Friday, July 10, 2009

PONYO ON THE CLIFF BY THE SEA (Hayao Miyazaki, 2008, Japan)

As the moon falls from the sky scattering satellites like fiery stars, little Sōsuke must prove his unadulterated love for Ponyo in order to save the world. Brünnhilde the tiny mermaid escapes from the captivity of her Wizardly father, a Captain Nemo-like recluse who lives under the waves of Earthly perception, and she is washed upon the shore to be discovered by an innocent boy. Her father was once human but now despises their cruelty towards the Ocean, as their ships pollute the sea and dredge the silt for garbage and refuse: he wishes to eradicate the human race to save the planet. But the little mermaid is saved by Sōsuke and heals a minor cut by licking his wound and tasting blood; he names her Ponyo and this selfless act begins her transformation into humanity with catastrophic consequences! She is captured once again by her father and escapes with the help of her sisterly brood, and running along the black waves she searches for her boyfriend while the world’s tidal forces wreak havoc upon the seaside town. 

Director and animator Hayao Miyazaki has created a wonderfully child-like and elegant fairytale of tragedy and comedy, a story of untainted love between children, an allegory concerning the loss of our innocence as we descend into adulthood and we become isolated from the world…and ourselves. The hand-drawn imagery is breathtakingly creative, as waves take the forms of leaping fish, witness the extinct Devonian species swimming languidly amid the flooded town, jellyfish undulating like gelatinous umbrellas, the tiny toy that becomes a tugboat, the submarine with flippers, or Ponyo’s mother whose watery reflection captures the beauty of the ancient sea. 

The story itself is a child’s tale but is ripe with tension and fear, as Sōsuke loses his mother amid the raging storm and finds her abandoned car, and the loneliness of his fatherless existence, his only contact a flashing light from his passing ship: this undercurrent of anxiety is just enough to make Sōsuke become human himself and not an animated caricature. As cute Ponyo begins to lose her magical powers she must be kissed by our young protagonist and loved for what she has become if she is to stay human. For Ponyo, her bubble bursts and the world is saved: true love is born upon a contaminated world. Maybe there is hope for us after all. 

Final Grade: (B+)