Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You've not seen Ponyo. Shame on you.

It seems like it's been a pretty long time since our last blog post. And it seems like that because it's true. Things have been busy around here, and that's good for us, and, ultimately, for you. But it's also gotten in the way of relaying one of the greatest potential experiences life could ever provide you. That experience is Ponyo.

Ponyo, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (director of Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, etc., etc., etc.), was released in Japan in 2008 and distributed by Disney in the States last year. According to animenewsnetwork.com, Ponyo opened in 927 U.S. theaters, compared to 36 for Howl's Moving Castle, 26 for Spirited Away, and 38 for Princess Mononoke, all of which were also distributed by Disney. While it's too bad those other films didn't get much of a marketing push -- although I remember Spirited Away getting a healthy amount of mainstream attention during its Stateside release -- it feels natural that they would've ramped up the awareness for this one. It's Miyazaki's most family-friendly effort in quite a while, and everyone knows that Disney's marketing department is in top form when they're selling to the family demographic. Not that there's anything wrong with that, especially in this case.

Ponyo is, in a word, adorable, and one of the most delightful films I've seen in years, animated or otherwise. Loosely based on the story of The Little Mermaid, it follows Ponyo, a tiny fish girl who borrows some of her father Fujimoto's magic to visit the surface. She's found by a young boy named Sosuke, and the two immediately become attached. Fujimoto goes after Ponyo, enraged that she would ever want to live on dry land, and attempts everything in his power to get her back into the ocean. And that's about all I can tell you. I know that base plot description doesn't sound like it lends itself to very much excitement, story arc, or even originality, but you'll have to trust me. The beauty is in the details: The facial expressions; the minute attention to how characters move, behave, and interact; the art direction and the complex mechanics of the animation itself. And that isn't to say the film isn't without its exciting and heart-wrenching moments. It may not possess the epic sprawl of Princess Mononoke or the enveloping and wholly bizarre atmosphere of Spirited Away, but it is very much its own entity. As much as you may not think you're interested in letting Miyazaki feed you a giant, heaping bowl of cute, it's impossible not to be enchanted, amazed, and inspired. Not everything has to be completely hard-core and in-your-face bombastic. Sometimes you need a relatively quiet moment to calm down a bit and let yourself be reminded that the world isn't such a terrible place after all, and can be, in fact, quite wonderful.

Watch Ponyo. Buy it, rent it, borrow it from your friends. Just support it, and no regrets will follow. Ponyo needs you.

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