Ponyo is the first Studio Ghibli movie that I didn't instantly love.

Story

Ponyo tells the story of Ponyo, a young goldfish princess who wishes to become human after meeting Sōsuke. 

The story is a fairly simple one, Ponyo and Sōsuke meet, and they go on this epic adventure after where Ponyo wants to become human. 

Unlike other Studio Ghibli movies, there isn't much underneath the surface and I wasn't expecting the movie to be as simple as it was. And while simplicity is not a negative, I expected a but....more. 

Voice Acting 

Even though they are animated characters, Ponyo and Sōsuke have great chemistry and this comes from the talent of the actors playing them, Yuria Nara and Hiroki Doi both of which were children at the time they recorded their performances. They both bring across a sense of childlike wonder and joy to their characters. 

There are so many recognizable names in the English cast and even though I watched the movie subbed, it is worth mentioning that it includes, Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and Betty White.

Writing/Direction 

In every Studio Ghibli review that I do, I mention the themes of the movie and the message that it conveys and in this movie, the central theme is not as obvious. (I kid you not when I say I figured it out, I think, as I was writing this review.) It has to do with loving people for who they are and not the outward facade that they present. At the end of the movie, Sōsuke says that he loves "all of Ponyo." Insinuating that it doesn't matter to him whether she is a goldfish or a girl, he will care about her regardless, and that's a nice life lesson to learn from a five-year-old.

I will say that the writing in this movie is not as layered as... Princess Mononoke for instance. They each have deeper motivations and story arcs, and the lack of it in this movie could do with the fact that the protagonist is a five-year-old boy. He sees the world simply and it's refreshing to watch. 

Animation 

I say this in EVERY SINGLE review of a Studio Ghibli but the animation is STUNNING the use of colors for contrast and the fluidity of the animation. 

Given the subject matter and how important water is in this movie, the visuals reflect not only the colour but the fluidity of water as well. You can see in the characters and the way they move and react with each other, and while I am not going to sit here and say the animation is realistic, it is captivating and makes the movie as a whole, more fun to watch.

I watched a YouTube video on Hayao Miyazaki's use of colour in his movies and it mentions this movie and Ponyo's unique color scheme which not only makes her stand out in the water but stand out as a character, compared with everyone else. 



Score/Soundtrack 

The score in this film sounds fantastical. Sometimes you watch a movie where the score perfectly matches the movie and this is one of those times, it's whimsical, exhilarating but also somber and calming.  

It is also really familiar, in the sense that I have heard something similar before, this is not to say that it's a bad thing, actually quite the opposite. The familiarity of the score made it really heartwarming. 

Overall Thoughts

Do I think Ponyo is a bad movie? No, quite the opposite. However, as the title states, it is the first Studio Ghibli movie that I have seen that I didn't instantly love. The others stood out, not only visually but from a story perspective, I knew what the movie was trying to say but with this one I could not see past the surface. There are simple thematic elements that make it not only easy to watch but fun to watch as well. 

So while Ponyo is a movie that I don't see myself rewatching, it is still a beautifully animated heartwarming film with one of the cutest title characters that I have seen in a long time. 

I will say that Ponyo is the cutest animated character that I have seen in a while, and I think she is even cuter in fish form than human form. I mean look at her!!!



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