Ponyo Review

Studio Ghibli continue their creative output making comment on nature, the world around us and all things spiritual in Ponyo.

This time their attentions go to the sea where a young goldfish like being escapes her domicile, kept by a man in drag voiced by Liam Neeson. The little creature manages to sprout arms and legs and leaps from the sea to start a new life among us.

So far, so surreal. It’s at this point where you are either on board with Ghibli or you are not. Anyone expecting Pixar style or even retro Disney style animation will be let down. This is anime and even anyone expecting things looking advanced in the way that Akira looked so beautiful back in the late 80’s will be wondering what has happened.

Studio Ghibli are a very retro affair and have kept it so – perhaps updating the finer aspects of the visual style with up to date computer equipment – but otherwise not being tempted by the ways of the future. Considering the themes inherent in the work, it makes sense that the style is this way.

Ponyo may confuse the heck out of a more standard type of audience but will probably be a big cult hit with pot headed students who like to muse on everything that is represented by nature. It doesn’t seem like a popular choice to question the mythos and workings behind the studio’s creative screenplays as most critics seem to get right behind these films, but it is pretty obvious that the film isn’t breaking much new ground or offering up any lessons that aren’t forced down our throats by floating deities.
However, it is still a decent enough film that makes the brain work and tickles the funny bone along the way. To be critical of the storyline or the motives of the characters involved would be to miss the point of the lesson.

The two disc version of this release comes fairly loaded with short featurettes from many different aspects of the making of the film; from conception to dubbing. Even Pixar’s John Lasseter who is clearly a lover of all things animated (not just his own studio output) gets to put in his two cents.

The film is by no means bad but the studio is being championed by a group of elitist fans who in their own right are probably a bunch of self-absorbed hypocrites. Having said that, it is probably a good idea to expose everyone to the odd Studio Ghibli film in their life time. The earlier the better. It will then be down to the individual what they take from it. The marmite of animation.

Steven Hurst

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