonas, Noah Lindsey Cyrus

Year: 2008

My first experience with Studio Ghibli was watching Princess Mononoke.  I had never seen Japanese animation before and was unprepared for the style, the action, and the dubbing.  It was an art form that I wouldn’t appreciate until years later, even though the studio was becoming famous worldwide.  Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, Arrietty, The Wind Rises, When Marnie Was There; these are some of the most widely-known and successful animated movies of all-time, though Americans continue to prefer Disney, Pixar, and other local animation studies.  But the power of Ghibli can’t be denied, as their films are an artistic medium all on their own and continue to amaze us with wonderful stories brought to life with dazzling talent.

Loosely based on The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, Ponyo is a tale of love breaking all boundaries.  Sosuke is a young boy who lives near the sea with his mother & father.  His mother works at a nearby retirement home, his father is a sailor.  Sosuke happily relies upon his own independence and imagination, but when he happens to find a goldfish along the shoreline, he’s overjoyed to finally have a companion.  The trouble is, the fish he names Ponyo isn’t a fish at all, but the daughter of a powerful sorcerer and the Sea herself.  They need her to return to the ocean, to keep the balance between life on land and life under the sea, but Ponyo’s love for Sosuke is too powerful a thing to be set aside for the survival of the world as we know it.

Studio Ghibli makes another masterpiece; what else is new.  Ponyo is just another beautiful depiction of a classic tale, a reimagining of a story we thought we knew so well.  It’s very, very different from Disney’s Little Mermaid, holding tight to the original content in some ways, and creating something completely new in others.  It’s as if that tale happened in modern Japan with children as the protagonists, the result becoming something better than you might predict.  The color, the brilliant artwork, the stunning visuals; breathtaking all.  And the cast was pretty impressive, apart from the two youngsters, who we’ll root for to make names of themselves as well.  Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Lily Tomlin; top that if you can.  I might have liked Arrietty just a touch more, appreciating its slow pace, deep moments, and phenomenal music.  But Ponyo held its own, will delight children, and impressed me as a singularly unique film in a world of recycled time-wasters.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆