Hayao Miyazaki’s magic continues with his latest animated film, Ponyo on the Cliff (get the Theatrical Release), an absolute crowd pleaser that turns on all his usual sweetness to charm your socks off.
Fans of Studio Ghibli films will probably know what they are in for – another Miyazaki winner that will no doubt draw in new fans. I’m embarrassed to say that so far I’ve only watched My Neighbour Totoro and loved it, but I guess this serves as a final push for me not to continue missing animated films I will most likely enjoy. Ponyo (voiced by Yuria Nara) is a magic goldfish who yearns to know what life is beyond the sea and makes constant forays in a bubble to the surface of the water to sneak a peek.
Her ambitions don’t sit well with her humanoid dad Fujimoto (Tokoro Joji), who harbours hatred toward the human race for pollution. An accident sees Ponyo washed ashore and picked up by five-year-old Sosuke (Hiroki Doi) who lives in a house on a cliff with his mother, Lisa (Tomoko Yamaguchi), while dad Koichi (Kazushige Nagashima), a sailor, is mostly at sea.
The artwork here is simply astounding even though it’s in 2D – each cell is painstakingly worked on. So many things go on within each frame that you’ll be game for repeated viewings just to spot them all. Miyazaki’s film definitely beats any 3D or CGI animated production given its beauty and simplicity. We’re not just talking of the efforts of the artwork department; despite complaints that it stole a leaf from Hans Christian Andersen, the story also shines through. And while the film could have been extremely dark, certain ominous themes are only suggested and the project opts instead for a more upbeat tempo, making it suitable for both kids and adults alike.
At its core, it’s about the love between family members – here Koichi, Lisa and Sosuke – and especially between a mother and son. It’s also about the love between the boy and his new pet Ponyo, who has enough cuteness in her to beat the likes of Bolt, Wall-E and Nemo all hands down. Characterization here is top notch and it’s hard not to fall in love with Ponyo, in whichever form she adopts.
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is a definite shoo-in to my top films of this year and the next time I go to Tokyo, I’ll surely make my way to the Ghibli Museum to bask some more in the magical world of Hayao Miyazaki.