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Ponyo is the latest animated film by Hayao Miyazaki to be released in the United States. As is typical of his films, Ponyo is more wildly imaginative and fantasy based than to which American audiences may be acustomed.

The story is basically about a magical fish with a human face who is found and be friended by five-year old Sosuke. The fish who comes to be known as Ponyo is the child of a human named Fujimoto, who has abandoned our world to live under water and protect the sea, and a powerful ocean spirit called Granmammare.

Ponyo, a child grappling with magical abilities that she is too young to comprehend or control, wills herself to become human so she can be with Sosuke whom she now loves. However, the use of such powerful magic has put the entire earth at risk in the pocess. Ponyo’s use of such strong magic has caused the seas to come alive and the powerful tides have pulled the moon onto a collision course with the earth.

Ponyo inhabits a world where no one questions two five-year olds driving a boat without adult supervision on a quest to find and potentially save Sosuke’s mother. Heck, it’s a world where Sosuke’s mother can leave the two children behind and believe they’ll be ok and we as an audience just roll with it.

The characters are well developed particularly Fujimoto as the stern but protective father of Ponyo and Sosuke’s lonely and burdened mother.

I particularly enjoyed the level of madness to the ideas that saturate the film, which reminded me of a story that could have been crafted by Grant Morrison. There are many laugh out loud moments and the animation is fantastic. I also found the orchestral music to be an interesting throwback to old Disney films.

The audience I saw the film with were mostly in their 20s, however, the few kids in the audience seemed to really enjoy the film’s humor and spectacle. I personally don’t believe parents will find too much to complain about in Ponyo in terms of content, though they may be mystified by the insanity of some elements of the story.

The film’s biggest flaw in my opinion is the ending. Now I understand how odd it seems as an adult to complain about the ending to a movie about a five-year old, but I found that after how great the rest of the film was, the ending felt sudden and anticlimactic. The story indicates that Sosuke must undergo a dangerous test to save both the world and Ponyo. However, the nature of that test is never as clear as it should have been.

Regardless, Ponyo is an exciting and entertaining ride even if the ultimate destination is a little disappointing.