Newly reopened cinemas are releasing some classics back into the wild, including Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo; the story of a boy (Hiroki Doi) living on the coast who befriends a magical goldfish (Yuria Nara).
This might say more about my emotional state than it does the movie but I was crying by the opening titles of this film. After four months stuck inside the sudden beauty of Hayao Miyazaki’s world moved me to tears, and I spent the remainder of the movie grinning beneath my facemask. The 2008 anime belongs to my favourite Ghibli sub-genre (the gentle youthful type à la My Neighbour Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service) and although it never reaches the transcendent iconography of Totoro, Ponyo is one of the most singularly delightful films ever made.
Miyazaki’s mixture of ecology and fairytales (in this case The Little Mermaid) has never looked better, seamlessly blending the natural and elemental with aquatic psychedelia. He switches Hans Christian Andersen’s story to the perspective of an isolated child on land (his father’s at sea you see) and draws the world through his eyes, transfixed on an ocean that rises over the course of the movie until the world is submerged. Between Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai, you can always count on Japan to make lovely children’s films about the world ending by environmental catastrophe.
Ponyo herself is more water baby than mermaid (a world away from the sexy Disney version), her touching friendship with the young Sōsuke reflecting an optimistic union between humans and nature. This sense of harmony is present in the glistening, seafaring score that stands out even among Ghibli’s usual musical excellence. Ponyo is a tranquil, wistful and human picture that makes you think as well as feel; another modern classic from a filmmaker who’ll never cease to amaze me. And if you can’t get to the cinema, watching it on Netflix ought to tide you over.