Big in Japan: A sneak peak at Studio Ghibli’s newest anime

While a good number of Japanese anime flicks are certainly not everyone’s cup of green tea, one exception to this rule is anything produced by Studio Ghibli and written by Hayao Miyazaki.

While Ghibli and Miyazaki might not immediately ring any bells, these two powerhouse names in the world of anime were responsible for films such as the cult classic Princess Mononoke, the academy award winning Spirited Away, and the recent popular hit Howl’s Moving Castle.

More hardcore fans of Japanese anime also attribute a few other hits to Ghibli and Miyazaki, especially My Neighbour Totoro, Castle in the Sky and Nausica, which together illustrate a variety of themes ranging from Japanese nostalgia for country living to striking a delicate balance between environment and technology.

So, if you’ve seen any of these films, then keep on reading as today’s post offers a sneak peak at Studio Ghibli’s newest anime, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (???????????????, Gake no Ue no Ponyo).

(If you haven’t seen any of these films, head to Blockbuster ASAP and see what you’ve been missing!!)

Since October of 2006, Miyazaki has been tirelessly working on Studio Ghibli’s latest creation, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Despite the recent advances in computer graphics (CG) that distinguish modern anime, Ponyo retains the classic Ghibli-style hand-drawn animation, and more importantly, has that distinctive Miyazaki look and feel to it.

Ponyo opened on July 19 in theaters all across Japan, though its English-language release is still another nine months or so away. Ponyo will also do the rounds at several of the major cinematic events including the 65th annual Venice International Film Festival. However, the anime has already received praise from a number of critics including the Japan Times newspaper, which gave the film 4/5 stars, and compared it to the classic My Neighbor Totoro.

Indeed, Ponyo is much more innocent and child-like than the heavy-hitting cinematic onslaught that is Princess Mononoke, and it’s much, much more comprehensible than Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. However, while young kiddies should have no problem following the plot line, adults can still conjure up their inner child to enjoy Ponyo. From an artistic perspective, the movie is also incredibly rich and deep, especially the stunning watercolor backgrounds of various seascapes.

The plotline centers on a half-girl, half-fish creature named Ponyo, who washes up on the shores of a small Japanese fishing village. However, she is quickly rescued by a young boy named Sousoke, who lives in a house on a cliff by the sea (hence the lengthy English title).

Without giving away too much of the story, Ponyo and Sousuke end up falling in love, which drives Ponyo to flee from her somewhat demonic father in the hopes of becoming a full-fledged human child. In classic anime form, the imbalance brought upon on the world by Ponyo’s transformation highlights the tenuous balance between humankind and nature.

Again, if you’re living in Japan, and you understand basic Japanese (remember – this is a kid’s movie!), check out Ponyo as it’s certainly worth your hard-earned yen. If not, no worries as it’ll only be a few more months before Ponyo hits North American theaters under the Disney name.

** All images are trademarked screenshots of the film Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea by Studio Ghibili, and are depicted on this website for the purposes of critical commentary **