Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

...tells the story of a 5-year-old boy and his relationship with a sea princess who longs to become human.

TRAILER: http://www.firstshowing.net/2008/07/19/hayao-miyazakis-ponyo-on-the-cliff-japanese-trailer/

Let me start with pre-conceptions. Miyazaki has been on a tremendoes streak, he made the brave and epic Princess Monoke, then the charming and beautiful Spirited Away and the similarly splendid Howl's Moving castle. When I saw the first art from Ponyo I was worried. It was an image of a head attached to a little body of this weird creature that lived in the sea. The trailer, whilst visually gorgeous featured an abominable theme tune, similar to Totoro.

All is well here though, like Totoro, the vocal theme tune isn't played until the credits at the end. Joe Hisashi is on duty here and the score is as marvelous as ever. I was also wrong to doubt Miyazaki. I think you have to understand firstly that the film aligns itself more with Totoro than the likes of Spirited Away. There isn't much at stake here, there is no kind of real peril like your parents being turned into pigs and the threat of being stuck in a strange world for the rest of your life for instance. If Howl's Moving Castle is a satisfying main course, than Ponyo is like a light, fluffy but perfectly excecuted desert.

Ponyo starts with the most fantastical, beautiful opening shot of any Studio Ghibli film to date. It has so much detail and beauty that a Japanese reviewer even questioned whether the detail of blu-ray would even do this film justice. It opens with a shot of some fishing vessels on the night sea with a yellow moon peaked between two clouds. As it pans underwater you see a cacophany of vibrant sea life swarming and twisting, in dazzling colours and movements. There is one shot where they even go the full mile of animating microscopic life, rendering the image of a melting pot of ecological life into your memory.

If there is one negative to Ponyo it's the story. There isn't much of one. It's basically, sea princess wants to become human and live with a young boy. That's pretty much it and all sorts of chaos arises out of the situation. It's not deep or satisfying or complex like other Ghibli films, this isn't a Nausicaa. But this doesn't matter much as the film is almost perfect excecuted. It's a film that will have you smiling throughout its one hour and forty minute running time. And not because of laughing, although there are moments. You will smile because of the absolutely delightful imagination that is constantly painted across the screen. Even an exciting car chase is animated with Studio Ghibli style. I'm sure some of you have fond memories of the car chase in the Castle of Caligstro, this is a similar scene, with peaks of insanity, danger and joyous fun.

Unfortunately, I saw a version of the film that was poorly translated so some aspects of the story may have eluded me. All in all though, this is another special film from a very special director. It's a shame that Disney wont bring the film till america till Spring 09 I read and the Japanese- english subtitled DVD may be months and months away.

Posted by gamingeek Sun, 31 Aug 2008 14:14:42 (comments: 14)
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Sun, 31 Aug 2008 22:38:16
I can't wait to watch this.  I will have to wait for the DVD release but it's ok as I have yet to see Earthsea.  This looks really awesome.
Sun, 31 Aug 2008 23:36:20
Bugs don't bother with Earthsea, read the books, the movie is imcomplete at best!
Mon, 01 Sep 2008 00:12:00
Need to watch more Miyazaki.

All I've ever really seen is Porco Rosso and Spirited Away - I've got Nausicaa taped and Laputa is on this week.
Mon, 01 Sep 2008 09:38:27
You really hate Totoro. Sad
Mon, 01 Sep 2008 11:43:15
Iga is right in that the books are great, get the Earthsea quartet in one volume and then the follow up: The Other Wind which to me, reads as well as LOTR. But the film is pretty decent, not the best perhaps but I'd say it's no worse than Castle in the Sky. It's a little ponderous and people who have read the book wont find much joy. But the books are all encompassing epics so you can understand how they couldn't condense it all into one story.

Ponyo is MUCH better. I just watched the first five minutes again last night. The opening scene could be cut after five minutes and still win awards for its animation. It has you smiling like a giddy schoolboy.

Darth, I never liked Porco Rosso. I found it boring actually. The best Ghibli films to watch are Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo on the cliff, Nausicaa, Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbours the Yamadas and Pom Poko.

Foolz, I don't hate Totoro at all. I would definetely put Ponyo above Totoro though. Ponyo has those wow moments like in Totoro when the massive tree sprouted. But it doesn't have the slow boring lulls of that film.

You'll understand when you see Ponyo, but the film is like eating Candy Floss for an hour and not being able to stop smiling.
Mon, 01 Sep 2008 13:10:11
iga i'm a bit of a completist when it comes to studio ghibli (i have 16 dvds) so i think i will have to get earthsea too at some point but i hear what you and gg say about the books and will see if i can get my hands on them somehow.  thanks!
Mon, 01 Sep 2008 13:41:31
I don't think there was anything wrong with the "lulls" in Totoro though, it was a different kind of story (a more personal one IMO) than some of his other films, so it shouldn't have been "wow" the whole time.

However I definitely want to see this, looks and sounds awesome!
Mon, 01 Sep 2008 16:10:53
I like Totoro a lot. But it seems to go from absurd things like the catbus, to almost Grave of the Fireflies-esque Japanese countryside, desolation. Intermingled with classic Miyazaki fantasy like the tree scene. I do think the pacing could have been better.

I think it's great, just not as great as some of his other films.
Mon, 01 Sep 2008 16:28:13
The Japanese Police band played the ponyo theme:


Got to say that after seeing the movie the theme tune is on a continuous loop in my mind. I have ordered the image album already.
Mon, 01 Sep 2008 16:33:12
This short trailer shows a little bit of the orchestrated music.

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