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Studio Ghibli Challenge #17: Ponyo (2008) Anime Movie Review

Ponyo Movie poster

Nope, this is not Studio Ghibli's adaptation of the Little Mermaid. But it has the same joy, drama, and adventure as the Disney classic.

Written and directed by none other than the legend Hayao Miyazaki, Ponyo is like your typical children's cartoon film with a little bit of Cambrian Explosion in between. Seriously, it does contain some trilobites and some Devonian stuff in here.

Ponyo is a straightforward story with not many twists. It starts with Fujimoto, a former wizard, and his countless daughters. One of his daughters, Brunhilde sneaks off and floats away on the back of a jellyfish. She then encounters a fisherman and got trapped in a glass jar. A young boy named Sosuke happens to have found her along the shore. Desperate to save her he broke the jar and in the process wounded his finger. Brunhilde licks his finger and the wound instantly healed. Sosuke then named her Ponyo for some reason and promises to protect her. Fujimoto then decides to find her missing daughter by calling some wave spirits to help him. He was able to successfully retrieve Ponyo from Sosuke which left him heartbroken.

Sosuke and trapped Ponyo

Ponyo, while being held captive by her father desires to be a human. Due to her drinking Sosuke's blood and some magic she was able to turn her fins into legs. Fujimoto now angry forces her to change back. He also leaves to call upon their mother, Gran Mamare. With the help of her sisters, Ponyo was able to swim away and free herself. She inadvertently used her father's magic and turned her into a human. The magic she released created an imbalance in the ocean which resulted in a series of tsunamis. Ponyo was able to return back to Sosuke. Lisa, the mother of Sosuke allows her to stay. She leaves after the tsunami subsides to check on the people in the nursing home she works. When Gran Mamare and Fujimoto meet, she declares that if Sosuke can pass the test, Ponyo will be a human permanently. She also ensures that the balance will be restored as well.

The next day, Ponyo and Sosuke noticed that the whole town is now submerged. Lisa has not come yet so the 2 decided to look for her. Ponyo used her magic to turn Sosuke's toy boat to make it larger. When they reached the forest, Ponyo got tired which resulted in the magic she cast being undone. Sosuke carries her and at the same time, she mysteriously transforms back into a fish. They noticed Lisa's car and starts looking for her around. It seems that she and the residents in the nursing home were under the ocean but thanks to Gran Mamare they were able to breathe. Fujimoto met with Ponyo and Sosuke and captured them and took them to the nursing home underwater.

Ponyo running

Reunited with her mother, Gran Mamare asks Sosuke if he can love Ponyo whether she be a fish or a human. Sosuke promises that he will love likewise. She tells Ponyo that if she will become human all her powers will be stripped away which she agrees. Sosuke kissed her to complete her transformation and all the imbalance was now restored. Fujimoto respects her daughter's choice and begins to trust Sosuke. The movie ends with Ponyo jumping happily as her transformation is now complete and she is now a human.

This is by any means a children's movie and there is no doubt about that. It's like My Neighbor Totoro, where the whole thing can be enjoyed by the family. You know something like you can enjoy on a Sunday night with your kids.

Ponyo and Sosuke checking the water

Ponyo is definitely not my favorite Studio Ghibli film nor was it not even close to the ones in my top like Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away. But still, I find this a very refreshing movie. I don't remember anything that I have watched before that featured creatures from the Devonian period. I also find the film very enjoyable for the most part.

The characters here are very likable and cute. I like Sosuke a lot because his innocence and fearlessness are what you expect from a child who is eager to discover the world.

The animation here is what drives the movie. During the scene where Ponyo runs across the waves during the series of tsunamis. It is both breathtaking and incredible to look at. It is one of those animation marvels where you just stare in awe at just how wonderful it is.

And just like in The Little Mermaid, one thing that you cannot take away from this movie is that it's magical. Not just literally but also figuratively. The story itself takes you on a very wild water ride and you just want to just sway like the waves.

Gran Mamare's  test

I still find it weird though that Ponyo's hundred sisters didn't develop a desire to be human. I mean surely one or two should develop a desire like that.

Overall, it may not be my favorite but I still think of this film as a classic both story-wise and animation-wise. Plus it can be enjoyed by literally everyone regardless of your age. So if you are looking for a Studio Ghibli film that is fun, simple, and can be enjoyed with a bucket of popcorn, this should be your pick.

Ponyo to me deserves a solid 3 out of 5 stars.

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