Ponyo (Gake No Ue No Ponyo)
An animated feature about a five-year-old boy who falls for a goldfish princess may not sound like a hot ticket, but the delightful content of Ponyo will be no surprise to anyone already in thrall to the Studio Ghibli brand. After Hayao Miyazaki’s groundbreaking Spirited Away, neither his Howl’s Moving Castle or his son Goro’s Tales from Earthsea repeated the same trick for Ghibli, but Ponyo signals that the old charm is flooding back in waves.
Mop-headed scamp Sosuke (voiced by Frankie Jonas of the Jonas Brothers) lives on a cliff near a seaside town, and while playing on the rocks on day, he meets Ponyo (Noah Cyrus, sister of Miley), who transforms herself into a girl and becomes Sosuke’s playmate. Verbalised by Liam Neeson and resembling David Bowie in Labyrinth, Ponyo’s King Neptune-like father Fujimoto is angered by Ponyo’s defection from his undersea kingdom and takes revenge by submerging Sosuke’s town in a tsunami.
Benefitting from stunning hand-drawn animation, the underwater scenes in Ponyo draw directly in style from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, but with most of the action set on dry land, Ponyo offers the same warm and wonderful view of friendly relationships that made 1988’s My Neighbour Totoro a cult classic. Ponyo is funny, charming and original enough to keep adults entertained, but where it really scores is Miyazaki’s ability to understand what a child sees; like its goldfish heroine, Ponyo may seem like a slight and slivery proposition, but it dives to uncharted depths.
General release from Fri 12 Feb.