Gake no Ue no Ponyo is the latest export from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. It came out in July in Japan and I have been trying to find it ever since. This film blew me away.
The story follows a fish who happens to drift to the mainland where she is found by a five year old boy named Sosuke. Sosuke cuts himself and starts to bleed a little while trying to save the fish, but the fish licks the wound and it heals immediately. Sosuke thought it was magic, named the fish Ponyo and promised to protect her. Ponyo's father, who is a human, but has an aversion to land, Fujimoto, comes searching for her. For if she does not get returned soon, the ocean will consume the land. Ponyo ends up being taken back to the sea where she tells Fujimoto that she prefers the name Ponyo and wants to become human.
I'll leave the story there because I don't want to ruin too much. Disney is going to release it with an English cast in 2009, so wait until then or try to find a version on the internet. Either way, PLEASE TRY TO SUPPORT THIS FILM.
Now onto the actual review portion. Because the story revolves around the sea, a lot of the scenes look like they were done in watercolor. There is a point in the film where Ponyo is trying to return to Sosuke where she is running on the water. By her trying to return to surface, she causes a huge storm, so she is running along huge waves and fish. This is one of the most stunning visual moments I have seen in any animated films, and I'm a guy who loves animated films and animation in general. As a quick side note, there are references to other Miyazaki works in it as well. I caught two, a reference to Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro.
The secondary characters are given enough development to be thoroughly likeable. Sosuke's mom, Lisa, is a strong woman who doesn't take crap and does whatever it takes to get stuff done. There is a scene where Lisa and Sosuke are using morse code on a light to converse with Koichi, Sosuke's father who captains a fishing boat, and imagine a regular conversation between an annoyed wife and apologetic husband, but in morse. Fujimoto seems like the villain, but you learn why he does what he does and his reactions to certain happenings make him a good butt of the joke.
The overall story is simple and to the point, but moving in its execution. The animation is simple with a complex meaning. This movie is excellent and I highly recommend it to everyone.
-Mark (still in awe) Donica