Ponyo - (Region A Import Blu-ray Disc)
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Jason, Bellville. 11 June 2010
I am of the opinion that Hayao Miyazaki had something to prove when he made this film. Before this there was Tales from Earthsea, a lavish production helmed by his son that was ultimately underwhelming. Here we have Ponyo, which by comparison is simplicity itself. It is also a much better production, one more suited as a flagbearer for Studio Ghibli.
First impressions may indicate otherwise. The animation is much simpler (though no less fluid), as are the character designs and the surroundings. It's like Ghibli fantasy/realism married to the uncomplicated illustrations from a children's storybook. And it works, it really does. It conveys the feeling of a written story moving freely from the confines of its pages. Inbetween there are still moments of more complex animation excellence, such as the bit where Sosuke and his mom are battling to stay ahead of the storm, with Ponyo running on top of the ways in hot pursuit.
The story is just as simple, boiling down to a tale of two kids falling in love with the rest serving as garnish. I read a review on this title in Neo magazine recently that awarded this movie 2/5, citing that for all the graphical flourishes the story was not up to scratch with Miyazaki's previous works. They were certainly not wrong to make that assumption. The story does have one or two rather convenient plot devices, and there are certain themes, certain events, certain characters who you think are significant only for them to fizzle out.
But think of it this way. If the design was made to recall the look and feel of a storybook, why not the story itself as well? Think of the narrative as a parent telling his child a bedtime story, making it up as he goes along. Suddenly it all makes sense. At least it did for me.
So here we have a Ghibli title that is less than any previous title, but also more. Much, much more.
Region A - Includes most North, Central and South American countries and South-east Asian countries including the Republic of China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, Japan and Korea.