Important Importables: Ponyo movie review

August 16, 2009 - 2:00 am 1 Comment

Hot Japanese Imports: Ponyo movie review

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Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Title: Ponyo
Release Date: August 14, 2009 (US), July 19, 2008 (Japan)
Rating: “G” for General Audiences.
Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes. (101 minutes)
Pros: Gorgeous visuals. For the most part, the voice acting is fantastic. Great pacing for the story. A nice mix of active and passive scenes. The music and soundtrack is absolutely wonderful.
Cons: Noah Cyrus’ voice (Ponyo) can occasionally be grating and/or annoying.
Overall Score: 9/10

Handdrawn, 2D animation is an endangered art form. Most films are now made with computers and companies have a habit of releasing everything in 3D. Thankfully, Studio Ghibli is still doing things the old fashioned way. The company’s latest film, Ponyo, is among its most beautiful, and is a new adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

A new take on The Little Mermaid.

Brunhilde is a little goldfish who lives under the sea with her father and sisters. All her life, she’s been stuck in and Fujimoto’s submarine, but she wants more out of life. She one day sets out to see what there is outside of the ocean she knows. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go too well and she ends up trapped in a bottle.

She’s then rescued by a young boy named Sosuke. He breaks the bottle trapping her and sets her free. She then licks clean a cut he got saving her, healing it with her magic. He renames her Ponyo and decides to keep her with him and protect her. Ponyo loves her new name and him. However, her father Fujimoto comes to claim her, dragging her home, and the Ponyo and Sosuke are separated.

Ponyo is then determined to not only find a way back to Sosuke, but also find a way to become a human. However, doing so could disrupt the world’s balance.

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Ponyo is a reminder of how beautiful 2D animation can be.

Ponyo is the kind of movie you’d have to see twice. The first time, you’d see and appreciate the actual story presented on the screen. The second time, you’re able to focus on the detailed artwork on the screen. In fact, Ponyo sets a new record for Studio Ghibli films – there are 170,000 individual, handdrawn images in the movie.

It also features a wonderful sense of storytelling and pacing. The beginning of the movie is very relaxed, almost leisurely. The audience is able to take this time to get to know and identify with the characters, specifically Ponyo and Sosuke. It then gradually builds in intensity and action, and features a satisfying ending. It never feels rushed, and while there are some fairly intense and dark moments, even those don’t feel threatening. It’s just a trial that must be faced and overcome.

Disney did do a wonderful job when casting the English version, with one exception. Personally, I found Noah Cyrus (Ponyo) to be a tad annoying at times, as opposed to endearing, and I preferred Yuria Nara’s take on Ponyo. Frankie Jonas, on the other hand, does a decent job as Sosuke. Of course, Tina Fey (Lisa), Liam Neeson (Fujimoto) and Cate Blanchett (Gran Mamare) all provide wonderful performances, and so do Matt Damon, Betty White, Lily Tomlin and Cloris Leachman in their cameo appearances. Overall, it’s very well-acted.

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

A tale all ages and cultures can appreciate.

If you enjoyed previous Studio Ghibli movies, like Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away, you’ll fall in love with Ponyo. It’s an endearing adventure. The English language version is well cast, and it’s a joy to watch. I have a feeling that it will also become the most popular of the Studio Ghibli movies released in America, due to the familiar story and breathtaking visuals.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports looks at Japan’s Pokemon Centers.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports reviewed Nanashi no Game for the DS.

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One Response to “Important Importables: Ponyo movie review”

  1. Dulcie Polston Says:

    Wo die Suchmaschine mich den lieben Tag hinfuehrt :) Gute Page, ich werde wieder kommen.

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