Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Gake no ue no Ponyo" - Japanese movie review

So I'm doing a movie post because as many who are close to me know, I'm a bit of a movie geek. Even more so, I'm an animation geek. (I'm actually considering starting a movie blog that focuses just on animation. I'm not sure if there's an audience for it though.) With that said, here's my review of "Ponyo".

If you live in Japan, then you already know about "Ponyo". If you came last summer, then you've also heard the adorable and infectious tune that goes with the movie. For any other readers out there, here is the song I'm referring to:

"Ponyo" is the latest creation by Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli. In my opinion, Studio Ghibli is one of the best animation studios in the world, right up there with Pixar. Every movie they put out is gold. Miyazaki is pretty much Japan's Walt Disney to give you an idea of just how famous and respected he is here. For good reason too because he is that brilliant. The most popular Miyazaki/Ghibli movie in the US, I'm pretty sure, is "Spirited Away". Other ones I highly recommend checking out (and you can find all of these in the US): "Princess Mononoke" (my personal favorite), "Castle in the Sky", "My Neighbor Totoro", and "Nausicaa: of the Valley of the Wind". This is only to name a few though. There are many others that are just as worth your time, and you may even enjoy more than these titles.

Here's the Japanese trailer for the movie:

So the movie came out on DVD just last month. I just rented it last weekend. It was WONDERFUL!! Very soon, it will be out in America, and I want all of you at home to see it.

Ponyo is a simple story. It's not on a high level of thinking like "Mononoke" or "Nausicaa". It's more geared for young kids in the same way "Totoro" is. Like "Totoro", don't write this movie off just because it's for kids. It's still a lovely story with gorgeous animation. It's one of those movies I don't think anyone could be too old for.

The story, in a way, is kind of like "The Little Mermaid". After meeting a human boy (Sosuke), a little fish (Ponyo) dreams of being human too. Except in this case, the boy and the fish are only 5 years old. Ponyo's father is an evil sorcerer, and he doesn't want her to leave the sea. I think it's best I don't give away anymore than that.

I found myself forming a special connection to this movie. It takes place in a small town right on the sea coast. The setting looks a LOT like where I live in Japan. Everything from the crazy winding roads and fisherman boats is spot on. I think Miyazaki must have spent a lot of time in Shikoku for many of his movies resemble the place I live.

Overall, I LOVED this movie. I'm not sure if it's coming out in theaters or straight to DVD at home. Either way, you guys need to see this movie.

If you can, I recommend watching this in its original Japanese dub with English subtitles. I haven't watched this with the English dub (the Japanese DVD didn't come with it. Thank goodness it at least had the subtitles!), but looking at the English voice cast has me a little worried...

I'm happy with some of the choices. Liam Neeson as Fujimoto is perfect! Great choice! Cate Blanchett as the Sea Goddess also pleases me.

The ones that worry me are the choices for Ponyo and Sosuke. Why oh why did they have to cast younger siblings of Disney chanel stars? Ponyo is played by Noah Cyrus, Miley Cyrus's little sister. Sosuke is played by Frankie Jonas, the youngest Jonas brother. Come on, really? I know exactly why they did it. As an animation fan, I always get annoyed when animated movies cast big names rather than people who actually fit the part. Like any other movie, they want to attach a big celebrity name in order to get a bigger auidence. I get it. For an animated movie, this can hurt a lot though. Especially with anime, you need voice actors that can not only act but know how to synch their voice correctly. Getting some celebrity who's not good at either can really ruin it. However, maybe Cyrus and Jonas are actually awesome in this. Maybe I'm judging them too quickly. Even if they are great in this, I know that's not the reason they were cast in this. animation rant aside, please see this movie. When/if you do see it, leave me a comment letting me know what you think. If watched it with the English dub, let me know what you thought of that too.

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