In the films of Hayao Miyazaki, children often see things that the adults around them miss completely. It's not that Miyazaki's grown-ups have impaired vision, and it's certainly not that they're dim. It's just that they can sometimes be so caught up in the hustle and bustle of busy, everyday life that they forget how to really look.
In much the same way, moviegoers who are too caught up in looking for the latest, newest, shiniest, flashiest blockbuster or Oscar warhorse are likely to miss out on Miyazaki's cinematic miracles—movies that require a slightly different kind of viewing, moviegoing informed by patience and imagination and childlike wonder.
Ponyo is Miyazaki's latest. It's his first film since the weird and wonderful Howl's Moving Castle, and his second since the trippy fantasia Spirited Away, which won him an Academy Award. It also happens to be released in the U.S. on (roughly) the tenth anniversary of his dark, violent epic, Princess Mononoke. But this movie isn't much like any of those; it has more in common with the movies he made before he started making epics, small and magical movies like Kiki's Delivery Service and especially My Neighbor Totoro. In other words, it's not an epic or a war movie—it's a fairy tale.
Actually, it's been called Miyazaki's own Little Mermaid, though the similarities are fairly superficial (as were comparisons between Spirited Away and Alice in Wonderland). The movie does involve a young girl born in an underwater world to a powerful wizard of the sea, and she does make contact with a human being. Beyond that … well, more on that later.
The girl, in this case, is Ponyo—and technically, she starts as a fish. She's separated from her father (the Poseidan-like ...1
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