Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by:Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Yuria Nara, Hiroki Doi, Joji Tokoro, Tomoko Yamaguchi, Yuki Amami
Released: August 27, 2009
Grade: B

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the best animators in the business.  He doesn’t rely on wiz-bang 3-D computer animation.  He uses traditional, hand-drawn images and focuses his attention on telling a good story.  Miyazaki has been at it for almost 50 years but his notoriety outside of Japan has only taken off in the past decade.  He won the Academy Award for best animated film in 2002 for Spirited Away (an awesome film) and the success of that film opened the eyes of many… including myself.

Whenever I see one of Miyazaki’s movie, I’m always left asking the question – what drugs is this guy taking?  I don’t say that in a mean-spirited away but I can’t comprehend how he comes out with such off-the-wall material.  It’s nothing like anything you’d see from the more conservative movie studios in the United States.

On that note, let me do my best to explain the premise of this film.  Sosuke is a 5-year-old boy who lives with his mother in a small coastal village.  He doesn’t see much of his father who works on a large boat.  One day, Sosuke finds a large goldfish on the shoreline who has found its head stuck in a jar.  Sosuke rescues it and takes it home in a green bucket.  He names it Ponyo.

You with me so far?  Anyway, it turns out that the fish is not quite what it appears.  When it accidentally comes into contact with a drop of Sosuke’s blood, it transforms into a human – a young girl, in fact.  This isn’t good news for the fish’s father, who is an evil wizard who lives under the sea.  He wants Ponyo back, living in his home as a goldfish.  He then creates a huge tsunami and tries to flood the entire village.

That covers the first third of Ponyo so the remaining two thirds is for you to discover.  I don’t think this is Miyazaki’s best work but I still like watching his film.  You won’t be bored – put it that way.  It’s refreshing to watch an animated film where you don’t know what’s around the corner.

The release of the film here in Australia is an interesting one.  Two versions can be seen – the original Japanese version with subtitles and an English language version with dubbed voices.  It was the subtitled version that I reviewed but you do see the other, you’ll recognise some notable voices including Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey and Liam Neeson.  It’s a good idea to check with the cinema first to know which version is being screened.