PONYO (Blu-ray Edition)|
Disney / Buena Vista | 2008 | 103 mins | Rated G | Mar 02, 2010
Written by Jason Flick
March 5, 2010
If you’ve read any of my previous movie reviews then you’ll notice that I have a penchant for animated features or shows particularly in the area of anime and mangas. I’m not a devote watcher or geek of anime but I’ve seen my fair share of them. One of my favorite directors in this genre is Hayao Miyazaki the creator of Spirited Away. The first Miyazaki I saw growing up was Princess Mononoke back in ’97 and I was captivated almost instantly upon seeing it. Mononoke was the first film that really introduced the West to Miyazaki’s visionary films. Over the years, I have made it one of my personal goals to see or own every one of his works. This week I get to add another masterpiece to my collection with the release of Ponyo on Blu-Ray and DVD.
This review will cover the Blu-Ray version, though in current Disney tradition it also comes with standard DVD version as well. Ponyo is brought to North America with the combined efforts of Studio Ghibli and Disney in stunning High Definition. Ponyo is an inspired retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, the same source from which Disney’s version is created.
The story revolves around Sosuke, a human boy and Ponyo (originally Brunhilda), a goldfish-girl as they embark on a journey of friendship and adventure. Ponyo’s father Fujimoto, is tasked with keeping the balance of nature, and forbids her to go back to the surface world. In many ways Ponyo reminds me heavily of the Disney classic but I think that Miyazaki’s version is much cooler in both style and imagination. In Disney’s version all there was to fear was a giant octopus lady but in Miyazaki’s film the world is at danger of being submerged underwater.
For those have seen a Miyazaki film, you'll see his impeccable character design that has carried from every one of his films. Ponyo reminds me a little of My Neighbor Totoro as far as the story is concerned, due to the magical aspects of the title character and even her parents Fujimoto and Gran Mamare. Gram Mamare is essentially the essence of the ocean. For older audiences, Ponyo is a film that must be watch with an open mind. The film, while acceptable to all ages, is geared towards five year olds, which happen to be Sosuke and Ponyo's age.
In most animated films regardless of director, there is usually a clear villain and hero of sorts. In Ponyo however there is no real villain to the story. Sure Fujimoto comes off as the bad guy, but really he’s just a father trying to take care and watch out for his daughter like any good father would. The ocean itself is another instance where it seems to be a villain of the story but it really isn’t. There are several instances where the issue of humanity’s affect on the environment such as polluting our waters is brought up. This is something that I’ve seen before in films like Mononoke and Wall-E, which is a great message to get across.
Ponyo’s art style reminds me of a cross between a watercolor painting and a pastel drawing. It’s unlike anything that I’ve ever seen before and at first I wasn’t so sure that I would like it. One of the main things that truly blew me away is Miyazaki’s idea to make the water a living entity. When Ponyo returns to the surface to find Sosuke again she creates a massive waterspout out of fish that is just awesome. It’s even cooler when the fish turn back to water as they fall back into the ocean. Ponyo is brought to life in stunning 1080p AVC Format High Definition. The included standard DVD is shown in 1.85:1 Widescreen for those that want to make use of the standard DVD for a car trip or whatever you fancy.
The Japanese audio track is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital which sounds just as good as the English dub. I actually preferred watching Ponyo with its original audio track. There were certain things that I noticed when watching both versions back to back that made a bit more sense in the Japanese version. The dialog varied slightly from little things like a laugh in one version but not the other and lines completely different in the other. This is to be expected really when it comes to translating into English but either way Ponyo is enjoyable.
The score for Ponyo is created by Joe Hisaishi the man behind the music on many a Miyazaki film. If you watch the bonus features you will learn that the theme song that you hear throughout the film came to him during the first meeting to discuss the film. That little tune though slightly altered is catchy and I’m sure that little kids would fall in love with it. You can even hear a remix of it right after the normal version in the credits, which is the version that I like better. The music perfectly suits the film in every way and brings the film to life.
Viewers of the Ponyo on Blu-ray are also given a look into three of Miyazaki’s earlier films that have been released simultaneously with the release of Ponyo. Viewers who have never seen his works can learn a bit about “Castle in the Sky”,” My Neighbor Totoro”, and “Kiki’s Delivery Service” via an interactive adventure. This is the first time that North American’s who haven’t seen these films to get a glimpse of something truly special in the Miyazaki’s world.