It’s about mothers. It’s about fathers. It’s about a hyperactive, ham loving, fish girl. On this edition of Creations of Chaos, I take a look at the kindergarten version of The Little Mermaid, Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo.
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Date Released: 2008
Version Watched: English Dubbed
Fish Out of Water
Boy finds goldfish. Boy loses goldfish. Goldfish wants to be human.
Goldfish’s father is very against her becoming human, but being strong-willed, and having tasted human blood, goldfish is able to transform herself into a human girl. This activity causes a rift in the fabric of reality, that transforms a bustling port town into a prehistoric, underwater wonderland. In order to save his world, and his friend, a kindergarten boy must endure a test of true love.
Fathers Be Good to Your Daughters
I think every father with a daughter should watch Ponyo at least once.
With Ponyo’s baby mama out doing all of her goddess stuff, Fujimoto is a single dad trying to do his best. He wants Ponyo to believe the same things he believes. He believes that humans are bad. Ultimately all he wants is to keep his little fish safe. He realizes that Ponyo possesses strong magic, and he wants to be able to have the proper amount of time to teach her how to safely use her power.
One of my favorite moments is when Fujimoto surrounds Ponyo with a bubble.
When she starts to will herself to turn into a human, he sets his hands around the bubble and says,
“Revert, revert, revert…”
He successfully turns her back into his little goldfish.
I wonder how many fathers who watch their daughters go off on their first date, or see an engagement ring on their hand for the first time, wish they had a magic bubble and could say, revert, to turn their daughters back into little girls again. Fujimoto expresses his feelings perfectly when he says,
“If only you could remain innocent and pure forever.”
When he watches Sosuke carry Ponyo away for the last time, my heart breaks for him.
Mothers, Be Good to Your Daughters, Too
I must admit that I found both mothers in this story slightly questionable.
At first I was all for Ponyo’s mother, the goddess of mercy. She calms down Fujimoto, who is completely beside himself over his daughter’s defiance, and insistence on being a human. Ponyo’s mother even suggests that if being human is what Ponyo really wants, they should allow her to do so.
Then I started to change my mind when she states that in order for that to happen, what they need to do is put a five-year-old little boy through a test of true love. If he passes, Ponyo can become human permanently, but if he fails, Ponyo will turn into sea foam. Really? You are going to put your daughter’s life in the hands of a kindergartner? I don’t think that is the most responsible parenting decision. I think I was assuming the test would be on an Odysseus level of epicness, but it ends up just being a matter of Sosuke accepting Ponyo for who she is, so there was pretty good chance he was going to pass. Maybe the goddess of mercy was a thoughtful mother after all.
On the topic of mothers, I would never want to ride in a car with Sosuke’s mother, Lisa. She is a reckless driver, she places her son’s life in peril, crossing a flooded out bridge, and leaves her five-year-old home alone during a dangerous storm. I suspect that the writers had to make her a bit of a risk taker. Your average, everyday mom would probably not be so accepting of the fact that her son’s pet fish turned into a little girl who has come to live with them and eat all of their ham.
Lisa is barely phased, and easily accepts Ponyo as part of the family.
The Kids are Alright
Sosuke and Ponyo are two of the most adorable animated characters ever.
The moment Ponyo first makes the transformation into her full, human form, and lifts up her dress to joyfully discover she has a belly button, just melts the heart. Watching her learn to be human, is smile inducing. From running into the sliding door, to tasting honey, to bouncing around on the sofa, I just want to squeeze her, in a friendly non-aggressive way of course.
Sosuke is a kind, thoughtful, delightful little boy. From taking time out to converse with and make gifts for the seniors his mother cares for, to trying to cheer his mom up when she’s sad, to caring for Ponyo no matter what form she is in, his sincerity is irresistible.
A question that I can’t figure out, what is the nature and time frame of the promise Sosuke makes? He agrees to always accept Ponyo for who she is. So moving forward, are they siblings? Will they have to be each other’s bff ? Is this some type of romantic relationship?
Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the Ponyo/Sosuke as adults-in-love fan art, but I wonder, what if at seventeen, Sosuke wants to take another girl to the prom? Does he have to take Ponyo because he made a promise when he was five? Will they have to walk down the aisle together someday? I’m probably reading too much into it.
Thanks for All the Fish
Ponyo is one of my favorite Studio Ghibli films. It produces overwhelming joy. It’s great for all ages. It’s weird and wonderful. The magical, underwater setting, shows off stunning, and some of Studio Ghibli’s most creative animation.
What really makes the film great however, is the genuine, lovable characters, and the honesty and care that is taken to tell the story of their relationships.