One day while playing, Sosuke finds a small goldfish with the face of a girl in the sea and decides to call her Ponyo and keep her. That fish is very special, though, and even after she returns to the sea, she dreams of living on land with Sosuke. So Ponyo activates all the magic she can find and turns into a little girl. But this unbalances the natural order of things and threatens to destroy the world.
I have to admit that I am a little disappointed by Ponyo. It’s a sweet film, but it’s nothing special – and I expect special from Hayao Miyazaki.
I think what I missed most were the stunning visuals. Though Ponyo does have its moments, it lacked the sheer density of breathtaking views that were present in all the other Miyazaki films.
And the other thing it lacked was the complexity of the characters and the story. I mean, in all of the films by him I’ve seen so far there was at least one character who wasn’t entirely clear-cut in his motivations. Except maybe for Totoro, which managed nevertheless to broach difficult subjects in its simplicity. [And it was absolutely magical.] In Ponyo, there were no complex characters, only some didn’t really make sense. [Fujimoto was obviously meant to be such a character, but that didn’t really work out.]
Don’t get me wrong: Ponyo is not a bad film per se. Just for a Maiyazaki movie. What I did enjoy though was the complete normality of magic in this film. Sosuke’s mother (or anybody else) never bats an eyelash – so, this goldfish has a girl’s face? So, this goldfish turned into a little girl? So, this little girl has a magical mum and dad? Everything normal, all a routine…
And the story itself is very sweet. It barely resembles Andersen’s original mermaid tale – which lowers the tear/depression factor by 100%. But I never really felt the connection between Ponyo and Sosuke. It seemed to come out of nowhere.
Ponyo is a movie for kids and kids will enjoy it, skimming over the passages that are never properly explained or reasonable. For adult Miyazaki fans it’s a miss, though.