Friday, February 06, 2009

Return to Innocence - A Review of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Said to be inspired from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is Japanese animation master, Hayao Miyazaki’s next big work after the well-received Spirited Away in 2001 and Howl’s Moving Castle in 2004.
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, his signature style of animating fantasy realms and children characters are on display once again.

Sosuke (Hiroki Doi), the boy lead in the film discovers a ‘goldfish’ trapped in a glass jar while playing by the seaside below the cliff.
He stays with his mum, Lisa (Tomoko Yamaguchi) above and atop it.
Sosuke shakes the jar forcefully to try and get the ‘goldfish’ out but the little ‘goldfish’ is stuck.

He then tries to pull it out but it just cannot come loose.
Sosuke then place the jar on the ground before smashing a small rock onto it, breaking it into pieces instantly while suffering a small cut on the finger.
He then checks inquisitively to see if the ‘goldfish’ is still alive.
As he observes it, the ‘goldfish’ reacts by licking the blood off his finger suddenly.
Excited, Sosuke quickly rushes back to the house and put the ‘goldfish’ in a small bucket of water in hope that it will survive.
It did and he named it ‘Ponyo’(Yuria Nara).

The above scene would signify what is to come for the remainder of the film.
It is of the interactions between Sosuke and Ponyo.
And it is one that Hayao Miyazaki did meticulously well in portraying.
He must have a keen sense of observation and understanding of how children behave before he depicts this chemistry of communication between the two main characters.
The behavior of the children would also extend into the rest of the film in their further encounters.

The affection between Sosuke and Ponyo grew as the film progresses from the moment Sosuke brought Ponyo to school in Lisa’s car.
The best moment came when the two were reunited after a brief separation when Ponyo’s father, Fujimoto (George Tokoro), a magical sea dweller recaptures the errant Ponyo before encapsulating her in a magic bubble with kind intention.

Fujimoto who was once human has grown to refer humans with disgust for polluting the sea and stealing its life.
But all Ponyo wants is to be human and be with Sosuke so for a second time she escapes, accidentally emptying his father’s precious store of magical elixir into the sea, creating a storm of tidal waves and engulfing the small town in the process.

What follows are the adventures of Sosuke and Ponyo in the flooded town.

Is there a happily ever after in this one?
Would true love prevail?
You find out.

Looking at the art in Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, there appears to be a deviation from Miyazaki’s past works in terms of rendering.
It looks unfamiliar because the environment apart from the characters at play in every scene is not colored in the usual fashion as in Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).
The aesthetical appeal is discounted from what appears to be color penciled drawings.
The objects and characters are also not as detailed as before.

This is peculiar if taken on face value but from the way the story is written and told, the possible explanation is that Miyazaki is allowing the audience to view the film with a child’s tint, yet allowing the adults to reminisce on a Japan when they were younger.
This move could have prevented prospective moviegoers, new to Miyazaki’s work to see it.
The trailer did nothing to promote
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea as well.
Taking the case to Japan however would be a different story as Miyazaki’s credential far than exceed any marketing technique.

In summary though, the whole did not equal to its parts.
Aside from Miyazaki’s ability to cast vivacious and animated characters, the film lacks elements of thrill and wonder when measured against previous works, resulting in a deficit of big screen presence.

The sparks of Ponyo and Sosuke failed to light up the film in a big way but moments of warmth, kindness, and love can still be found in recognizing the film as one that is not made for the kids, but of the kids who everyone is or once was.

Official sites:
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (Japanese)
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (English)


Miedy said...

Oh my god! I've been waiting for this one in so long. I still don't know when it's gonna be released here in US. I DO hope somehow it will make to the theater. If so, then it's gonna be my first Miyazaki movie to see in BIG screen ;)

andydreamseeker said...

Hey Miedy! I did a search online for the U.S release date.

According to this site:

the release could be in the summer, so you gotta wait a few months. ;P

My advice is to keep your expectation down. Ponyo is of a different class to that of previous Miyazaki's works.

Miedy said...

Thanks! I only tried to search it on well known movies site and found nothing.
Anyway, I'm pretty open minded, and I realize that it looked different than Miyazaki other works, but I still want to see that ;)

andydreamseeker said...

Yup! And as for me I'll get to see Marley and Me real soon. It opens here next week! :)

Miedy said...

Oh, cool! Can't wait to hear what you think ;)

Do you also plan to see Coraline? I saw it few days ago and love it!

andydreamseeker said...

Ah yes... Coraline... from the makers of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I shall make a note to catch it.
It opens in April over here.

Wanna do another guest review? :)

Miedy said...

Sure! I'll do it ;)

andydreamseeker said...

Great! I'll be hearing from you then. :)