Fat Film Review: Ponyo

English movie poster for PonyoIf you haven’t seen it yet then I have to fully and enthusiastically recommend watching the Miyazaki film released through Disney called “Ponyo“.

As per Wikipedia: “Ponyo (Gake no Ue no Ponyo: literally “Ponyo on the Cliff”), initially titled in English as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, is a 2008 Japanese animated film by Studio Ghibli, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki”.

This is supposedly inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson story “The Little Mermaid”, yet I found this tale to be so much sweeter than that original story and far more interesting even than Disney’s own Ariel-centric version.

In this charming little tale a young fish-girl (a kind of goldfish with a girl’s face) comes to the surface and befriends an equally young Japanese boy named Sosuke. The boy ends up saving Ponyo who gets stuck inside a bit of floating ocean debris and he names the fish-girl “Ponyo”. They end up getting separated but Ponyo is determined to find Sosuke once again, even if it means using her own magic to give herself feet/hands to do it!  Both characters are 5 years old and sweet as can be.  Ponyo reminds me very strongly of the young girl in an earlier Miyazaki film called My Neighbor Totoro.

In addition to the round-bellied Ponyo and the caring Sosuke, we have the lovable and quirky characters of:

  • the stern but caring fish-girl’s father
  • the lovable and very diversely shaped/sized seniors at the nursing home
  • Sosuke’s very easy-going and brave mother
  • the absent but loving father of Sosuke who captains a fishing vessel
  • Ponyo’s understanding, beautiful and enormous sea mother

Most heart-warmingly, this isn’t a tale about how a teenager gives away her only/best skill (singing) in order to woo some man with her luscious under-aged curves. Rather, Ponyo is about the innocence of truly accepting people for who/what they are; in all their various and splendid forms, with no reservations.  It made my heart truly sing with happiness.

To boot, the English language voice-over is very well done with a good cast of dubbers who capture the characters very well.

The icing on this film’s already beautiful plot-cake, however, was the end credit theme song (which you can watch on YouTube here in the English version or here in Japanese), which is lively, bouncy, emotional and contains these lovely lyrics:

Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo Fishy in the sea
Tiny little fishy, who could you really be?
Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo magic sets you free
Oh she’s a little girl with a round tummy! (Emphasis mine)

Really a well-done adaptation of a very intense story, far surpassing the princess-y eye-candy of Disney’s own version.  It is a fun, at times emotional, very compelling story with lovable characters who you just want to cheer on.  Beautiful.

Related note: This past weekend I got to enjoy a visit with some great friends who have two small kids now obsessed with Ponyo; who kept alternating between singing that song and the theme from Phineas and Ferb (another show that Adam and I really enjoy).

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10 thoughts on “Fat Film Review: Ponyo

  1. “Ponyo is about the innocence of truly accepting people for who/what they are; in all their various and splendid forms, with no reservations.”

    If this is really the point of the movie, then it is bitterly ironic that it was made by a Japanese filmmaker – land of conformity and brutal hammering down of nails that stick out. This is a country so obsessed with thinness that they take tape measures to people to make sure their waists don’t get too big. It’s a country so oppressive about marginal variations in appearance that girls get their wavy hair ironed flat because otherwise they are bullied in school for this small difference in looks. It’s a place where school uniforms are the norm and every businessman wears nearly the same color suit and shirt everyday to work.

    From a country that accepts very little in the way of variation in form, this is a strange offering indeed. The sincerity of the message is definitely in question, if indeed the point is properly translated.

    • Hmmm that does make me wonder Screaming Fat Girl. Because the message does come out very distinctly: “Sosuke, do you love Ponyo in all her forms?” So maybe this is a bit of wishful thinking for the sort of world imagined by the film’s director/creator? That adds an even more interesting level to this movie that will have me thinking a bit more!

    • “From a country that accepts very little in the way of variation in form, this is a strange offering indeed. The sincerity of the message is definitely in question, if indeed the point is properly translated.”

      I agree with you about Japan as a culture, but this isn’t an offering from all of Japan, it’s from Miyazaki and his studio. We’re all products of our culture, but none of us are simply the average of our culture. (If we were, FA would not exist!)

  2. My kids are also currently obsessed with Ponyo. My 3.5 year old boy tries to role play the part of Sosuke and makes his 2 year old sister play Ponyo. She mostly just want to be one of the “cool fish” that show up, so she kind of goes along with his plans.

  3. It gets even better. According to one of the extras on the DVD, ponyo is Japanese for something that is attractively soft and puffy, like a baby’s cheeks and belly. So her name is, roughly, Pudge.

  4. If you haven’t checked out all of Miyazaki’s films yet, please check out his other ones. He’s an *amazing* filmmaker.

    I haven’t seen them all yet but our family loves “Howl’s Moving Castle” the best, and “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” Not always 100% fat-friendly but generally okay.

    The animation is just stunning and the storytelling imaginative.

    • WellRounded Mama we have seen a bunch of his and Kiki and Totoro are our other top favorites 🙂 Miyazaki is so much fun I think! And beautiful to watch.

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