Ponyo, the latest anime feature film from academy award winning writer/director Hayao Miyazaki, is a heart-warming tale of childhood and love set in a peculiar tragic landscape.
The film is centered around a meeting between Ponyo, a little girl of aquatic origins, and Sosuke, a little boy who lives with his mother and father on a cliff overlooking the sea. Ponyo escapes from her underwater family, curious to see the land above. Her father (voiced by Liam Neeson) is desperate to take Ponyo home, for fear that she will destroy the balance between water and land by becoming human.
At its core the story is fairly simple as far as fairy tales go, but in typical Miyazaki fashion, the world that his characters inhabit is considerably more complex.
One thing that surprised me the most about the film was the balance between a sense of dread at the surrounding tragedy and a giddy feeling watching Ponyo experience the world that she so desperately wants to be a part of.
In fact, I was so involved in Ponyo’s exploits, that there were moments in the film where I had to stop and remember what was at stake in the story. This is the power of animation. I highly doubt that Ponyo would work as well as a live-action film.
Sitting down in the theater, I was surprised that there were so many children in the audience, and I’m curious what their overall reaction was to the film. Did they enjoy it, was it too metaphysical, or as I would like to imagine, was the premise of the film easily accessible to people of all ages? I would love to see some answers from movie-going parents.
As for me, I’m going to go watch some more Miyazaki films.