15 Jan 2010


Studio Ghiblis back! And after the disapointment of Tales from the Earthsea can Miyazaki bring the Ghibli boat back on course?

Anyone who knows me will tell you that my love for Studio Ghibli is unfaultering, as I sit here writing this (wearing my Totoro hat) I’m full of joy that yet again Miyazaki has come up with another memorable film in Ponyo. Already described by many as Japan's Disney, Ponyo followa this trend and is roughly inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. It’s an incredibly beautiful venture into an amazing world full of sea creatures and human beings.  Miyazaki has always effortlessly combined the fantastic and the mundane in his films with Ponyo being no exception, resulting in a visually imaginative and exhilarating piece of work, that expertly excerts all the vigour and energy those familiar with the Ghibli franchise will expect, all achieved with surprising simplicity.
A story as idealistic and imaginative as any that Miyazaki and company have brought to life, with the kind of vivid hand-drawn care that is harder to come by with each passing animated feature, with only Pixar coming close to capturing the same type of childhood magic we all desperetly search for when attending such films. Ponyo's story focuses around a young boy, Sosuke, who whilst playing by the beach front encounters an odd little goldfish who he names Ponyo. Its apparent from the get go though that Ponyo isn’t your normal goldfish as she starts to change form into a young girl. With her half human half magical father Fujimato desperate to get her back the two young  characters find themselves on a journey that will change the way they see the world.  
As with most of Ghiblis work Ponyo isn’t just another animated film for kids and does touch upon some serious issues. Like Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke before it,  this film centres around ecological concerns and the threat of global warming. But unlike any of the recent catastophe films we’ve seen clogging up the cinema listings (2012, Day After Tomorrow) Ponyo lacks any real sense of conflict or danger, instead subtly making its point and not ramming home the sort of world ending views we read daily in the news. Instead you can expect a film with a delightfully absurd internal logic that is perfectly keyed into the way small children, (and some adults) see the world with a frame narative that we can all agree on, and that is, that love can conquer all, wether it be plutonic or otherwise.
Ponyo is one of Miyazaki's funniest and most intimate films so far, on a par with Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service  partly because of the engaging matter-of-factness with which he marries the extravagantly fantastic with the comforting realities of childhood that we all cling onto. The sight of the giddy and newly childlike Ponyo racing atop the waves of a magically roiling flood of water fish may well be one of the happiest  images you see in a movie all year. Compared to the animated garbage that typically passes through our movie theaters, it is with delight that audiences this side of the world will get to see how things should be done. The fact that its trailer's preceeded Where The Wild Things Are recently can practically be seen as a godsend to modern family movies.

Patrick Gamble 

Read our Ghibli article here


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