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+)