Movie Review: Ponyo

Hello dear readers and watchers, welcome back to my third review of a Studio Ghibli movie.

I started this journey a few weeks back with my review of Spirited Away, and continued last week with My Neighbor Totoro.

I plan on reviewing a new Studio Ghibli movie every week until I no longer enjoy it, so if you have a favourite movie of theirs you want me to watch and review, let me know in the comments, or shoot me a message on social media.

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Title: Ponyo
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: ★★★☆☆

During a forbidden excursion to see the surface world, a goldfish princess encounters a human boy named Sosuke, who gives her the name Ponyo. Ponyo longs to become human, and as her friendship with Sosuke grows, she becomes more humanlike. Ponyo’s father brings her back to their ocean kingdom, but so strong is Ponyo’s wish to live on the surface that she breaks free, and in the process, spills a collection of magical elixirs that endanger Sosuke’s village.


Lowering My Standards

I think I started this journey incorrectly. I started with what is often considered the best Ghibli movie; Spirited Away, and then started going down the list.

Spirited Away blew me away, and I haven’t been quite impressed since. I’m not saying Ponyo is bad, I just don’t think it was a movie I would want to watch again.

Others might think this is one of the greatest movies ever made, but the story didn’t do it for me. I was often guessing what would happen before they happened and coming up with better plot points.

Ghibli movies go for very simple stories, so it’s not hard to follow along. They also seem to mainly be focused on coming of age stories for young children, or at least the ones I have seen are.

This can be nice because they’re simple to follow along with, and they are fun the whole family can enjoy, but I guess sometimes they are a bit too simple for me.


Lost in Translation

I’ve read online that Ghibli movies can be watched in its natural Japanese or in your native language and enjoyed to the same extent.

I appreciated that when I watched Spirited Away and My Neighbor, because I was able to multi-task while I was watching the movies.

This didn’t seem to be the case so much with Ponyo. It just seemed like the English language wasn’t as playful and fun as the Japanese language is, or at least it is in my experience.

Also, I haven’t looked it up to confirm it, but I am pretty sure Liam Neeson was in this movie and that kind of threw me off. Maybe I am paranoid, but it felt weird to have a man who has killed hundreds of people in other movies play a cartoon character.


Beautiful Artwork

Though I found the story a bit lacking, I loved looking at the artwork. If Ghibli did nothing right, they definitely know how to match their visuals with the story.

It’s almost as if the story is written around the artwork, not the other way around.

Ponyo was colorful, playful, and happy, which is how most would probably describe the movie.


Final Thoughts

I didn’t dislike Ponyo at all, I just found it a bit predictable and boring. If I had watched it when I was a kid, maybe I would think differently, but as a mid-twenties adult, it was too childish for me.


What did you think of Ponyo, and what Ghibli movie should I watch next? Let me know in the comments!
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Movie Review: Spirited Away

Hello dear movie watchers, I have a confession to make.

Before Spirited Away, I had never actually seen a Studio Ghibli before. I had heard about them and I heard that everyone loved them, but I just never gave them much attention.

I decided to change that and I watched Spirited Away. Least I can say is that I will be making my way through the Ghibli catalogue very quickly now.

If you want to buy it, click on the image.

If you like this review, or want to discuss Spirited Away, let’s chat in the comments or on social media.
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Title: Spirited Away
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: ★★★★★

10-year-old Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) and her parents (Takashi Naitô, Yasuko Sawaguchi) stumble upon a seemingly abandoned amusement park. After her mother and father are turned into giant pigs, Chihiro meets the mysterious Haku (Miyu Irino), who explains that the park is a resort for supernatural beings who need a break from their time spent in the earthly realm, and that she must work there to free herself and her parents.


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The Story

Spirited Away’s story is a bit all over the place. A girl and her parents get stuck in the Spirit World and she tries to get them back and get back to the land of the living. To do that she needs to get a job, save a swamp monster, and a half dozen other things.

The story comes and goes. It has its highs and lows, but it all flows together in a way.

Still, the story is a lot of fun and cheerful, and it did a subtle, but good job of showing the growth of the main character Chihiro. She starts the movie as a shy, scared, and not confident 10-year-old, but as the movie progresses, we see her grow because of her experiences.

The movie doesn’t make a point of telling you that outright, but if you watch it carefully, you notice small changes.


The Design Work

Spirited Away was made in the early 2000s, so the animation work is nowhere near as good as it is today. That doesn’t mean it’s bad though.

I actually found it rather charming. In some scenes it’s very simple, with some trees and a character or two. In other scenes the screen is filled with pillow, spirits, bathhouse walls, and everything that is needed to make it more complete.

If it was made today, I don’t know if it would have the same feeling that it does now. I think being made in the early 2000s is a part of its charm.


The Musical Score

I thought that the music and the sound effects in this movie were perfect. The music was so beautiful in some moments, perfectly portraying what was happening on screen. Uplifting moments were accompanied by peaceful, uplifting music. Scarier, darker moments had fast paced, blood pumping scores.

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The sound effects weren’t anything special, but they were good. They fit perfectly, and they never felt too excessive or not enough. I thought that this really added to the movie for me. It wouldn’t have been as good of a movie without the music.


Final Thoughts

Spirited Away is fantastic. It is great as both a coming-of-age and also an adventure movie. Discovering the Spirit World is one of my favourite ideas in any story telling, and I have to say Spirited Away is does a great job of telling a good story for kids and adults both.


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