Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea – That Can’t Be A Gold Fish, Can That Be?

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Japanese imagination knows no bound, I must say.  A gold fish that looks like a baby girl to me except the missing limbs and the ability to live both in and out of water.  Am I the only one who wonder if I was reading the subtitles correctly?  It is beyond the visual art on the big screen.  It is about changing of perceptions from within your head.

Here is a brief summary of the story (skip this paragraph if you don’t want to read this mild spoiler).  A gold fish (more like a little girl) fathered by a sorcerer and has a Goddess as her mother escaped her fish tank within the ocean one day for what?  I don’t know.  But she found a 5 years old little boy who falls in love with her.  Thereafter, this gold fish is recaptured by her father but defies the law of the Universe, tries to become a human being, and in the mist of all these magical intervention, Ponyo (the name of the gold fish given by the young boy) brings along with her Tsunami onto the city of the young boy whom she must meet again.

It is almost a flawless outstanding piece of story crafting.  That is to compare with Hayao Miyazaki’s previous work “Spirit Away (2001)” that is quite possibly my favorite of his films that I have watched so far.  From the color and grandeur and style point of view, “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” has Miyazaki’s trademarks everywhere – just like “Spirited Away (2001)” and “Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)”, both I enjoyed watching a lot.  From the animation perspective, the character’s movement looks convincingly natural.  From the artwork perspective, I love the clever use of the illusion of light and dark.  Looking at that two hot bowls of instant noodle, Cynthia and I looked at each other, swallowed hard feeling very hungry at that very moment.  That is realism on 2D.

What “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” lacks is perhaps a true villain.  I almost say that the ending is kind of weak.  But then again, it is so darn cute and memorable.  It is a strong recommendation to those who have watched 68 years old Hayao Miyazaki’s previous works.  On average, it takes him 3 to 4 years to create a new animation.  I can wait.  I think his next project will be on global warming.

8 thoughts on “Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea – That Can’t Be A Gold Fish, Can That Be?”

  1. **** spoiler alert – read at your own risk of diminished pleasure of watching the film ****

    From my interpretation, the ‘sorcerer’ is a bio-engineer or scientist of some sort that wishes to replenish the oceans with diversity of species. Ponyo is probably his first successful prototype of a new kind of living being, probably a result of half natural evolution and half DNA manipulation, that’s why she was ‘fathered’ by him and her mother is the Goddess that represents the sea. Once you get this point, you will understand why Ponyo and her ‘siblings’ are housed in a fish tank in the ocean.

    If you paid attention to the details, the cave in which the golden well is situated has the words “PANGEA” across the top, which is an ancient name for Earth. He also mentioned that once the well is filled up with some potion he created, the age of the Ocean will arrive. I guess he was creating some catalyst that accelerates evolution and hope to return the Earth to the diversity in life seen in ancient times.

    The puzzling thing is that once Ponyo “received” the “gift”, she inherits a huge power that she herself did not realise – that of being able to pull the moon closer and closer to Earth, thereby explaining the tsunami and rising sea levels near the end of the movie.

    Miyazaki’s works always have an environmental theme in them, and his mastery is in the ability to convey the message through depiction of magical powers, such that even young kids like my son is able to enjoy it.

  2. Koh Choong Yong – Ah, that makes so much sense!

    About the pulling the moon onto the Earth, it is quite a popular metaphor. Italo Calvino wrote about the Moon coming closer and closer to Earth. That recent movie “The Day The Earth Stood Still” – though no moon was present – it was about saving the Earth by eliminating the human beings with a doomsday disaster. I guess the theme is similar here.

    Thanks for sharing this insightful thought by the way.

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