Ponyo – Film Review

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writer: Hayao Miyazaki

Starring (English Dub): Noah Cyrus, Frankie Jonas, Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Mona Marshall, Bob Bergen, Akiko Yano, Lily Tomlin, Betty White

Rating: ★★★

After the success of Howl’s Moving Castle Hayao Miyazaki wrote Ponyo to be aimed specifically at young children. It’s an almost Disneyish story about youth and love all wrapped up in a new take on the classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid.

Sōsuke is playing near the ocean one day and finds a strange fish trapped in a bottle, that he helps escape and then names Ponyo. The problem is that Ponyo’s father thinks that Sōsuke has kidnapped his daughter so takes her back. Ponyo doesn’t want to remain captive to her father anymore and using magic turns herself into a girl to go and live on the land with Sōsuke, with devastating effects.

First things first, the animation is gorgeous. It’s incredibly bright and manages to capture the beauty of the sea and nature perfectly. The sea-life swimming under the ocean is stunning to watch and as always (at least until Earwig and the Witch), Studio Ghibli make a visual feast with Ponyo. You can feel the care in every single frame. Ghibli have this strange talent of taking you away to a far away world, even if it’s not that dissimilar to our own. Their charming style is at its peak here, with masterful animation.

As it’s aimed at younger children than most of the studios output, it does feel a little simple at points. There’s some really nice moments when Sōsuke and Ponyo are riding on their boat, and the whole opening with Sōsuke going to school is great. The setting of the coastal town is more interesting than the story and just watching the characters more around and seeing more of the world is interesting. The film is filled with very imaginative moments, but watching as an adult, it doesn’t really grab you and the whole thing becomes a little tedious towards the end.  

In the English dub Liam Neeson voices Fujimoto, Ponyo’s father, who believes that his daughter has been kidnapped and sets out to find her. Neeson does like a certain type of role, doesn’t he? The rest of the English cast is great, with Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cate Balnchett, Lily Tomlin and even Betty White making appearances. It’s probably the best English cast list for a Studio Ghibli film.  

It’s a little too childish at points and does run the risk of being a little dull, but the beautiful animation and charming Ghibli style still make it enjoyable. It’s still a must watch for Ghibli fans and would be a perfect way to introduce a child into the world of Ghibli.

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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