Raising a child is a difficult and rewarding task. You want them to develop and become their own self but what happens when that self fights back against what you think is right? How do you keep them safe? These are some questions to ponder in this anime. Oh, and magic is also a key element in the story. A child with magic who wants to find their own way. That sounds like it should be a pretty good story already….or a parent’s nightmare.
This sort of narrative is very much within the wheelhouse of Studio Ghibli. In 2008 Hayao Miyazaki released a new movie and there was much rejoicing from the world of anime. The excitement for any new Studio Ghibli film is always unreal as the studio has released some fan-favorite movies. This anime was not an exception, and would become a favorite for many children. Some of those children are now adults who still have very strong feelings of affection for Ponyo.
A small goldfish wants so much more than her current life. Her father is a powerful sorcerer who tries to keep her in a literal protective bubble. However, she wants to be a human. She sneaks away and meets a young boy. He names her Ponyo and she decides she wants to stay with him. There are real consequences to her decisions though, and extreme actions must be taken to keep the balance her father tries to maintain.
Ponyo is a really lovely anime to watch. The amount of work put into animating the ocean and the waves is astonishing. That hard work pays off. The ocean is not just a setting but is also a character in and of itself in Ponyo. The world of this anime is mostly underwater or on top of waves. I really enjoyed seeing how they used the ocean to show calm and also danger throughout the anime.
The soundtrack was fun. It was fitting for a children’s movie and I can understand why fans who grew up with it know the whole song for Ponyo. However, for me, the characters were more archetypes than real. This was odd to me because I usually find Studio Ghibli characters to have a little more depth. There was one character who did have more to him than a surface stereotype and that was the Sorcerer. I was disappointed at how little concern I had for a lot of the characters other than just a general being worried about the children. That being said I did like the designs for the characters.
Would I recommend Ponyo? I mean, sure. It was cute. It is going to be fun for kids. It is still a good anime movie. Just not up to the standard that I hold Studio Ghibli to. It is not going to be my favorite nor will it be one I seek out. Watch it with a child and see the wonder in their reactions.
ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!!!