Ponyo - First Review (Spoiler-Free)

(*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!


Anonymous said...

GhibliWorld never mentions a Japanese name who live in Japan and translates these Ghibli news stuff.
Hashimo's blog was driven into the stop. Because GhibliWorld direct linked.
GhibliWorld mentions about Copyright, but GhibliWorld quotes many images from other articles without permission. It is famous among Japanese Ghibli fans, and Studio Ghibli staff as Badsite.
You should read this Studio Ghibli's message, if you are true fan.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Hmm. This was interesting. I certainly didn't expect such a response. Perhaps it would help if you provided your name and credentials, instead of merely staying Anonymous.

For the record, Conversations on Ghibli is not a gossip site. Repeat: this is NOT a gossip site. I am not in the business of revealing secrets or spoiling insider information. I'm just an American animation fan who aims to educate and enlighten others about these great animated works. We are movie lovers, and we do this for the love of the artists.

Your comments about GhibliWorld are surprising. I must admit I do not know about their methods, or how the information comes into their hands. If Peter Van Der Lugt is violating copywright, or unjustly obtaining artwork, text, etc., then it is an issue to be taken up with GhibliWorld.

The problem, as I personally know all too well, is that once something is posted online, be it text or art assets, it spreads like wildfire across the internet. Anything and everything is scattered across the globe in an instant. If you're dealing with copywrighted material, then you have a serious problem.

Again, let me repeat: if GhibliWorld is doing anything wrong, then the responsible parties need to deal with them.

It really is unfortunate if GhibliWorld has earned a poor reputation in Japan, especially among the staff of the Ghibli studio. They should understand that we write online and share our love of their great works, not for fame or fortune, but the sheer joy of sharing great art. This is a labor of love for me, and many other Americans who read and write online.

Thanks for writing, Anonymous. You've raised a lot of good questions. said...

Recently some comments regarding were posted which surprised and saddened us. As they were rather negative, our first idea was not to reply on them. However, to avoid any gossip or people getting the wrong ideas, we changed our minds and decided to comment on them.

First of all, let me again say that reading these comments made me pretty sad. I think it is clear to everybody that consists of some great admirers of the works of Studio Ghibli who are trying to do something good instead of bad. As our main page mentions, we aim to promote and encourage interest in, and discussion about the works of Studio Ghibli. This is something we spend an immensely large amount of time on. We do this completely for free and completely non-commercial (even more so, it is costing money, because hosting a website like this cannot be done for free).

To comment on Anonymous’ remarks:

- “GhibliWorld never mentions a Japanese name who live in Japan and translates these Ghibli news stuff.” has never claimed to be a single person project. It is a successful effort of various people. For over a long, long time the people who contribute to it have been clearly mentioned by name on GhibliWorld’s main page.

- “Hashimo's blog was driven into the stop. Because GhibliWorld direct linked.”
We have indeed found out that the blog was driven into stop, but Hashimoto’s blog mentions a completely different reason than because of his Ponyo review. If it was still the cause, wasn’t that because Hashimoto decided to write about it? If this was because, like Anonymous says, “Because GhibliWorld direct linked”, shouldn’t we take this a step back? can’t tell in advance that somebody from within the industry itself(!) writes something on his public blog that is not supposed to be there. With all respect, but shouldn’t Hashimoto have been the person not to write about it...?

I think it is also very much worth mentioning that we had informed Hashimoto in advance, sending him an e-mail in Japanese to tell him about our interest in his review and about our translation.

- “GhibliWorld mentions about Copyright, but GhibliWorld quotes many images from other articles without permission.”
Indeed we mention copyrights. This is because we want to inform people that these images are not ours. These images belong to Studio Ghibli and other respective copyright holders (of course we ourselves cannot make this kind of beautiful art), and we always very clearly mention their sources (not only for imaging, but for articles as well).

The news and translations that we post, are posted because of the hundreds of thousands of people longing to read this information. Information that would normally only be accessible in and to Japanese. And we want non-Japanese to enjoy Studio Ghibli just as much as Japanese can. We are not doing this to violate copyrights, but to inform all the Ghibli admirers abroad. To promote Ghibli. Which, I take it, is something good instead of bad! Is this free publicity abroad costing Ghibli money? I think we can agree chances are high it generates them extra sales.

(Furthermore, with all respect(!), what is the difference compared to the images galleries at, the full articles at or the videos at Daniel’s Conversations on Ghibli blog??)

- “It is famous among Japanese Ghibli fans, and Studio Ghibli staff as Badsite.”
I am curious on hearing about the sources on this. On what information is this based? Over all these years we have gladly never been called what you call a “Badsite”. Not by Japanese Ghibli fans, nor by Studio Ghibli staff, nor by the countless other people from the animation industry that visit GhibliWorld, not by anyone. If is a bad site, wouldn’t we have been take offline? Remember, is trying to something GOOD here.

Hoping to have cleared something up.

Best regards,


P.S.: If somebody would be justified unhappy with, I hope for them to tell us directly so we can something about that. That is why have an e-mail address which is open to anyone:

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