While it may stumble here and there with its storytelling (especially that rushed finale), I mostly watched this film totally under its spell. Miyazaki manages to stir deep emotions out of simple concepts and images, the characters are all fascinating (each in their own way), the music is just epic, and it has some of the most stunningly beautiful hand-drawn animation I have ever seen.
I disappointed because the language used is English isn't the Japanese language that Miyazaki usually do. Maybe it's because of the fact that produced by Walt Disney studio. But Miyazaki's original is still very strong. Realistic Magic that I just realized is the style of narrative that Miyazaki used in almost every animated film made. The little plot but still no taste may be one of the miracles that Miyazaki made.
An unique Japanese take on "The Little Mermaid" story mixed with "Ride of the Valkyries" but with the mermaid/supernatural creature changed into a goldfish with a human head. It is pretty cute and refreshingly without any kind of villain characters or noisy scary moments even if there are a big storm and a lot of water putting characters into peril. A film with a heart as big and vast as the ocean.
3.5 stars... maybe drifting up to 4 with the tides. Was the Ultimate Squidginess until the dreaded tsum tsum took its crown. When Eisenstein wrote on the pure placidity of form in Disney in 1941 he should have written about the Fleischers' output... but better still he would have stayed alive to witness 'Ponyo'. The gummy animus of life on wibbly, joyous display - not least when Ponyo transmogrifies in the tunnel. <3
In my humble opinion, there's not a more enchanting, beautifully drawn film in Miyazaki's canon than this one. Though relatively light on drama and especially nonsensical (even by Ghibli standards) the heights of joy it reaches are second to none. From smaller human moments, to grand undersea vistas, every scene is packed with an intoxicating magic unlike any other. And it's all about the power of friendship!