This comic is dedicated to my friend G. who won’t talk to me until I either see Ponyo in theaters or send Miyazaki some money direct.

This will contain some spoilers, but no more than the American trailer crammed into its runtime.

I still haven’t fully decided what I think about Ponyo. It’s definitely not my favorite Miyazaki film, but the thing that makes me withhold judgment is I’m having a similar reaction to when I first saw “My Neighbor Totoro.” Not saying that it’s the next Totoro, because I question even Miyazaki’s ability to create something as awesome as Totoro again.

The reason I compare is that they both don’t really have any central conflict or plot per se. I was reading Roger Ebert’s review which I found odd because he describes Ponyo’s father trying to save the Earth because she threw things out of balance when she escapes and becomes a human. After watching the movie that would be like describing the plot of Totoro as “Sisters Mei and Satsuki journey to visit their sick mother in the hospital.” Because really this sounds like an A-plot, but in this it’s more kind of a B-plot that isn’t fully alluded to until the movie is almost over.

This makes me wonder what kind of extra exposition the American dub put into the movie when mouths are conveniently off screen. I wonder if they added more in so that it’s not as odd when it comes seemingly out of the blue. Only other thing I’ve heard is that in the American version the kid calls his mother “mom” and in the Japanese he always calls her “Lisa” which isn’t explained but most likely she’s not his birth mother. Though this doesn’t affect the plot directly it is a pretty big difference really. When I do see it in theaters I think I might have to eschew my usual end credits stay because of this which you don’t need to have seen the movie to know that it’s not the original end credits music.

Of course visually the movie is spectacular. In a recent interview Miyazaki is quote as saying that one reason he prefers 2D to 3D is its fluidity and ability to completely change shapes one frame to another. While I think it’d also be possible to change shapes in 3D, after seeing this film I understand where he’s coming from. There’re more amorphous shapes and characters in this film than any other of his I’d say. Fish changing back and forth from water droplets to waves is really nothing you’ve ever seen before in a movie quite like this.