Ponyo Blu-Ray Review

Cover Art and Menus: 6/10
While the cover is unique and simple, with all of the insane art in this film, a little bit more would be welcome here, with perhaps more of the sweeping ocean scenes or beautiful landscapes that are in the movie.  It works, and I like it, but I just feel like there could be more presented here.  The visual aspect of this movie is just too surreal and enchanting to have a semi-bland cover like this.

The menu is basically static, and again, just seems to miss the mark, with such an amazingly different type of film and artwork.  I was just left wanting more, and the cover and menus feel like a bit of a  let down after watching the movie.

Features: 8/10

  • The World Of Ghibli – This is kind of a collection of several short extras, that runs the gamut from talking about the music, to a sit down with Hayau Miyazaki and Pixar’s John Lasseter.  There are numerous short  bits with all sorts of bits of knowledge here, and they are quite good.  We get to see the voice actors, some of the other movies released by Studio Ghibli, as well as a quiz for kids to see just which movie character (from 4 different movies) they most closely identify with.  This is a plethora of short, interesting bits, and I like the way that they are divided up for easy access.
  • Meet Ponyo – This is a 3 minute introduction to Ponyo and the Disney/Studio Ghibli relationship that runs before the movie if chosen.
  • Storyboard Presentation Of The Movie – This is a very cool picture in picture storyboard feature, where the storyboards appear on screen as the movie is playing.  It can get a bit old, but it is a neat little feature.
  • DVD Version Of The Movie – We get a DVD version of the same movie, but interestingly no digital copy, which to me seems strange, especially considering that this movie was made with 5 year old as its target audience, which is perfect for the digital on-the-go copy.

The Movie: 8/10
Ponyo is a crazy little movie about a boy named Sosuke, who is 5 years old, and lives with his parents on a hill near the sea.  His father spends time away from Sosuke and his mother because he is a ship pilot, and Sosuke often times sends Morse Code signals to his dad using a flashlight out of his window as his father’s big ship lumbers by the island.  Sosuke finds a small goldfish like creature who is trapped in a jar that has made its was to the bottom of the sea.  The little creature, which Sosuke rescues, is not really a fish, and when Sosuke names her Ponyo and starts to take the little creature with him everywhere he goes, the small fish-like animal starts to bond with the boy.

Ponyo is actually the daughter of Fujimoto, who is a sort of human/magical creature who lives in the sea, and desperately wants her returned safely.  When he finds out that she has used some of her magic to heal a cut that Sosuke obtained in breaking the glass jar that Ponyo was stuck inside, he worries even more, as Ponyo is then able to use her magic to turn herself into a human, which she does when she is taken from Sosuke by the evil water spirits that Fujimoto has sent to get her.  Ponyo longs to return to be with Sosuke, and she does in the midst of a typhoon that raises the sea to flood most of the island, with the exception of just a few areas, one being Sosuke’s house.

It this sounds a bit crazy, you need to remember that it is.  Ponyo is a magical tale spun by Hayau Miyazaki, the mastermind behind such animated classics as Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle.  The truly Japanese aspect to the movie makes it feel so different, yet so inviting, that you can’t help but get drawn into the story, which admittedly is bizarre.  The lavish visuals are perfect for this type of story, and the Blu-ray presentation just adds to the rich experience.

As Ponyo and Sosuke explore the flooded island in search of Sosuke’s mother, the two youngsters set off fearlessly in a new world, and their expedition is truly magical.  The fish turned little girl is bright eyed and curious about her new surroundings, and takes in everything with a fearless attitude that rivals Sosuke’s own exploration.  the two are charming, and the presentation is unique.  Miyazaki likes to use rich backgrounds that are dramatically different (and more realistic) that the more cartoon-like characters.  The results are fantastic, and so different from what we are used to that Ponyo is a joy to take in.  Truly a different, and beautiful, movie experience.

Audio & Video: 8/10
The visual presentation here is wonderful.  I just finished watching the Princess and the Frog, which had breathtaking visuals, and this parallels that stunning release.  The colors pop, and the animation is sharp and amazing, and truly is leaps and bound over the DVD disc that is also included.  The AVC encoded 1080p, 1.85:1 widescreen is, like I have gushed, stunningly beautiful.

The audio is also excellent, with insane use of the ambient sounds, and just a very “alive” mix.  The only issue that some might have is that the English dub gets the DTS-HD Surround Sound treatment, while the original Japanese language choice is only in Dolby Digital 5.1.  To me, since this is the English version of the film (the Japanese release gives the Master Audio treatment to the Japanese language version after all), but some might have wanted the original Miyazaki version to get top billing.  Not a big deal for me, but it should be noted.

Value: 7/10
The Miyazaki movies, as well as many of the Japanese animation movies, can be hard to get into if you are not used to them.  They truly are a different breed than what we are used to.  Having said that, once you get it, the unique style and stories that are presented in some of these movies is exceptional, and they can be enthralling.  Miyazaki is a truly talented storyteller, and his movies are so visually breathtaking that they are worth a visit.  Having seen the movie Spirited Away, Ponyo is yet another amazing story and tale told in the same amazing visual style.  I truly loved Ponyo, and I was interested to see how my 4.5 year old (he is almost 5 – he will tell you) would take to it.  He was mesmerized from start to finish, and while some of the far fetched ideas were foreign to him, he really got into the story and identified with the characters.  Ponyo is a good movie, and well worth a viewing, if for no other reason than to see how things are done by Miyazaki, a genius movie maker from another culture.

Overall Score 8/10