Like Director Hayao Miyazaki’s previous works (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle), Ponyo is a fantastical voyage full of magical characters, classical music scores and in this case, mermaids.
Living underwater in her father’s (voice by Liam Neeson) bubble-like kingdom with hundreds of sisters, Ponyo (voice by Noah Lindsey Cyrus) is a tiny sea creature that yearns for sunshine. Sneaking out of her family’s habitat, she reclines on a floating jellyfish and warms herself in the sun while lying just below the surface of the water.
But on one such adventure, she is scooped up in the net of a large ship trolling for garbage on the bottom of the lagoon. Caught inside an old, discarded bottle, she washes up near shore where she is found by 5-year-old Sosuke (voice by Frankie Jonas) who thinks she is a goldfish.
Ponyo’s exposure to humans is a brief one before her father finds and returns her to the sea. However, she has seen just enough of life above water (and tasted ham) to want to exchange her fins for feet. Her decision causes turbulence of oceanic proportions and hazardous moments for Ponyo when her Dad discovers her intentions. It also results in huge waves, rising tides, and severe weather that threaten Sosuke, his mother Lisa (voice by Tina Fey), his father Koichi (voice by Matt Damon) and the residents of a Senior Citizens’ home (voices by Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Lily Tomlin) before Ponyo’s mother (voice by Cate Blanchett) calms the tempest.
Yet aside from these brief perilous predicaments the characters face, Ponyo is an unusually gentle tale drawn in colorful Japanese anime. Combining Sosuke and Ponyo’s childlike charm with an enchanted storyline about obtaining independence and forming bonds of friendship makes this animation a warmhearted, fish-out-of-water adventure.
Note:The official website for Ponyo is in Japanese. Click here to view the English version of the movie’s trailer.