Okay, so I finally managed to check out this movie. My big fear before I started watching it that, now that he’s almost reached his retirement, Hayao Miyazaki would have lost his touch by now, especially considering how his previous movie (Howl’s Moving Castle) was arguably his least impressive work. Nevertheless, these fears were ungrounded: Ponyo shows that the old master still has plenty of tricks left up his sleeve. And then some.
Miyazaki’s movies that he made for Ghibli can basically be divided into two categories: epic and down-to-earth. With Ponyo, he tries to combine the two by creating a charming little story about a five year old boy who meets a goldfish with magical powers, and yet creates enough opportunities to show off some amazingly creative visuals and animation that you wouldn’t expect in such a down to earth movie. The result really works and it’s become a movie that’s suitable for any age to enjoy.
The animation really shows how much work went into this movie. Even though CG is the norm in today’s anime, Ponyo is entirely drawn by hand, and contains a record number of 170000 hand drawn pictures. This series really shows how much you can do with just animation: in an industry of anime in which the norm is to cut corners, this movie is full of life with an amazing attention to detail in even the slightest moves, and there’s hardly any frame in which something isn’t moving. The amount of eye candy in this movie is also amazing, and even though the art style is simpler than in some of his previous works, the visuals still rank amongst his most impressive.
This movie also excels in its portrayal of five-year-olds. I read somewhere that Hayao Miyazaki lives right next to a kindergarten school or something similar, and so he’s had plenty of opportunities to fully study how little kids behave. Kosuke is a bit timid, but a very likable young lead. This series doesn’t have much character-development and background (only a few side-characters have a serious change of character), but considering the story and situations they were thrown in, they didn’t really need to: it was fun enough to watch them as they were and extra focus to get some character-development or background in would only have gotten in the way of what’s really important.
My problems with this series lies within some of its messages it attempts to teach to kids. With the environmentalist that Hayao Miyazaki is, I expected that he would show the bad implications of major floods. Instead, a flood in this series just appears, puts an entire landscape under water for a few hours and then disappears without ever leaving a trace. Oh, I’d wish that reality were this simple and convenient. Or how about people who’ve lost their ability to walk, and suddenly are rid of their problems due to magic. Yes kids! If you have some sort of incurable ailment, just hope that a person with magic will arrive and wave these problems away!
Anyway, it’s been more than a year now since I watched all of Miyazaki’s major movies. Looking back, his movie that turned out the most memorable for me was Porco Rosso, which probably was his most mature movie. Ponyo, his least mature movie, probably isn’t going to take that place, but yet it is a very charming movie to behold and definitely worth the watch unless you absolutely can’t stand childish stuff.