After a movie as dark as 'Tales from Earthsea', Ghibli studio once again finds the perfect balance with this lovely and cute, heartwarming tale, good for the whole family. Indeed, it's still one of Miyazaki more popular films, and it's probably the flip of the coin for overall cuteness, having 'Totoro' on the other side of things.
The film opens with a once-human wizard named Fujimoto (George Tokoro/Liam Neeson) who now dwells underwater with his daughters, including one named Brunhilde, who seems to be bigger and a bit more advanced that the others. She decides to sneak off on the back of a jellyfish, only to surface trapped in a jar, found by a little boy named Sōsuke (Hiroki Doi as Sōsuke/Frankie Jonas) who names her Ponyo.
It's soon discovered that Ponyo isn't like any other fish, enjoys the hell out of ham, and aftre tasting human blood (through a cut on Sōsuke's finger that she licks) tries to become human. Meanwhile, her father searches for her, desperately, causing tsunamis and other storms in the process. However, it is discovered that Ponyo has actually fallen in love with Sōsuke. Soon, Sōsuke is tested for his love, as if he doesn't love her in the same way, Ponyo will revert from being a human into, not a fish again, but sea foam.
Meanwhile, we also have Sōsuke's mother, Lisa (Tomoko Yamaguchi/Tina Fey) helping out where she can, but one has to wonder at what cost. Seriously, watching her try to be a mother can be upsetting at times as she seems to wanna risk her own son's life just to try to go places. I mean, I guess it's supposed to be humorous as we're seeing this woman who just won't take any shit from anyone or anything, including mother nature, but at times it feels extreme. Just watch her drive, and you'll know what I'm talking about. I know a lot of people love this character, but I can't say I did. Her love and understanding of her son is there, which is nice, but if you saw this person in reality, you'd probably be questioning her mothering methods.
Luckily, however, this movie doesn't revolve around her so much as the relationship between Sōsuke and Ponyo. And I have to admit to fully appreciateing Sōsuke's character, as he actually reminds me a bit of myself at a young age. He likes to explore where he's allowed to, likes to show off cool stuff he finds to people who will appreciate it, and there's just a lot of love in his heart as he's not only a good listener, but will go out of his way to help out who he loves as well. He's probably a bit more charming than I was back then, but still, pretty close.
To me, this ends up mostly being a film about the contrast between puppy love (the love between two kids) and the convoluted responsibility that comes with taking care of someone you love. Interestingly enough, it does seem to work both ways here as well. We really see how much the two care for each other, and it's extra cute considering that they're both just children.
All in all, I'd consider this to be one of Ghibli's best feel-good movies. It carries with it a cuteness, a sense of humour, and it really just doesn't get dark. Even 'Totoro' had the story of the sick mother, but this one, at worst, covers the fact that the father isn't really able to be around for Lisa and Sōsuke due to his job. So if you need a pick-me-up from a depressing day, I have to admit that despite a few of my nitpicks, this is a great place to start. It put a smile on my face, anyway.
As anime is an all-around untapped resource for my viewing pleasure, I have decided to explore the Ghibli titles, one-by-one. It seemed good a place to start as any. I'll be focusing on these titles throughout the month of August.