Riffs - Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea
There are many really terrific riffs scattered throughout Ponyo. These little quotes of shots and poses are a regular event in any Miyazaki or Takahata animation, and they are especially subtle here. I've long wondered if these are created for the artists' own satisfaction, or if they are little scavenger hunts for the diehard fans. Either way, it's a lot of fun to spy these.
Let's take a look at these two. This magnificent scene where Ponyo escapes from her prison and gleefully (and innocently) makes a wreck of her father's house. This is the first part of the spectacular action setpiece of the movie - Miyazaki's tsunami that swallows the coastal town.
I think this particular riff is very gleefully ironic. For Heisei Tanuki Gassan Pom Poko was the first Studio Ghibli film to incorporate CGI. Three cuts in the movie incorporated computer graphics, and one of them was this shot of the swirling waterways.
I suppose you could also say that Pom Poko shares a similar surreal mythology with Ponyo, especially the main characters that morph into different forms, from detailed human-like persons to simple iconic cartoons. Japanese audiences can readily accept the idea of a fish that grows into a girl, because they have their folk and mythic traditions of tanuki and foxes and spirits.
Every once in a while, I see elements that tie the Studio Ghibli films together, and it adds extra layers of meaning to these brilliant works. Despite its spectacular animations, and despite its agenda as a children's movie, there is a lot of depth to be discovered in Ponyo. If this isn't an excuse to shuffle off to the theater for that third viewing, I don't know what is.