The chance meeting of two kids from different worlds risks becoming a planetary disaster.
Having shattered a glass jar washed ashore, five-year-old Sōsuke releases a magic fish that instantly heals his cut finger. The boy names the fish Ponyo and vows to protect it, not knowing that it is in fact the sea princess Brunhilde, whose newfound desire to become a girl will have irreversible consequences—a tsunami and the moon’s exit from orbit. Hayao Miyazaki’s first fully hand-drawn anime in years (featuring the filmmaker’s record of 170,000 frames) was screened to great acclaim at the 2008 Venice Film Festival and was awarded the Japan Academy Prize for Best Animation of the Year.
Miyazaki’s signature universal style makes this a film for both children and adults: whereas kids will see in Ponyo a new take on The Little Mermaid and an amazing ocean universe, adults will spot Sōsuke’s mother’s single parenting in the absence of her fisherman husband, who is at sea, as well as the wizard’s overprotective nurturing of his daughter Brunhilde/Ponyo and her younger sisters. Miyazaki once again encourages all audiences to reflect on humans’ impact on the environment, centering the conflict in Ponyo around the heroine, who is at the crossroads of two worlds.
As well as land and sea, Ponyo converges the worlds of East and West. The anime references European mythology and folk tales and prose by the Japanese novelist Natsume Sōseki (the name Sōsuke is borrowed from a Sōseki character). Likewise, the eclectic soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi, Miyazaki’s constant collaborator and composer of the music for all of his films other than the debut The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), contains quotations from Debussy and Wagner’s opera Die Walküre, which also inspired the sea princess’ name, Brunhilde.
The film will be screened in Japanese with Russian subtitles.
Dir. Hayao Miyazaki
Japan, 2008. 101 min. 6+