When I first heard of the latest animated movie feature from Studio Ghibli, I told myself that I shouldn’t miss it on the big screen. I’m a big fan of Miyazaki, of anything Ghibli-related. It all started, of course, when I watched Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi). It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and I got hooked immediately.

However, until now I’ve mostly watched Ghibli films with English subtitles – mainly because 1) my Japanese wasn’t that good, and 2) I wanted to fully enjoy the story, which would be impossible to do if I watched the Japanese version only.

Well, now comes Gake no Ue no Ponyo.

I asked one of my Japanese friends who had seen it earlier, and she told me that it was good, standard Ghibli stuff, although it might be a bit boring for adults. But for kids, it would be rather interesting. I got all excited about this, because this meant that at least, the story and dialogue were appropriate enough for kids to comprehend and appreciate. (I did try to watch Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke) in Japanese when it was released on DVD several years back – but it was awful. I didn’t understand any of it. Way above my level.) Which means that for a Japanese-handicapped person like me, Ponyo wouldn’t be so difficult to understand. Having spent 12 years here in Japan, I now consider my vocabulary to be at least at par to that of my daughter’s, who is six years old, hahaha! 😀

So I went to the movies with my daughter (Baggy didn’t go with us because he loathed watching anything in Japanese, even if it was Ghibli. He’ll only watch it if it had English subtitles or was dubbed in English). Admittedly, this was the first time I ever went to watch a movie which was entirely in Japanese. The good news is that I’ve understood 95% of the movie (yeah I’m feeling rather proud of myself even as I write this). As for the 5%, well, blame it on poor hearing, or perhaps I misunderstood some parts of the story.

Some observations/comments:

1. With that crazy long hair and outfit, I really thought that Fujimoto was an old woman (the usual "baba" you can find in Ghibli movies), until he spoke with a man’s voice! And I couldn’t see how he was actually Ponyo’s father (he was a tad too ugly) and how he could ever be the husband of the gorgeous sea-maiden who later turned out to be Ponyo’s mother. And either parent appeared entirely humanlike, not fishlike. Makes you wonder how Ponyo ended up with a fish for a body.

2. I couldn’t help but think of Little Mermaid all throughout the movie. Ponyo also seems to be in love with Sousuke (the five-year-old boy) who found her.

3. Sousuke’s mother Lisa drove with wanton abandon along the roads, even along the cliff that leads to their house perched on top. And she drove a keijidosha (light-weight vehicle) which careened dangerously from side to side all the time! She drove just as furiously as the tsunami-like waves lashed behind her. Gutsy woman.

4. Ponyo learned Japanese really fast (unlike me) by imitating Sousuke and repeating back to him the things he just said.

5. Sousuke’s father called to tell that he won’t be home again that night (typical?) – which led to a fight between him and Lisa. They continued their fight by transmitting messages via Morse code (is it?). Lisa flashed the words "BAKA BAKA BAKA" over and over again…hahah…that was really funny.

6. I could not understand how exactly Ponyo morphed from fish to some chicken-like form to human and actually have clothes on, complete with underwear. So much for washing on shore bare naked (like the Little Mermaid). Oh yeah, I remember that this is a film for kids…

7. The jellyfishes were an awesome sight. So were the gigantic fishes morphing into waves and vice-versa.

8. That catchy soundtrack…oh my gosh! Aya’s been singing my ear off ever since. Anyway, the duet is really good, and the girl’s voice is soo cute. You could listen to the soundtrack here:



ポーニョ ポーニョ ポニョ さかなの子

ポーニョ ポーニョ ポニョ ふくらんだ

ペータペタ ピョーンピョン
足っていいな かけちゃお!

ニーギニギ ブーンブン
おててはいいな つないじゃお!

あの子とはねると 心もおどるよ
パークパクチュッギュッ! パークパクチュッギュッ!

あの子が大好き まっかっかの
ポーニョ ポーニョ ポニョ さかなの子

ポーニョ ポーニョ ポニョ ふくらんだ


フークフク いいにおい
おなかがすいた 食べちゃお!
よーくよく 見てみよう

いっしょに笑うと ホッペがあついよ

ワークワクチュッギュッ! ワークワクチュッギュッ!
あの子が大好き まっかっかの

ポーニョ ポーニョ ポニョ さかなの子

ポーニョ ポーニョ ポニョ 女の子

The verdict? Two hours of entertainment well spent. The visuals were great, even if the storyline wasn’t that engaging. And your kids will definitely love it. Get out of the sun and spend some time in the movie theater while cooling off. 😀

Ponyo, ponyo, ponyo, sakana no ko


(Addendum: Thanks to Norie for correcting my yomikata of 崖 (gake, not kage)! Much appreciated. 😀 )

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4 Responses to Ponyo

  1. のりえ says:

    Salaminさん、 かわいい娘さんとぎょうざ作りや映画を共に楽しむことができて嬉しいですね。
    この漢字は”Kage” ではなくて”Gake”(It means cliff in English) と読みます。(^_^)
    I hope that this explanation about this Kanji make you glad.

  2. Karmi says:

    Hi Kathy, I think Japanese animation is the best. It’s really impressive how they come up with those movies. I agree, Spirited Away is just wonderful but the animation I can watch over and over again is Tonari no Totoro. That one is so cute and child-like I just wanna cry.

  3. mitsuru says:

    Miyazaki rocks. Anyway, if you’re interested, I know several places on the www where you can watch Ghibli movies for free. :)

  4. kathy says:

    Norie: Thanks for always reading my posts! And you’re also a very keen reader – thanks for your corrections.

    Karmi: Tonari no Totoro is also one of my favorites. Have you ever seen Hotaru no Haka? It’s so marvelous. I’ve seen it twice. And I cried in both occasions!

    Bill: You bet I’m interested! Are they dubbed or subtitled in English?

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