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The daughter of the king of the ocean, Ponyo is no ordinary goldfish - she has all the magic of the sea at her disposal. But when five-year-old Sosuke finds her near his seaside home, a special connection sparks between the two children, and Ponyo becomes determined to become human.
For more about Ponyo and the Ponyo Blu-ray release, see Ponyo Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 25, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Hayao Miyazaki, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Tina Fey
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
» See full cast & crew
Ponyo Blu-ray Review
A Miyazaki film finally earns a Blu-ray release. And what a release it is...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 25, 2010
When is a cartoon no longer a cartoon? When does an animated film transcend its whimsical creatures and magical, primary-hued dreamscapes to become profound cinema? When it's helmed by master craftsmen like Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, the Japanese visionaries responsible for sweeping sagas like Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky, lighthearted tales like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, and resonant fables like Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away (subsequently the first anime to have ever won an Academy Award). Miyazaki's and Studio Ghibli's latest endeavor, Ponyo, has proven itself to be yet another moving hand-drawn masterpiece, garnering critical praise and audience acclaim the world over. Built upon the seemingly simple story of a young boy who befriends a shape-shifting fish, it's a film brimming with extraordinary sights and breathtaking animation; a fairy tale as airy and agile as it is stirring and meaningful; a touching adventure children of all ages will cherish and adults of all temperaments will adore.
Deep beneath the ocean, in an underwater world as yet untouched by humans, a strange man named Fujimoto (voiced by Liam Neeson) creates life and attempts to maintain the planetary balance. But his job is becoming more and more difficult as mankind continues to pollute the sea and abuse her resources. Once a human himself, Fujimoto refuses to step foot on land, at least until one of his daughters, a squishy jellyfish-like creature named Brunhilda (Noah Cyrus), escapes his ship and makes her way to the shores above. He retrieves her, but not before she meets Sosuke (Frankie Jonas), a kind preschooler who feeds her ham and lovingly names her Ponyo. Escaping her father once again, this time imbued with powerful magic that allows her to appear human, Ponyo finds Sosuke and his mother Nancy (Tina Fey) rushing home through a terrible storm; a storm the young fish-girl has inadvertently caused. Unfortunately, Ponyo and her magic are causing even more harm, pulling the moon toward the Earth and offsetting the balance her father and ethereal mother (Cate Blanchett) have so carefully established. Now, as Fujimoto races to quell his daughter's newfound power, Nancy has to leave to tend to the patients at her nursing home, Sosuke sets off to find his missing mother, Ponyo strives to be more human, and the equilibrium between the land and sea brings them all dangerously close to destruction.
Miyazaki's story is an environmental cautionary tale to be sure, but it isn't a formulaic climate change conference either. Ponyo doesn't drown in its message, nor does it spew preachy subtext from its young characters' mouths. Instead, Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli forge an adventure teeming with relevance, but focused on the things that matter to the story at hand. Sosuke and his mother are exceedingly believable protagonists, and Ponyo and her father are intriguing conundrums. (I usually don't have this much affection for English dubs, but Disney's passionate voice actors are perfectly cast.) While their worlds clash in a fairly predictable manner, and their reactions aren't exactly surprising, Miyazaki's soft, measured storytelling and Ghibli's awe-inspiring animation make every frame of the film something to treasure. Enormous fish serve as chariots to the sprightly Ponyo, life erupts from Fujimoto's magic and swirls all around his quaint vessel, a flooded city gives way to a throng of generous people, and a watery goddess attempts to calm her once-human lover beneath the waves. I could go on, but I may as well mention every scene in the film. Even deceptively simple moments -- a rain storm, a boy cradling an empty bucket, a hurried drive to work, a morse-code message between father and son, a trio of old women chatting about typhoons -- are given the filmmakers' utmost attention, planting seeds of everyday magic in places most animators would overlook. Fluid and surreal, yet grounded and sublime, Ponyo's visual flair, combined with its sweet story, is unlike anything I've ever seen.
To Miyazaki's great credit, Ponyo doesn't waste time unspooling clichťd conflicts or exploring familiar themes. It doesn't even have any villains. Fujimoto is brash and controlling, but hardly the monster the writer/director could have made him. Humanity is irresponsible, but not evil; its people are merely ignorant of the consequences of their actions, not intent on perpetuating their own destruction. It's a breed of complexity Western animation has no patience for, one that refuses to call its characters souls into question. If anything, Miyazaki attempts to showcase their every redeemable trait while casting off anything that might muddy his true message: that humanity, as flawed as it may be, isn't a knuckle-dragging monstrosity wreaking havoc on the environment, but rather a blind giant tragically marching toward its own demise. It's a refreshing sermon to say the least, particularly when painted with such bold, lyrical strokes, and told through the eyes of a captivating innocent. Sosuke isn't an annoying tot, and he doesn't wear out his welcome. His devotion to Ponyo is swimming with genuine affection, his love for his mother is pure and unblemished, his selfless desire to keep his family together, all while accepting a strange creature as his equal, is arresting. I have a feeling my family and I will be trailing after him again and again over the years, revisiting his adventure and basking in the beauty of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's animated wonder.
Ponyo Blu-ray, Video Quality
What Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have accomplished through magnificent artistry and beautiful hand-drawn animation, Disney accomplishes through technical perfection, a flawless presentation, and a masterfully encoded 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer. Vibrant primaries erupt from Miyazaki's painterly palette as aggressively as the ocean surges round Sosuke's home. Lush greens and yellows, soft blues, piercing reds, icy whites, and inky blacks ripple through Ponyo's world, transforming every frame into a gorgeous print worthy of hanging on a cinephile's wall. Moreover, Studio Ghibli's expressive characters are bolstered by clean, crisp lineart and stable color fills; the team's hand-painted backgrounds showcase every brush stroke and penciled texture; and the artisans' fluid animation is meticulously rendered in glorious high definition. Detail, contrast, and clarity are impeccable, and artifacting, aliasing, edge enhancement, unintentional source noise, and virtually any other anomaly imaginable are nowhere to be seen. Even banding -- ever the enemy of animated-film transfers -- is non-existent. Scour the oceans and stare at the skies all you like; you won't encounter any issues. I could go on, but I fear my analysis is already flirting with hyperbole. Suffice to say, the Blu-ray edition of Ponyo is absolutely stunning.
Ponyo Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Disney's audio package would stand side-by-side with its video transfer if it weren't for one small problem: while Ponyo's excellent English dub leaves a lasting impression via a top tier DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, its original Japanese mix is presented with a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Normally I'd be a bit more upset than I am -- I'm generally a purist when it comes to audio on foreign films -- but I've always enjoyed the voice casts the studio has assembled for Miyazaki's animated films, and Ponyo is no different. Disney's DTS-HD MA track is an absorbing sonic experience blessed with powerful low-end presence, crystal clear dialogue, and a fittingly immersive soundfield. Studio Ghibli's underwater seascapes take full advantage of the rear speakers, filling the ocean with rising bubbles, propelling jellyfish, groaning creatures, swashing fins, and song-like streams of magic. Above the water, the soundscape is just as engaging. Trees rustle and bend as howling winds whip across the ocean, boats creak and smack against the waves as the tides rise, and the pit-pat of rain subtly surrounds the listener whenever it has the opportunity. Better still, precise directionality transplants the two-dimensional image into a convincing three-dimensional space, pans are fluid, prioritization is spot on, dynamics are commanding, and Joe Hisaishi's score takes on a playful life all its own. In a word, Ponyo's English dub sounds amazing. The Japanese track is no slouch either, but a standard Dolby Digital mix, above average as it may be, can't quite compete.
To clarify: Disney's 640kbps Japanese track, if scored separately from its lossless counterpart, would earn a 3.5, while the English DTS-HD Master Audio dub, if scored separately as well, would earn a solid 4.5. The average of the two determined my final score.
Ponyo Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Ponyo doesn't boast an overbearing assortment of snazzy special features, but rather a concise and modest supplemental package (presented entirely in high definition) that effectively captures the spirit and wonder of Miyazaki's production.
Ponyo Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I don't know how Miyazaki does it, how he consistently creates such memorable and moving animated features, but he's done it once again. Diving into the whimsical world of Ponyo is an absolute joy; giving in to its sweet story and endearing characters is unavoidable; soaking up its hand-drawn wonders is a thrilling experience rivaled only by the filmmaker's own canon. Simply put, Miyazaki weaves his magic and delivers yet another fantastic film, one Disney embraces at every turn. While the Blu-ray edition of Ponyo doesn't offer a lossless Japanese audio track, its English DTS-HD Master Audio track is bold and bombastic, its video transfer is beyond reproach, and its unassuming supplemental package adds even more value to the studio's high definition release. I rarely recommend a blind-buy, but animation enthusiasts, Miyazaki zealots, and kids of all ages should add this to their cart post haste.
Ponyo Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - March 2nd - March 2, 2010
If Hollywood needs something blown up, Roland Emmerich is the man to do it; he has made a very successful career in destroying the world over and over again for the amusement of film fans. For his latest film 2012 - which is out on Blu-ray today Ė Emmerich uses ...
• Disney Offering $10 Coupon for Ponyo Blu-ray - March 1, 2010
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has a printable $10 off coupon good for the purchase of the Ponyo Blu-ray during its first week in stores. This coupon is redeemable at participating retailers, and there are versions available for the US and the English-speaking ...
• Ponyo Lands on Blu-ray in March - December 5, 2009
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has announced 'Ponyo', the latest animated title directed by Hayao Miyazaki, for release on Blu-ray on March 2, 2010. This movie is inspired on Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid and tells the story of the friendship ...
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