Me: I tend to be more aware of anime movies than actually see them. So I was aware of Ponyo for a long while and knew that it had received good reviews and had thought about renting it to watch with Molly at some point. However, whenever I ended renting movies, I would promptly forget about the title and either Molly or I would grab a different title instead. However, we finally got to sit down and watch the movie.
Ponyo focuses on the story of a goldfish-girl whose father is a wizard-like keeper of the ocean. Struck with curiosity and wanderlust, she sneaks away from her father and goes closer to the shore and the surface of the water. She is trapped in the trash and waste that the humans leave along their coast, but the young human boy, Sōsuke, discovers her and frees her. Thinking her no more than a goldfish, he decides to name her Ponyo and keep her in a bucket, but not before she licks a wound of his (tasting human blood) and heals him. Sōsuke vows to protect her forever.
Upon discovering her missing, Ponyo's father searches for her and the seas become stormy and restless as he believes that his daughter has been kidnapped by humans, who he detests for their mistreatment of the ocean. Anyhow, as the waters rise and swell, he "rescues" his daughter from her "captors" and locks her away for her own good with her other sisters. Perhaps this is the father in me, but I didn't particularly view this as a malicious act, but just fatherly overprotectiveness tied in with his own biases and prejudices.
Anyhow, Ponyo escapes and goes to rejoin Sōsuke, whom she loves. Along the way, her magic powers grow and she turns into a human girl to join Sōsuke. This, however, causes a great imbalance in the world. The moon moves out of orbit and great tides flood the islands. Sōsuke's mother leaves Sōsuke and Ponyo together in their house high on a cliff to try to help the senior citizens that she cares for. As the floods increase, they are separated by the waters.
Sōsuke and Ponyao search out for Sōsuke's mother, along the way finding that prehistoric fish have seemingly filled the waters again. Ponyo's mother, the Goddess of Mercy, meets with Ponyo's father and they discuss Ponyo's decision to become a human and love Sōsuke and the dangers it may cause as the world is imbalanced. Sōsuke must be tested for his love of Ponyo. If he passes, she will remain human with him. If he fails, she will become sea foam.
Ultimately the test is a declaration of Sōsuke's love for Ponyo. Would he love her as a fish as much as a human? Sōsuke declares that he loves all of Ponyo's forms and that love is accepted and he passes the test. Ponyo becomes a human and the moon is returned and balance is restored to the world.
Ah, but what I failed to mention is that Sōsuke is five-years old. That seems like a rather heavy burden to rest the fate of the world upon: the capacity of a five year old to love. I think back to when I was five. I was deeply and madly in love as well. However, the object of my affection was Princess Leia. Really. I used to have this Star Wars picture book and I remember flipping through it and kissing the pictures of Princess Leia. I wanted nothing more in life than to marry her. I think that my affection for Princess Leia is part of the reason why I still have an innate dislike of Han Solo. Early in the stories, it seemed like Luke and Leia would end up together. I also related to Luke because of a lack of blond heroes (When playing Super Friends, I was always forced to be Aquaman because of my blond hair. Do you know how often Aquaman's crappy powers are useful in a school playground pretend disaster? Not friggin' often at all. The lack of blond heroes on teevee and movies is why Peter Davidson was always my favorite Doctor as well.). But anyhow, it is fortunate for the fate of the world, Sōsuke's capacity to love at five years old was much more developed than Princess-Leia-lusting five year old capacity was.
I think that is my only real complaint with the movie. Perhaps part of it is a cultural thing; Japan has more cultural emphasis on arranged marriages and destiny than US culture, so a five-year old's understanding of love might be more important. Or maybe it's just my own bias. My understanding of love at five years old ended being mired in hair buns and unknowing incest.
But anyhow, the visuals in the movie are beautiful. I'm not really a fish person, but I really thought that the sea life was drawn with such loving attention to detail. Also, I was fully aware of the score of the movie throughout. Most movies it fades into the background and is just supposed to be subtle themes in your subconscious. But this movie, the score was almost a character in and of itself. It was present and obvious and it was not a bad thing. I loved the music whenever Ponyo's father was on the screen.
Molly is usually a bit distracted when watching movies at home as opposed to the theater, but we sat down to watch it and she was transfixed on the film throughout. That's saying a lot for the movie, especially for watching it "cold" without her picking out the box or anything. She laid on me for most of the movie and asked a lot of questions about the plot. Only after about the 80 minute mark did she start to get a bit antsy. She still watched it, but began squirming from sofa to sofa. But she definitely was engaged throughout the film.
Molly: (As usual, I will be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at my computer and I'll be typing up what we are saying as we speak, then I'll go back and format it afterward. Her review will be in a Q&A form due to her age. She's sitting on my lap at my computer as we do this.)
Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, Ponyo?
Molly: I liked the little girl.
Chuckie: What little girl?
Molly: Ponyo, you silly goof.
Chuckie: What did you like about her?
Molly: Her was playing and she ran around like a crazy maniac.
Chuckie: What did you like about the movie?
Molly: Um, her was going over there to the couch and the boy said, the table's over here.
Chuckie: You mean when they ate dinner together at the boy's house?
Molly: Yeah. They had spaghettis and ham. Oh, and eggs. (She then closes her eyes and goes limp and falls off of my lap onto the floor.)
Chuckie: Get up, Pixie.
Molly: I'm showing you the other part I like, Daddy.
Chuckie: What part?
Molly: When she fell asleep like this. (She closes her eyes again and goes "nee nee nee", which is her "snoring" sound.)
Molly: Daddy, I'll be right back. (She stands up.)
Chuckie: Where are you going?
Molly: I need to get a drink or else my mouth will go so dry that I won't ever be able to talk again and then we can't ever finish the review.
Chuckie: Okay, Sweetie. Get something from Mommy in the kitchen.
Molly: (She runs out into the kitchen and eventually returns with a glass of chocolate milk.) Now where was I?
Chuckie: What happened in the movie?
Molly: Um, the man was trying to steal the little fishie.
Chuckie: The man?
Molly: The one that had the dolphins. The one that tricked the old people.
Chuckie: You mean Ponyo's daddy?
Molly: Yeah. That one.
Chuckie: Why was he trying to steal her?
Molly: Because... um... I don't know. Maybe he just wanted a little fish again.
Chuckie: What was your favorite part of the movie?
Molly: Um, I like the part when the girl did this. (She tries to make her eyes open really big.)
Chuckie: What didn't you like about the movie?
Molly: Um, the man shouldn't have tried to steal the fish. I mean, he already had a bunch of other fishies at him house.
Chuckie: Did you think that the movie was too scary?
Molly: Uh-uh. Not scary.
Chuckie: How would you rate the movie?
Molly: I want to give out stars and moons and suns.
Chuckie: Okay, how many starts do you give the movie?
Molly: Ten hundred ninety eighty nine stars.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of ten hundred hundred ninety four thousand.
Chuckie: That's a lot.
Molly: Yeah, but it only gets one moon, Daddy.
Chuckie: Just one?
Molly: Yeah, out of the one big moon that was in the sky in the movie.
Molly: Daddy, don't forget the suns.
Chuckie: Sorry, Pixie. How many suns do you give it?
Molly: Um, ten. Out of ten.
Chuckie: Okay. Do you think that people will like this movie?
Chuckie: Who do you think would like it?
Chuckie: Do you think that it is a good movie for four year olds?
Chuckie: But you're four.
Molly: Nuh-uh, Daddy. I had a birthday at school. So, I'm five, Daddy. None of you guys know that I'm five because none of you guys were there at my birthday party. (She is a little confused. We celebrated her birthday and had a party on Saturday since it was the weekend. Her actual birthday is today, so she took in cupcakes to Daycare and had another party today, so she is thinking that she had another birthday.)
Chuckie: Okay, fine. So, it is a good movie for five year olds?
Chuckie: What kind of people do you think would like it?
Molly: Um, I think Mason would be sad because there's a bad guy in it. And I think Edison would be brave because she likes a lot of movies, so she'd be brave. (She starts to sing "Brave, brave, brave. Edison is so brave. Brave, brave, brave. Molly is so brave. Brave, brave, brave. We're brave because we're five.")
Chuckie: Very nice singing, Pixie.
Molly: Thank you.
Chuckie: Is there anything else that you want to tell people about the movie?
Molly: Um, yes. This is going to be a funny one, Daddy. I think dolphins would like the movie too. Because they've never seen a movie before, so they'd think it was a funny one.
So, that's our review. I thought it was a beautiful movie and the score was interesting and present throughout. There are a couple of cultural differences that do not fully translate to a Western audience, but they are really only minor things and perhaps relate to my own views of what true love is from when I was five. Still, the movie was visually beautiful and the plot, which is sort of a retelling of the Littlest Mermaid (the original, not the Disney version), was a little light, but perfect for the simple story it told.
I give it three and a half out of five stars and I probably would have given it fewer stars for the plot issue of having a five-year old in the movie understanding what love really is, but as I look back at it, I think I can accept that my five-year old love really was true and lasting and I'm still really in love with Princess Leia to this day.
Molly gives it ten hundred ninety eighty nine stars out of ten hundred hundred ninety four thousand stars and one big moon that was in the movie and ten out of ten suns. She also thinks that as long as you are five (or believe that you are five), you will be brave enough to watch this movie. And apparently dolphins, who are unused to the motion picture medium, will find it hilarious.