Ponyo is in my top three or four Studio Ghibli films. It whisked me away on my very first viewing, leaving me stunned by the gorgeous animation and completely won by the adorable child leads. This is the version of The Little Mermaid that I love because the innocence, warmth, and adventure is so touching and engaging!
And yes, Ponyo was inspired by the original Little Mermaid story!
Drama | Adventure | Fantasy | Magic
2008 | 101 minutes | G
A little goldfish princess sneaks away from home and finds herself trapped in a bottle. She’s rescued by a five-year old human, Sosuke, who names her Ponyo and carries her home in his bucket. The two form a sweet innocent bond of friendship but when Ponyo’s wizard father retreieves her, they’re both devastated. Ponyo uses her father’s magic to return to Sosuke as a human girl but she unknowingly throws off the balance of nature by doing so…
I have to talk about the animation first because WOW. Water is a large part of this film and its animated in such a stunning way–its fluid, its soft, it is almost gelatin-like for certain moments. The entire film made me want to swim with the fish. The visuals alone is enough to guarantee a ‘must-watch’ rating from me, as the character designs and background art are also eye candy to the animation enthusiast.
One of these days I’ll rank my favorite pieces of anime by how much their animation floored me, and I know Ponyo will sit right there in the top ten!
Title character Ponyo was a wonderful lead; she was enthusiastic and strong-willed without being obnoxious–refreshign! The little boy Sosuke was adorably mature, bright, and kindhearted for his age. Ponyo reminds me of myself when I was three or four…I had the fluffy hair (curly really,) the bright energy, and stubbornness. When I see Ponyo, I see my inner child, and that makes me smile.
The rest of the cast of characters is relatively small but still incredibly enjoyable and memorable; Ponyo’s wizard father and magic mother were intriguing characters and Sosuke’s spunky mother Lisa was especially fun. (A small shout-out here to Lisa, who is one of the coolest anime moms out there!)
I watched this with the English Disney dub, and it was wonderful! I barely recognized Tina Fey as Lisa, which I count as a plus, XD and Liam Neeson’s stoic voice was perfect for Ponyo’s father. I adored Frankie Jonas as Sosuke; he and Noah Cyrus were both fantastic for being such young actors. The rest of the sound for this film was wonderful–Ponyo has an exceptional soundtrack, as it works wonders with the story to evoke the right emotion at the right time.
Speakign of which, I absolutely loved the flow of the story’s plot and the level of emotion it took me to. From thrilling adventure, heart-tugging moments of joy, tender sadness and frustration, and moments of pure awe, Ponyo expertly carried my emotions with the plot as though by magic itself. As I said above, much of this has to do with the soundtrack, which worked brilliantly with the movie.
This was simply a masterpiece, easily one of the Studio Ghibli’s best and brightest. Not everyone might like this movie, but to me it was incredibly beautiful, enjoyable, darling, and a true example of what animation can accomplish in the world of storytelling. Talk about going above and beyond for a children’s movie!
Star Rating 5/5 | Rewatchability: High | Definition: Better than The Little Mermaid