Ghibli Studios never stops amazing the world with its tales of normal people in magical situations, and this time, the people of the sea and land come together in the tale of Ponyo. This is an unusual take on the Hans Christen Andersen story of The Little Mermaid, but it told from a very Japanese and modern day perspective.
Brunhilda (Noah Lindsey Cyrus) is the eldest daughter of Granmamare (Cate Blanchett), the sea goddess, and a formal mortal wizard, Fujimoto (Liam Neeson). Fujimoto does his best to keep the seas clean using his inventions, plus watching after the multitudes of their children, which are currently in the forms of little goldfish. These are not ordinary goldfish. The are red with white tails and have slightly humanoid faces and brilliant red hair like both their parents. Brunhilda is the eldest and has an unyielding curiosity to learn more about the world outside of her bubble, and manages to break free while Fujimoto is working on his experiments. Her little sisters fail in their attempt to stop her, and she escapes to the shallow waters. She swims about in towards the land, where she nearly misses getting caught up in a dredge net, and other dangerous obstacles, but ends up trapped in a glass jar. When the jar makes it to a clear area, it is near a cliff on which there is a house overlooking the beach. A young boy, Sosuke (Frankie Jonas) comes down the the beach to play for a bit, and find the jar with the fish inside. Seeing that she might be in danger, he breaks the jar, but now the little fish has no water and seems lifeless. Sosuke has a small cut from breaking the jar. The little fish licks up the blood, and is suddenly alive and strong, and the cut is healed. His mother, Lisa (Tina Fey) calls him to come back up, as it is time to go to school. As he goes back up the house, the waves seem to follow him.He takes her up to the house and puts her in a green pail of water. Meanwhile, the wave spirits report back to Fujimoto that his daughter has been taken by a human.
The wizard goes to the surface to rescue his daughter, and puts a portable pump on his back filled with seawater. This spray keeps him from drying out. He attempts to stop Lisa and Sosuke on their way down the road, but Lisa scolds him for spraying fertilizer , and wants nothing to do with the weird red-haired man.
He brings the pail up and shows her the fish. She comments that it is very pretty, and he says her name is Ponyo. Not sure how they knew this fish was female, but this is a Ghibli movie, and just about anything is possible. He decides to take Ponyo to school for show-n-tell. As the school and Lisa workplace are right next to each other, this is very convenient. Before school starts, Sosuke goes to see his friends at the senior center next door where Lisa works. Soon, Fujimoto finds Ponyo and collects and takes back to the sea. the old ladies, Noriko (Cloris Leachman), Toki (Lily Tomlin) and Yoshie (Betty White) there love seeing the children from the school, even if they can’t always keep up with them. He shows Ponyo to them, and they mention how pretty she is, until the most superstitious of them, Toki notices that Ponyo has a face. She gets a case of the vapors and declares that a tsunami is on its way, because seeing an animal with a face always forewarns of a tsunami.
Ponyo now wants to be human and be with Sosuke, and she goes through an act of evolving into a frog-like creature so she can walk. Fujimoto will have none of it, and forces her back into fish form, and puts her into a deep sleep until he can contact her mother.
Up top, Sosuke and his mother go through the daily errands, and when they arrive home, Lisa gets a call from Koichi (Matt Damon), Sosuke’s father, that he won’t be coming home tonight, and Lisa gets totally skeeved. Koichi is a sailor, but his local route take him close to home, so he can carry on conversations with his family by Morse Code via signalling light. Lisa’s makes it clear that she is angry with him when his ship passes by.
The next day, Ponyo’s sisters wake her up, and she tries to elvolve again, and does so, then slips away. Her magical actions to find Sosuke create a typhoon, and later on cause even more havoc when the sea tries to take over the land. Ponyo’s actions have even affected the moon and tides. Living by the sea has never been so perilous since Ponyo found her way into Sosuke’s life.
This is one fast-moving story that just about everyone will love, and if you have kids, don’t be surprised if they ask you to watch again and again. That’s just how great Hayao Miyazaki‘s movies are.
I give this film a Musing review of