(*8/20/09 Note: The US Ponyo review is now available. This post relates to the 2008 Japan release.)
The very first outside review for Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea has arrived online! Once again, we have Peter from GhibliWorld to thank for mentioning the news, as well as translating the text from the original Japanese. Thank goodness we wouldn't have to rely upon Babelfish. What's the deal with Babelfish, anyway? Does that thing ever work properly? Maybe it's settings are stuck at "drunk."
Anyway, the writer Hashimoto Atsushi is forbidden by Ghibli to reveal any details, so that means no spoilers for the rest of us. He heaps endless praise on Ponyo, which should continue to build the excitement and anticipation for us lonely fans. Sigh...I really wonder why I'm doing this to myself, since this movie won't be seen by any of us until (cough, cough) next summer.
I'm really impressed by Mr. Atsushi's remarks on CGI and the nostalgic return of classical animation. This may become a rallying cry for the movie. I can see the devoted die-hards swarming into theatres all across America, just to make their stand for their beloved cartoon artform. Yeah, we'll all be pouring into cinemas two, three, four times, friends and family in tow.
So, once again my deepest thanks to GhibliWorld. Here are Mr. Atsushi's remarks on Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea:
I have just watched 崖の上のポニョ (Gaku no Ue no Ponyo). Yeah! Soo Nice!! Full marks! FIVE STARS!! Of course, I saw it later than Ghibli’s staff. I'm working on the Ghibli Special program which will air on July 25th and it gave me this opportunity. Hashida, who is part of the Ghibli staff, told me that the first preview for outsiders is called "Sho-go Shisya" (初号試写, 1st preview) and the one for inside the company is called "Zero-go shisya" (0号試写, 0th preview)". The one I attended was Sho-go.
On June 25th, when I visited IMAGICA in Gotanda, there were sooo many people to be seen. "Oh! That's Mr. Suzuki! I just touched him with my shoulder! Oh! There is his Majesty Takahata!" When I entered the preview room, I was surprised to see full seats of audiences, though its capacity is more than 100. It shows that Studio Ghibli’s new movie interests so many. I've never seen such a hot air during any of the previews I visited over the last two years. They all gazed at the screen to ensure they would never miss any of the cuts Miyazaki challenged himself to.
The movie has started. The content is… a secret! Of course that is the rule. BUT! I can tell only one thing… VERRRY INTERESTIIIIIING! Above all, the 5 minutes of opening will surely amaze you! It completely took my breath away and I felt like Miyazaki's soul was telling me "Look at my painting!!". Sorry, I can't tell about the story... only about the images.
The location is a rural seaside town. Sosuke lives at a house on a cliff with his mother. His father tends to be absent from home because he is a sailor. One day, Sosuke has an magical meeting. It is Ponyo, a fish girl. Then a story of friendship and adventure begins. It doesn't have an esoteric theme like Mononoke (though of course Ponyo does hide a deep theme)... It’s not densely drawn like Howl... Rather than that, it has a similar world-view to that of Totoro... The sceneries seem to have something nostalgic. Unaccountable creatures live in the daily life. People accept it naturally.
The visual impression is just like that of the poster. Round and simple, warm and handmade like. A 5 year old kid like Mei acts. For kids of that age, everything is an adventure. We are quickly invited to such bright good old days. I was surprised to hear from Hashida that the whole movie was drawn by hand. It is simple, but out-of-box so to speak. Overblown waves, fishes larger than a ship... All is rather comfortable.
I have thought that the development of 3G animation techniques has reached its limit and we can't distinguish if it’s CG or real. Which is of course amazing, but why must they must make animation as if it is live-action? Anime should be like anime. If that is the way you think, then you'll surely be beaten to watch this film. Miyazaki gave us a clear answer. He never cares about any law of perspective or the motion of real waves or to be close to live-action. He enlarges what he wants to show. That's OK if it's a fairy tale. Free imagination or thoughts are permitted.
Either way, I remet the anime I loved so much during my childhood. The 100 minutes was like that. And Ponyo, she's really cute! Sosuke, he's really noble! Mr. Tokoro! We decided you to be the narrator of the Ghibli Special. He shows an unusual side as Ponyo's father. It's quite good. Let us ignore any detailed logics. Maybe you will care for some questions in the story after watching, but it brings us a thought like "No problem. It's really delightful. That's enough!" It must be a masterpiece, surely leaving an important thing in your heart after watching!