First, a story. I had been exposed to Anime only sparingly as a kid, mostly Voltron, Tranzor-Z (Boob missiles!) and later, Ronin Warriors. I enjoyed them, but nothing really made me go out and seek more. Oh, and I caught the super-hyped showing of Akira on the Sci-Fi channel, which didn’t help. My Miyazaki fandom would’ve been even more stunted were it not for a guy I worked with back in the late 90s. I came across him in the break room, clutching his credit card hopefully as he spoke broken Japanese into the phone. Come to find out he was ordering something called Mononoke-hime. He gushed about it enough that when, a few years later, there was finally a dub of Princess Mononoke
on the shelf at Blockbuster, I checked it out. I’ve followed his movies closely since then, usually with my wife who likes the cuter ones like Spirited Away or Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Thomas and I didn’t intend on going to see Ponyo yesterday, though. Up had a 12:00pm showing on Wednesday, and I kind of assumed there would be one on Thursday (my day off this week) also. Oops. The other kid movies starting around that time were G-Force (no way man) and Ponyo. Thomas consented to the switch, so we grabbed our snacks and settled in (spoilers possible from here on out).
The first thing you notice is the beautiful hand-drawn animation. You don’t get much of this anymore, it’s all CGI or at the very least computer enhanced. According to the trivia at IMDB, the opening scene (12 seconds of schooling fish and other undersea creatures) took 1613 conceptual sketches to come up with. The story begins with a magical goldfish, who is the ‘daughter’ of the Goddess of the Seas (voiced by Cate Blanchett and a powerful wizard, Fujimoto (Liam Neeson, despite the character appearing to be a 60 year old drag queen). The little fish sees a bit of the human world on a trip with her father, and sneaks away but gets trapped in a glass that had been tossed in the ocean. A young boy, Sosuke (voiced by the ‘bonus Jonas’, Frankie) rescues the fish and names her Ponyo. Sosuke swears to protect Ponyo and the two bond quickly, in the way only young kids can. The rest of the movie focuses and a world out of balance, and Sosuke trying to save Ponyo and help her become human forever.
Ponyo is very sweet and funny, and I can admit I teared up just a bit…but I didn’t feel like I was being emotionally manipulated. Part of it might’ve been the huge smile that pretty much stayed on Thomas’s face the whole time, though. He sang the (extremely catchy) credits song the rest of the day, and tried to explain the movie to anyone else he spoke to the rest of the day. If you have young children and want another movie option, see Ponyo while it is still in theaters (it’s in limited release, really just to qualify for the Oscars I’m sure) as it’s a worthy alternative to all the 3D, CGI filled movies kids are bombarded with.