VIDEO: Ponyo (2008)

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Sofie’s almost to the finish line of Miyazaki March as she looks at… Well, let’s just say it’s a good thing this wasn’t Hayao Miyazaki’s final film.

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Tag: Movie Dorkness: Miyazaki March

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  • Muthsarah

    I had a comment yesterday, but it got eated. :(

    I’m of many minds on this movie. As a MILD Japanophile dork (the Japanophile is mild, the dork is not), I can’t help but be enraptured by the artistic style of this film, which consistently attempted to invoke the images of uyiko-e and other 2D-ish (to us) cartoonish artwork, such as Hokusai, the sort which even captured the imaginations of late 19th-century Europe, especially whenever this movie invoked images of waves and of other background nature stuff. This is a movie that is frequently gorgeous as hell. The background images, the wave effects, basically any dynamic image that doesn’t involve a main character, just look spectacularly gorgeous. As for the characters themselves….they do come off as kinda-cheapish TV-ish animation, the kinda stuff that don’t stand out at all. At least not in a good way.

    It’s a spectacularly interesting movie, Ponyo, but….I don’t know Miyazaki that well….or at all…never met him….not a scholar….I just have opinions….a fan’s opinions….if those’re worth anything….it almost feels like he was far more attached to the “art direction” of this film than he was to the script. Sure, the idea of featuring a female character in a lead role and giving her at least as much attention as the male characters, that’s totally Miyazaki, but….well….I find it a lil’ hard to believe he was intimately involved in this production on every level he was involved in his previous works. It’s….a very shallow work. Looks great, but just DOESN’T register. Not like his epics (Mononoke, Nausicaa, Howl’s), nor his “little films” (Totoro, Kiki). Too much of the final product is taken up by his visuals, and not enough by his story or even his heart.

    If this movie didn’t look so beautiful, it would be a nothing bit-a-fluff. But Miyazaki has still left his mark…just not to the extent that we hope for and expect from him. Like…Howl’s was his last full-on effort. I suspect. Maybe Mononoke/Spirited coulda taken up everything he really had left, so everything he followed up upon was only partially-Miyazaki.

    I dunno. I love his GOOD films so much, and he has traditionally involved himself with so much of his movies, that whenever one of his movies falls short, I gotta question, first and foremost, if his heart was entirely into it.

    Ponyo is still good as far as animated films go, but that’s…like…90% because of its visuals. It’s a pretty shallow film aside from that. Well worth exposing your children too (‘cuz if there’s anything kids’ll respond to, it’s visuals), but prolly not the kinda film that’ll register as his earlier films woulda.

    It’s a Moste Perplexinge Moviee is what I’m trying to get across. With stuff like this, which I care about with far more passion than I am capable of expressing, I can do naught but ramble.

    • Sofie Liv

      That the character just never registre is a very good point.
      That’s some-thing else I have to give Miyazaki grets for, not only does all of his movies have females in plenty on equal foot with men, but they also registre as not just. “Oh look the female.” But actual characters!
      Characters with personality, characters you connect with and feel for as the movie goes on.

      In comparison to all of those whom came before! Including Kiki, Mai and Satsuki the young girls of the “Cosy nice little movies.”
      Ponyo feels so flat and personality less.. I mean yeah, she acts like a child but.. I don’t get the sense I am watching and learning to know a person at all. Just a token child doing stuff like a child would.. and it doesn’t help that she never stops up, takes time to reflect and learn.
      All other of Miyazakis main women had ups and down in their journeys, we saw them being happy, saw them being vulnerable, saw them being upset, saw them rising up to the occasion, which left a much bigger impact.

      Ones again, the only freaking person whom does ANY-THING to fix any-thing in this movie is Ponyos father, who gets pissed on for his affords.
      And well, if the plot had been the usual old Ponyo just wants to go explore and see the world, and he says no due to paranoia.. that would have been a bit more justiefied to treat him like a douch..

      Du… Dude! He is being perfectly reasonable! He is the only character whom does any-thing of value to progress the plot in a positive direction.
      Which is again so weird, it doesnt fit with Miyazakis writing at all! He is usually so good at building his stories in such a way that the main characters actions and decisions is a definite factor in the out-come of the story.. the character her or himself IS a driving force for what will happen..

      The only thing Ponyo ever does, turning into a human, only have extremely negative consequences, and Sauske doesn’t get to do a lot either, just follows with the flow of the story.

      Plus the character he writes, usually observes and absorbs the things they exsperience so they learn and grow… neither Ponyo nor Sauske do that either.

      I don’t know! It’s not a very Miyazaki like script at all. It lacks all of his usual clever writings and tropes… my biggest guess is merely that he was burned out at that point.

      But you know what.. I can totally forgive that.
      That his movie isn’t downright bad, merely mediocre and it’s the ONLY medi-ocre thing he has ever done.. that’s damn impressive! Most other creators has had at least one horrible bad project in their pocket.. not him though.. not him.

      Of course “The wind Rises.” could end up sucking, I havn’t seen it yet… but I doubt it X)

      It’s sad he is going on pension and all but.. he deserves it. He can do what he wants, I can only appreciate all of his heart work and wish dearly for myself that I can go and visit the museum of studio Ghibli in Japan some-day.. that would be one of the top things I would want to do over there :D

      • Muthsarah

        I re-watched Spirited Away yesterday (haven’t seen it since it first came out), and, compared with Ponyo, it made much better use of its “empty scenes” – any scene without dialogue or anything significantly advancing the plot: Chihiro walking through the deserted amusement park, climbing down the steps to the boiler room, sitting on the train (of course, the film’s best scene). The first act moves very slowly – which I loved – but as it’s depicting its protagonist slowly exploring the world around her, it feels fitting. You’re journeying with her. Ponyo had a lot of similar moments (where the plot slows down for mood, or for visuals), as does every Miyazaki film I’ve seen, but…maybe that it’s not being told from one person’s perspective the whole way through made those scenes seem a little more truly empty, and thus make the film feel like it has less weight. If you’re cutting between characters, the empty scenes stand out more.

        I dunno. Not saying Ponyo is in any way a bad movie, just tryin’ to think of ways this movie doesn’t compare well with his earlier stuff. Mononoke’s the only other Miyazaki film I can think of that doesn’t tell the story from one perspective (either one character or a pair who stick together), and that’s going in a completely opposite direction from Ponyo in most other respects.

        • Sofie Liv

          Actually Mononoke does.. it tells the entire story from Ishitakas unclouded perspective and view only so erhhh…

          Porco Rosso how-ever! Oddly enough in that movie, the female lead is only introduced like.. twenty some-thing minutes into the movie. Up until then it’s just us the audience whom are left to observe Porco.. or lets call him Marco. Because I like that name, I think it’s a good name!
          That movie is about observing and exsperiencing Marco, as the entire person he is.. but at first, there’s no particular person we observe him through.. we just see him going through what is kind of his normal every-day life.
          Not seeing it through him, but from out-side.. and then Fio enters and OH MY GOD! I just realised some-thing…

          Here in Denmark, the most usual nickname for “Sofie.” is in fact. “Fie.” though we pronounce it. “Fio.”

          It’s the same way you call people whom are actually named “William”, for “Bill.”
          People call me “Fie.” all the freaking time, it’s the only thing my mother calls me.. Fios name IS Sofie!
          Holy smokes… and here I thought that nickname was a Danish thing exclusively.. huh… can I adapt that into my enternet persona?

          As for back to Ponyo.. I think it was the initial idea, that this should be Ponyos world exsperience of our world, as well as Sauskes world experience of her world, that meets and have these two children explore each other and each others worlds with curiousity and open minds.
          Which is a good concept, and could have been a really good Miyazaki movie.. but some-how it all stumbles.. honestly.. I think this movies biggest mistake was the entire. “The world is going to end because Ponyo did this.” issue.

          It seems pointless and distracts for the exploration. Just look at Spirited away.. there, you didn’t need to have entire flipping world end to create tension. It was enough to know that Chihiro was in constant life danger for herself, and that her parents were in trouble. Then Haku gets hurt, and it’s about saving him.
          There.. done.. no more needed.

          Some-times more personal issues are in fact stronger.. here’s an idea.
          What if.. instead of screwing up the entire world, Ponyo were only screwing up herself by transforming into a human. Meaning, because she did it, and it’s unnatural, she is killing herself, slowly fading away.

          And Ponyos father wish to stop it, because he can’t stand to see his daughter die like that, but Ponyo actually decides for herself, that she would rather be able to explore the human world with a shortened life-span, than remain a gold-fish, and the ending climax would be Sauske, desperately searching for a way to safe the fading Ponyos life, begging her to just give it up, and go back to the sea.
          Only for Ponyo to smile at him, indicating she has no regrets in doing it, and then the goddess of the ocean can come with her way to safe Ponyo, by Sauske loving Ponyo for exactly what she is, and Ponyo being willing to leave her life as a magical creature behind forever to finally become a real human child… man that would have been so much better <_<

  • Rob Jackson

    Hi Sofie! First time commenting.
    Ponyo is often mistaken as a linear and real-world fictional narrative, but what we have here is something much more basic. Miyazaki liked to explore the very basic human emotions, unlike complex adult emotions, he wanted to delve into fears and anxieties we own deep within our souls, probably planted there hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of years ago by survival instincts long lost to our species.
    He wanted to dig into our childhood nightmares and find the relation they have to our most beloved childhood dreams. Miyazaki chose The Little Mermaid as the basis of this story, but he altered the premise of the story radically, maybe so radically many failed to recognize his intention. Remember those childhood nightmares we’ve all experienced that we couldn’t quite put a finger on the root of the fear, but it was there and it was REALLY plausibly tactile. We’d burst awake crying for our parents, but looking back, why the hell were we so riddled with anxiety after dreams that barely made sense in retrospect??
    These dreams are from our emotional growth, learning that loss exists, learning that love exists, learning that abandonment exists, but most importantly, learning that even those we place all of our trusts in are mortal and will one day be gone, dissolved into so much sea foam…
    Sosuke’s mother seems almost wreckless in her actions. She darts around town in her tiny car, barely avoiding death at every moment. At no point does Sosuke realize he’s in danger. It’s just a fun ride for him. A tsunami almost engulfs him as he crawls down the rocks, and his reaction is towards the emotions he cares about rather than emotions he would more likely be feeling by instinct. He’s delightfully ignorant.
    The same obliviousness exists with Ponyo. She’s one of many but considers herself special.
    This childhood egoism is important as it’s part of what keeps the flame of creativity alive and well within our souls. It’s the invincible basic root of our heart that continues to create and imagine and make new worlds, but ultimately isn’t held down by REAL problems in the world. That tiptoe on the edge of disaster vs. obliviousness to dream is what excites us, even to our jaded adult forms. We still want to ride roller coasters based on superheroes and bungee jump and do trust falls into each other’s arms as motivational exercises.
    Ponyo is a glorious dive into the unknown of fear, just to see that as our basic selves, our child selves, will we hold up or will we give in? Ponyo relied on faith to live, not just love, but faith. Do you believe in others?
    That’s the only thing that helps us mature beyond the need to depend on others and Ponyo is a fairy tale that tells us that it’s ok to grow up, but doing so, don’t forget that love may be scary and primal and horrifying all while being exhilirating.
    What Star Wars is to King Arthur, Ponyo is to the first time we ever visited the ocean.

    Just a quick edit: Miyazaki’s respect of women probably led him to make the Ocean itself, in magical spirit as a huge and gentle water goddess. I love that it was Ponyo’s “Mom”, but it probably was the Mom of everything in the ocean in a spiritual sense. We really don’t know what Ponyo was, other than a funny little mermaid creature with powers of self modification.

    • Sofie Liv

      Urhm… actually… and this is based on the research that I did and this is what Miyazaki himself said.

      He said, that he wanted to explore the concept of over protective fathers pushing away their children, because of just being overprotective, as Miyazaki felt that is an actual issue in Japan these days..

      That’s it, the real conflict is supposed to be between Ponyo and her over protective father, Fujimoto.
      All though, I think this conflict looses impact when Ponyos transformations means.. Ending the entire world!
      Which paints Fujimotos actions as…. trying to safe the entire flipping world! And being overprotective is not really… what I can think about.. THE WORLD IS ENDING!
      Fuck all of that being overprotective, save the world!

      Also.. Ponyos mother is actually not THE sea goddess, she is one out of many sea goddess’s and only a minor one of that, her name is Genmara.

      These are the facts I could gather with my research, it’s information Miyazaki himself and studio Ghibli has released.

      And I all-ready talked about the story formular you are talking about, which I feel like is much better handled in “My neighbour Totoro.” and “Kikis Delivery Service.” where the stories are indeed about one single persons exploration and growth of the entire world..

      I am not saying Ponyo didn’t try… it tried..
      I am not even saying it’s a bad movie.. never did I say that… it just stumbled, and is not on par with Miyazakis other works.

      All though Miyazakis other works are all bloody amazing, so you can’t even fault the movie for that.. it just is…

      I really do believe, especially now I thought even more about it.. the biggest plot mistake is the entire. “The world is ending.” aspect.
      If you had taken that out, and it was just about Fujimoto trying to protect Ponyo from her own childish wishes that may would destroy only herself… you would have a much stronger, much more personal movie. as I am quite sure was the original intend.

  • James M. Fabiano

    Hi Sofie…might you do/already did “The Cat Returns”?