The NY Times' Manohla Dargis has written an excellent review of Ponyo, very lyrical and intelligent and just the kind I like. I'll leave it for you to read, and if you're curious, no, I won't be highlighting every major newspaper review. But I will highlight those who make very good points that inspire discussions. That is the true mark of greatness.
This paragraph should be highlighted by Michael Sporn and other defenders of hand-drawn animation and argued on their own blogs:
Like the other characters, with their clean lines and bright splashes of color, Ponyo tends to pop slightly on the screen. Although Mr. Miyazaki eschews the deep space of 3-D animation (over his dead body, as he recently suggested), he is acutely sensitive to texture, an awareness that translates into different visual designs for individual scenes and which intensifies the emotional register of those same scenes. The softly smudged field of grass that surrounds Sosuke’s house like a blanket is striking partly because you can see the touch of the human hand in each blade. The blurred pastel quality of the grass, the softness of this green mantle, convey a feeling of comfort that in turn summons up words like warmth, home, love.
Ponyo, above all else, is an animator's film; it is an artist's film. This is Hayao Miyazaki's stirring defense of the lost craft of hand-drawn animation, a skill that has been all but abandoned throughout the world. Studio Ghibli is the lone holdout against the computers, it seems. Of course, the reality is more complicated than that, and I don't think the artform is in the same danger of imminent extinction as, say, Yuri Norstein's paper cutout animation form.
But it's clear to all that there are no major champions of traditional animation on the world stage, save Studio Ghibli. And Miyazaki has made it his cause. Audiences will be dazzled with the skills of the human artists and their hands, and perhaps they will realize that there are things that CGI simply cannot express.
In that sense, this reminds me of the grand crusade ushered in 40 years ago, with Horus, Prince of the Sun. That movie was Isao Takahata's first shot across the bow in defense of animation as an equal to live-action movies. Horus threw down the gauntlet, and Heidi, Girl of the Alps pushed the idea even further, staking animation's claim over neo-realism, the French New Wave, the sensibilities of Jean Renoir, Orson Welles. Animation was not to be treated as second-hand or second-rate. The painters were the equals of the cameramen.
Now Ponyo is making a similar defense within the animation realm itself, as hand-drawn form is replaced by flashier, newer computer technology. I don't believe this has to be an either-or situation; both forms can coexist, and there are elements that favor one style over another. But the idea that we must arbitrarily scrap traditional animation for no good reason is absurd. This car still runs. This car has a full tank of gas in the trunk and a bag of M&M's in the glove compartment.