on April 1, 2010
I had rather high expectations from this movie after seeing the commercials. I LOVED Miyazaki's other movies. I've seen Mononoke, Totoro, Kiki, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle, and the animation of this one is beautiful especially with the sea-creatures and the animation that shows creatures coming from the water. One of my favorite scenes was Ponyo running on top of the ocean when the water had taken the shape of fish. Seriously, that was so cool.
However, what bothered me about this movie was the vagueness of the story. If Ponyo's mom is a goddess and her father is human (or at least used to be) and is now a wizard, then why would Ponyo lose her magic as a human? And if Sosuke said that he would love and accept Ponyo, then she should have just stayed a fish. I wish that the relationship between Ponyo's mom and dad was explored more. What made Ponyo different from her sisters? To me, the story was just not put well together. I had no problem with the flooding of the ocean and some of the other parts, like the old ladies being able to walk again, but with the overall vagueness of Ponyo's background and her parent's, it was hard for me to enjoy the story. And while I can understand 5-year-olds becoming best friends, love is another matter. A 5-year old is not really qualified to make a decision as to whether she wanted to be human or not, especially at such a great cost. Ponyo/Brunhilde's father himself said she didn't understand (earlier in the story) Would you expect any five-year-old, even a bright one, to make such a serious and apparently permanent decision?
Kudos for the animation and some wonderful scenes, but blah for certain plot points and inconsistencies in the story.
on March 10, 2010
I thought long and hard before giving the film this score, but there are simply too many things that make Ponyo not work for me. This latest animated movie from Myazaki, who needs no introductions, had the intriguing premise of the sea. He spoke of the sea being a character in itself. I was intrigued to see the movie. I knew it had two children as the frontline, but being a fan of My Neighbour Totoro, I knew that Myazaki has an unreal insight into the mindset of children.
The very first scene of Ponyo is breathtaking. Hundreds of fishes and jellyfish accompanied by breathtaking, oceanic music, finally zooming in on a man in a pinstriped suit, creating a bubble around his ship. We later find out that he is the father of one of the main characters, the fish girl Ponyo who wants to become human after befriending Sotsuke, a 5-year old boy living in a house by the sea. She is able to do this with a mixture of her father's magic (which she's inherited) and Sotsuke's blood (a drop of which she licked when he cut himself).
The problem with Ponyo is the vagueness of the story. There is practically no sense of conflict to the story at all. There is no substantial threat to the characters, and they have very little development. That the characters are so young shouldn't justify this, if we remember Mei in My Neighbour Totoro. Also, Ponyo's father is so at odds with practically everything in the movie's universe, it's hilarious and off-putting at the same time. Ponyo herself is, personally, creepy rather than cute (and her numerous little siblings are no different). I don't understand how nobody finds it peculiar that Ponyo, supposedly a goldfish, has a humanoid face (and Sotsuke shows her to quite a few people). It's even weirder when Lisa (Sotsuke's mother, whom he oddly always refers to by name), an intelligent woman, sees Ponyo eat a slice of ham in whole (as a goldfish) and isn't at all surprised about it. The only really developed character, and the warmest, is the grumpy old woman at the retirement home where Lisa works.
What Ponyo lacks in substance, it makes up for in visuals. The movie's highlight in my opinion is where Lisa and Sotsuke are driving down a road continually drenched in waves, on top of which Ponyo is running. These waves take on the form of giant fish. A wonderful piece of animation. The many underwater scenes are beautiful, with underwater creatures big and small swimming. Something about the overall production values of the visuals feel a bit unfocused, though. The morse code scene is then hilarious.
On the whole, however, Ponyo feels like a lot of elements that just don't work together. Sotsuke faces no real trials like other young Myazaki protagonists have faced. None of the characters feel like they serve any real purpose other than to bring Sotsuke and Ponyo together. The film's subplot of Ponyo's magic causing a rift in the natural order and causing the moon to come closer (which explains the flood) is never sufficiently delivered to the audience.
I was simply expecting a better delivery from a master storyteller like Myazaki. Ponyo may only really work for the smallest children, but that's excluding a large part of Myazaki's fanbase. He's one of those filmmakers whom I respect for continually showing people that animated movies can be for people of all ages. Ponyo obviously aims at a lower age group, but I just hope that the children will be more drawn into Sotsuke and Ponyo's story than I was (there is so much courteous and/or cute dialogue that I felt downright embarrassed at points).
Decent, but definitely not the brightest spot in Myazaki's repertoire.
I very nearly tossed the disc, ala frisbee style after being unable to switch to Japanese audio. Only French or American dubs on the Blu-Ray. And the American dub is NOT good. There are a few good voice over roles, but the instant Ponyo starts talking, it's like nails on a chalkboard. So I wanted to hear the original Japanese. Hum...
So I checked the box, and it listed Japanese audio for the 2nd disc. DVD. Not Blu-Ray. Hum... So then I put that disc in. And found that I could not switch automatically to the Japanese. I had to go through several menus, then restart the film. Then skip manually to the chapter I wanted. Then the subtitles were off (knowing quite a bit of Japanese, this was obvious), so luckily I was able to put the correct subtitles on (instead of captions).
A one star rating is kind of harsh, but I balanced the rating out to two stars. It really deserves one star because:
YOU CANNOT WATCH PONYO ON BLU-RAY WITH THE ORIGINAL JAPANESE AUDIO!!!!
So that makes getting the Blu-Ray version of Ponyo a huge mistake for purists or true foreign film aficionados. The other reason that I gave a one star rating is that the film isn't good enough to warrant raising the star rating. I would give the film 3 stars normally if not for the huge slap in the face to those of us wanting Blu-Ray quality with the lossless Japanese audio. Being a huge fan of Miyazaki, I can see that perhaps his creativity began running in a different direction in the end. This was his last directed film, and though it was a decent film, even the newer Ghibli film Arietty (written by Miyazaki but not directed by) was much better. It's not a bad film, just Miyazaki's weakest link. Compared to his other masterpieces: Nasuicaa, Totoro, Laputa (Castle in the Sky), Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle, one can safely say this film falls short compared to all of these.
It's a film about love and friendship, and it seems to start as a film against humanity's pollution of the seas. But this never really pans out other than a few early shots. It's the lack of depth that is the problem; the deeper and more complex stories are what raised the bar of his previous films. In the end, Totoro is probably the most complex film with the subtle and hidden meanings which remind me of Spirit of the Beehive and Pan's Labrynth (and better than Pan's I think). Kiki might have more in common with Ponyo than the other films do, but even Kiki has a little more to it, and more likable characters.
The animation was stunning. I liked that Miyazaki wanted to go back to colorful, hand drawn animation with storybook looking backgrounds. This was a huge plus. But the positives can't outweigh the negatives.
Film - 3 stars
Failing to include the lossless Japanese audio on the Blu-Ray - 1 star
If you want to see the Japanese audio, then save money and get the DVD only. Sadly.
on April 6, 2010
I am a fan of Miyazaki's films and was unhappy with this recent release. Yes, it's for a younger age group, but kids are pretty sharp and I felt that the movie was dumbed down unnecessarily. The visuals are fantastic, but the story plods along, and after a while I was just waiting for it to be over. I never felt any connection to the characters and just plain didn't care what happened to them, which to me means the movie missed its mark. Also, some things happened that seemed totally nonsensical--for example, the mother drives with her son through flooding streets and a dangerous storm rather than follow the official's advice to evacuate. Why put your son in danger like that? Other things happened and I felt that there was no explanation given for them, leaving the story feeling choppy. I wouldn't bother to watch this movie; I felt that it skated on the reputation of an admired artist and didn't deserve the credit it received.
on May 17, 2013
Sorry, but after the sterling trifecta of Mononoke, Spirited, and HMC this is like some kind of nicely animated Saturday cartoon show with a lazy plot and uninteresting characters for my own mindset. I could not identify with anything in this film. I give it 2 stars because some of the animation is great and I like the water color palette I just can't stand the story or the characters. You might do better.
on March 22, 2010
FIrst off I half to say I love the story of the little mermaid. I also really love director of this movie. But I really didn't care for the story line. I was hoping for a little more adventure like in Howl's moving castle.
The animation is beautiful and outstanding.
on June 6, 2010
I am a big fan of anime, and I consider Hayao Miyazaki to be a genius. That is why it pains me to not rate this film higher. I didn't really like the characters or care about the story that much. I guess it is because the story was geared for a younger audience. But Spirited Away was made for a younger audience, and I thought it was fantastic it is one of my all time favorites. And I don't know if it is because he is getting older, but the animation didn't look as sharp as say Howl's Moving Castle, or Kiki's Delivery Service which are all fantastic films by the way. Once again let me say I am the biggest fan of Hayao Miyazaki, and I would highly recommend any of his other films just not this one.
on June 6, 2010
I am a huge Anime fan. I love all of Miyazaki's works up until this film. I am qualifying the review with those statements because their are a lot of anime fans who dislike his work for various reasons and I am not one of them. As A Miyazaki fan this was movie was very disappointing to me. Normally there is a very strong story driving his amazing art that make it all fit together in a way that grasps you and pulls you in, with Ponyo this is not the case. The entire time I watched this film I found myself wondering if this was really a Miyazaki film. It looked like one and thanks again to the master Joe Hisashi but id didn't feel like one of his films. None of the characters were particularly likable or dislikable for that matter they were just simply there. The attempts at cuteness wroked for about the first 20 minutes after that it just took time away from what could have been used for a better story or more characters development. The only reason this is a two star review as opposed to one is because of the great soundtrack and amazing visuals. All in all the movie while nice to look at for a short period of time ended up being just plain boring with a weak story and even weaker characters and character development. If you must see this movie please rent it first, if you like it more power to you. I would not suggest this as a buy though for fans of Miyazakei or Anime in general without watching to see if it fits your tastes first.
on March 12, 2010
Earlier today I ordered this Blu-ray. I made the mistake of not checking if the Japanese track was in a lossless format. There was no information about this on this site. The scanned picture of the back cover isn't very good so it isn't easy to ascertain if the Japanese track was lossy of lossless. I went to [...] and noticed there that the Japanese track is, in fact, only the lossy Dolby Digital. Since amazon is now shipping my item I cannot cancel the order, but I want to warn other people about this. I am sure that the picture quality is great and being a great Miyazaki fan I am sure that the movie is equally great.
Being a great Miyazaki fan I always listen to the original language track, NEVER the dubbed track. I did try and listen to the dubbed track of Kiki's Delivery Service at one time and it was horrid. Changing the music to fit the English language is truly dreadful. I have also discovered on other dubs of Japanese anime that quite often important plot points are distorted or directly incorrect. I have all the other Miyazaki films on DVD and I never listen to the dubbed track. Listening to the Japanese track has it's charms since everything about the movie and the way everything and everyone work to make movie great make sense when listening to the original track. That goes for everything, not just Miyazaki's movies or anime in general.
So if you are a Japanese anime fan and are used to listening to the original track be aware that the Japanese track is in Dolby Digital and not DTS-HD Master Audio. Only the English dub is in DTS-HD Master Audio. I must also say that I am extremely disappointed that Disney made this gigantic mistake when making the Blu-ray. I can only hope that won't do the same mistake when issuing the other Miyazaki movies on Blu-ray. Learn from Pioneer when they issued a truly magnificent release of Akira!
on October 25, 2010
Wow, I am going to be hated for this. This is my first ever unfavorable opinion of a Miyazaki film, and it saddens me greatly that I did not enjoy it. But I honestly did not enjoy "Ponyo". The artwork and animation are both great, so I give it 2 stars for that. But...
I didn't like any of the characters very much. Miyazaki's usually rich character development seems missing here. Maybe this _was_ meant for 5-year olds, I dunno, but I just couldn't make much sense of hardly anything in the movie. It jumped around from one place to the other and I just couldn't come to care about any of the characters very much. The slight plot didn't do a whole lot for me, and I'm growing ever more tired of "ecological messages", especially when voiced by known Hollywood Liberals, and wrapped in dealings with Moon/Sea/Whatever gods/goddesses.
I thought that Ponyo's father was just creepy, and his mumblings did little to explain anything, and at times just seemed forced to provide enough convenient narration to keep things moving. So much of "Ponyo" just feels like it needs a lot more fleshing out. Her mother was left just too much of a mystery for me as well.
Sosuke's parents are likewise cyphers. His mother's driving was insane, and his Dad is more or less a vapor on the sea.
So much is just rushed along. The fate of the world depends on the love of a young boy for a fish/girl/goddess??? Hrmmm... So what happens to the moon & other disastrous things approaching, why do the old ladies feel better, what's going on...???
I don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings or take a child's movie too seriously, I just want to express that though I consider myself a huge Miyazaki fan, I was disappointed with this one. It's just nowhere near the level of "Totoro" or "Spirited Away" or "Princess Mononoke", to me.
And I wondered if it was just too "Japanese" for me, so I asked a Japanese friend, who had told me before I watched it that she hadn't liked it, if I was just "not getting" it. She told me that she hadn't understood a lot of it either, didn't like the movie, and thought it was a big mess, so I don't think I have this opinion just because I'm a big dumb American. But that's a sample size of only 2.
Well, anyway, this is just my personal opinion of one movie by an otherwise superb director and animator. I hope that others continue to enjoy "Ponyo", but I don't think it should be blindly accepted as terrific just because it's "a Miyazaki". If I was 5 again, maybe I'd love it :)