I saw my first Miyazaki film on Cartoon Network in a hotel room. It was the spring of 2007, though I can’t recall which city my family and I were in or why we were on the road at all. But I do remember watching Derrick Rose in the basketball state championship game on TV — so we must have been close to home — while waiting for the shower. Flipping through channels after the game, I stumbled onto Spirited Away.
Since then, I’ve seen just about every Miyazaki film. I ordered Princess Mononoke on DVD later that year, and a couple summers ago I went through every film of his the library had.
I own a fair number of them now, and every birthday a few more get added to the collection. My Neighbor Totoro was a gift in the fall, one I’d seen only once, during that summer binge.
A few days ago, I finally watched it again. That it took so long says a lot.
There’s plenty to like: it’s lovely to look at, and there’s no shortage of tender moments or imagination.
But it never felt like a movie for me, a childless 20-something, and that’s why I hadn’t revisited it. I felt both too old for it and not old enough. Never would I pull it from the shelf over, say, Mononoke or Nausicaa, films so much larger, so much more narratively complex. That’s not a knock on Totoro; it’s simply a reflection of what most resonates with me at this point in my life.
So it is what it is: A very fine film, just not one made for me.
It’s very hard not to like Ponyo, the latest film from Hayao Miyazaki. Sure, the story is simplistic and lacks the sophistication of Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away, but that’s OK, because visually it’s irresistible.
Ponyo is a waltz through a fantastic and magical world, and every frame is a joy to behold. Accept the plot for what it is—an excuse for Miyazaki to loose his fertile imagination on something new: the sea—and just revel in the experience.
It’s not Miyazaki’s best, but it’s a very satisfying film nonetheless.