Miyazaki the Alchemical Wizard

Ponyo - Miyazaki the Alchemical Wizard
Hidroapeiron asks a very good question about the opening scene in Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea:

"Actually, the only think I didn't understand was in the opening scene, when a big squid swims above Fujimoto and he points it with some kind of a light gun. Any ideas?"

I really loved that opening scene, with its densely packed life swimming, creeping, crawling around. The sight of the man in '60s Mod suit sending signals to a giant squid was especially impressive.Here's something you may not know about squid. Some species of squid and have transluscent bodies and communicate by changing their colors.

Here's a quote from Wikipedia's page on Caribbean Reef Squid:

"Caribbean Reef Squid have been shown to communicate using a variety of color, shape, and texture changes. Squid are capable of rapid changes in skin color and pattern through nervous control of chromatophores.[1] In addition to camoflauge and appearing larger in the face of a threat, squids use color, patterns, and flashing to communicate with one another in various courtship rituals. Caribbean Reef Squid can send one message via color patterns to a squid on their right, while they send another message to a squid on their left."

If you notice closely, you'll see that Miyazaki has populated his ocean with real life creatures. Now imagine how that looks to a small child. The magical and natural elements are one and the same through their eyes.Fujimoto is using his pocket light to communicate with the giant squid. What is being said? What are they telling one another? No one knows. Fujimoto is the caretaker of the ocean, and he tends to his garden carefully.

In this movie, the adults live in a world of mystery. Nearly everything they do is either out of sight or tucked away, unexplained. It doesn't matter if we're talking about Fujimora, Gran Manmare (that's the Mother of the Ocean), or Lisa and the grandmothers. They live in a distant and unknown world, and that's because we are watching them through a child's eyes.

Here's another thing that I find very interesting: this opening scene is the only moment in the movie where Fujimoto, the father, is truly happy. If not happy, he is certainly not grumbling or fraught with worry. He may appear bitter toward the civilization above, but he is devoted to his work. It's a portrait of the director himself - Miyazaki the alchemical wizard, who spins magic with paint and dreams of washing away the corrupt world of men.


hidroapeiron said...

Hahaha, I know the difference between think and thing, I swear.

Chris said...

This scene and all the underwater scenes really reminded me of the Ghibli Museum short film, Monmon the Water Spider. I don't know if anyone here has had the luck of seeing this, but it follows the life of the a spider who lives in pockets of air under the surface of a pond. A female pondskater (who very strangely looks like Kiki) appears on the surface one day and fascinates Monmon. A sweet relationship develops between the two.

I mention it here, though, because the underwater life of the pond is masterfully animated with such a delicate care. Everything is animated and potrayed with such realism. It's all very stunning from a visual stand point. In many ways you can see here what later exploded to fruition in Ponyo.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

I am familiar with Miyazaki's last trio of Ghibli Museum short films. I was supposed to be writing posts on all of them, and began with Koro's Big Day Out a while ago. But since I've never been to Japan, I've never seen these films myself.

It does seem to me that The Day I Harvested a Star pointed back to Howl's Moving Castle - the boy in the story looks just like a young Howl - while Monmon the Water Spider and Yadosagashi suggested the new directions taken with Ponyo.

I love how Ghibli takes its inspiration from the natural world. Walt Disney taught his animators to find inspiration in the real world, but those roots are seemingly gone from most American movies. Miyazaki's movies seem more REAL to me, even though they're all created from drawings.

Chris said...

That reminds me of that documentary of Miyazaki (I think for Sen to Chihiro) where he's trying to explain the real movement of animals and none of the young animators in the room has ever seen what he's describing. Miyazaki gets really frustrated.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

I do remember that! He's trying to talk about dogs, and the younger staff have no idea what he's talking about. Hah hah hah...You know, a dog! When you were a kid, with the playing and the running around the back yard and the Froynlayvin! Oy vey! You kids are spoiled today. :P

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