A few months ago I introduced myself to the world of Studio Ghibli. With My Neighbour Totoro, the essential release from this dynamic creative unit, the experience was almost ethereal. It was a film unlike no other, transcending the immense power of childhood imagination and naivety. To say as little as possible about it; it changed my outlook on animated features entirely. Prior to that viewing I had never truly understood nor appreciated the possibilities of the medium, but after witnessing the magical beauty of Hayao Miyazaki’s cautionary tale I realised all my earlier communications with animation were misconceived and without recent. It’s stunning to sit through a film that is so luxuriously effective and challenging – it analyses and replicates strong themes that most shy away from – and I appreciate all its magnificence quality.
Ponyo, like My Neighbour Totoro, challenges itself to explore the boundaries of not only animation but cinema. It’s a testament to the immense quality of My Neighbour Totoro that Ponyo deservedly impacted me just as greatly. With the gushing realism a long distance memory here, Ponyo instead centres its time on the relationship between 5 year old Sosuke and the titular goldfish that is transformed into a human child after Sosuke’s cut is removed. Imagination filters throughout the film’s earlier moments as it explores the imagination and vision of its lovable objects. These two, despite their polar object situations, bond to an extensive manner. Largely, the relationship works as a thematic representation of connection and the possibilities of life as a whole.
It’s not only the startling and adorable nature they both posses that allows it freedom, but rather it’s the creative industry of Miyazaki’s mind and the limitless animation from Ghibli that provides the film with its flowing presence. We witness the immeasurable love between our characters and as the story unfolds the emotional bounds of animation are explored. One particular sequence in which Sosuke begins crying after struggling to his mother is effective for the line that Ponyo delivers: “There’s water coming from your eyes”. It’s simplistic upon reading, but it represents naivety and imagination in unparallel manner – much as the film depends on it.
Ponyo is a sweet, charming piece of cinematic beauty. It has all the emotional qualities that make it memorable, but it’s also hilarious in all its tranquil subtly. Miyazaki has my full attention.