Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (崖の上のポニョ)

All posts tagged Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (崖の上のポニョ)

The two main protagonists.

The final episode of the legendary Japanese mangaka Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack OVA reviewed in the last entry of this blog features an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, where the main protagonist may or may not be putting a cave-dwelling mermaid under the knife while charging hundreds of millions of yen (to know the answer, watch that anime). Right after watching that episode, I then get an idea of watching another adaptation of that (in)famous fairy tale done by the legendary anime movie director Hayao Miyazaki in his newest movie titled Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Not only then I will be able to review another of his movies (this movie will be his third title reviewed in this blog) but more importantly, I can also compare and decide which one of the two titular figures in Japan’s anime history has the best implementation of that macabre fairy tale from the West.

This movie is a 2008 title, therefore its chances to dethrone the current ‘Anime of the Year 2008’ title holder One Outs is practically nil. Oh, and before you complain about the irrationality of comparing a movie (Ponyo) and an anime episode (Black Jack OVA episode 10), remember that this movie’s running time is just about 90 minutes, while that Black Jack episode runs a little bit under an hour. Did the extra 30 minutes that this movie has will then give an unfair advantage to it? Well, read on and find out then.

Her driving skills is on par with Fujiwara Takumi of Initial D. See how she drives fast as she ascends Mt. Akina while balancing the ice-cream on her son's hands from spilling over. A precursor of that awesome tsunami-car chasing scene.


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The hidden paragraph above (click the 'Show' button to reveal it) basically summarize the essence of the whole movie, therefore if you haven’t watched the movie yet, there are no surprises left in it for you. And this signifies the single major weakness this movie has: the extremely thin plot.

Unlike the previous Studio Ghibli movie I reviewed here before, the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, too little things are happening within this movie. No matter how smart I can be, even I will find it hard to summarize the storyline of Spirited Away, or episode 10 of Black Jack OVA for the matter, within a 111-word paragraph like the hidden paragraph above and still leave a reasonable clarity in it to act as a complete event-by-event spoiler that is good enough to describe the whole plot. There are simply more substance and events within the storylines of Spirited Away, and to a lesser extent, episode 10 of Black Jack OVA too. If he play his cards right, the director could probably reduce this movie’s length by 30 minutes, down to the Black Jack OVA episode 10’s length, and highly likely without losing anything. I bet that the director of Black Jack OVA, which is Osamu Dezaki, another anime movie director with skills that is not inferior to Hayao Miyazaki’s, would be able to condense it just like that.

Character developments also suffers because of the lack of a substantial storyline (remember, this movie is shounen, not slice-of-life). Only the fish has some semblance of what you can call character development while the main male protagonist and his mom (the only other characters with significant airtime) being pretty much static throughout the movie from the start until the end. But because of the aforementioned tsunami-car chasing scene, the main male protagonist’s mom is definitely the most interesting character in this movie, if not the best one.

But an upside of having a lot of airtime for such a thin story is that the presentation is going to be good if the director doesn’t screw it up. And yeah, Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t drop the ball in this regard. The pacing is excellent, on par to what you can see in Spirited Away and also Black Jack OVA. The flow of the storyline is smooth just like seas in this movie after the tsunami, and there are no problem with scene transitions either. The ending is unconventionally, well for Hayao Miyazaki  anyway, unpredictable, mainly because this movie’s ending is the complete opposite of what happened in the reference fairy tale. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is completely subjective though, although as a reference, the ending of the Little Mermaid adaptation in Black Jack OVA and the original is pretty much the same.

IMHO, between Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, and Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack OVA (directed by Osamu Dezaki) adaptations of the fairy tale The Little Mermaid, the one done by the latter is better mainly because it was the one that follows the source material more closely. It is true that both of them butchered the fairy tale for their own purposes (for example: you won’t see some quack unlicensed doctor extorting some penniless mermaid just to cure her arthritis in the original story), but when it comes to the ending (which is the defining moment of the original fairy tale), Black Jack OVA actually follows the source story unlike this movie that follows the completely different direction. Then again, even the Disney adaptation of the same fairy tale doesn’t dare to use the original ending…

Jesus's Ponyo's walking on water gigs is just a little bit less crazier than the main male protagonist mom's driving skills.

Character Design:-
The character design in this movie is pretty much similar to what you can see in Spirited Away, or Kiki's Delivery Service and Grave of the Fireflies. You know, the signature character designs from Studio Ghibli? Brown hairs are prevalent in this movie though. A positive aspect for this movie.

Voice Acting:-
Voice acting gigs in this movie is decent, with the two main protagonist being the best of them all. A positive aspect for this movie.

The OST is very good, although maybe a little bit sparse. The ED theme doesn’t fare very well though.

This movie is definitely one of the most beautiful anime (movies or TV series) you will ever see (see the screenshot at the bottom). Very fluid animations even in the very fastest of scenes. Choreography in action scenes are excellent, and the directing is solid albeit a little bit conservative, and excels at least in presentation.

7 out of 10.
The weakest Studio Ghibli movie reviewed here to date. Still a recommended watch though, at least for the beauty of this anime and also just to see that awesome tsunami-car chase scene.

There are plenty of beautiful sceneries and shots like the one above. The ones beneath the sea surface are outstanding. Especially in FullHD Blu-ray.

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