I finally watched Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea


I finally watched Ponyo last night. As most of you know, it’s Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film, about a magical goldfish who wants to become human. The whole time I was watching, I was thinking, hey, this story is kinda like Little Mermaid! Later I found out that Miyazaki was supposedly inspired by the Little Mermaid — which makes perfect sense. Before I watched this film, some people told me it wasn’t going to be that good. I don’t agree. While it may not have been his best film to date, if we discard the high expectations we have of the prolific filmmaker, I think we’d appreciate it for what it is — a ridiculously cute, imaginative, wonderful animated movie.

Even with the magical goldfish who can metamorphose into a human, Ponyo is a little bit more “normal” compared to some of Miyazaki’s other films, like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. Most of the characters are normal humans, for one thing. I instantly fell in love with the ocean scenes and the colors he used to depict the world beneath the water. I also thought Ponyo was maybe the cutest character in the world — she reminded me a bit of my childhood favorite, the purple-haired robot Arale-chan.

Ponyo also has some really interesting character depictions that are reflective of contemporary Japanese culture. For example, Ponyo’s dad is overprotective and often misunderstood by his daughter, who pushes him away the more he tries to get close to her. And Sosuke’s mom is a strong, fearless working mother who only loses her cool when her husband flakes on her, but is otherwise unfazed by anything, including the giant tsunami and a girl who used to be a goldfish. I love when she says something like: Weird things are happening, and we might not understand them now but one day they’ll make sense, and we just have to do what’s right for now. Isn’t that nice? I really enjoyed the movie and would watch it again and again if I had time.

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7 thoughts on “I finally watched Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

  1. Thanks for the review, Lisa. This is just the kind of thing I needed, doesn’t give any plot points away, but makes me want to see it.

  2. I was really disappointed with Ponyo. Miyazaki’s films since Mononoke have let me down, but this one really let me down.
    There was never a sense of danger – ever! I enjoyed the characters but it was like nothing was ever going to happen. It’s like seeing major league baseball players just standing around and not playing a game – pretty boring.
    SPOILER! Don’t read this paragraph if you don’t want to know about the story. The other thing that got me was how NO ONE reacted when the ocean took over that city (or was it the whole world? We never know). I mean, the whole city is covered in water, and not a single soul was concerned, or even surprised.
    Ponyo as a character is cute during most of the movie except her “chicken” stage. If you’ve seen the movie you know what I mean. Oh yeah, and what triggered her changes? The movie never really gave us an explanation and it was entirely arbitrary.
    Miyazaki used to make films that were equally appealing to adults and children. Totoro was as magical for adults as it was for kids. But Ponyo doesn’t deliver this. There’s no conflict in the story at all. The Little Mermaid had a much more compelling plot, as well as one of the best animated villians in animated history. Instead, Ponyo is too light on substance. It felt like eating a sandwich that’s just two pieces of bread with nothing in between. Kids may enjoy it, but otherwise I can’t recommend it.

  3. I just watched Ponyo like two agos and I loved it! I was actually kind of a happy to see a movie with no major conflict and mostly fun from beginning to end. I did think it was weird that no one noticed the ocean had taken over, but it was just so cute I didn’t really care. I love cute things though, so maybe I was fazed by that. I would buy it though and watch it again.

  4. I think that Ponyo is a resounding success. Easily one of Miyazaki’s top three movies for me. Can’t beat Totoro or Kiki, but I just enjoyed it far more than Howl’s or Spirited Away because of its simplicity, and because it dares to do a lot of things seemingly just for the hell of it. Movies don’t have to explain everything, and this one knows it!