This summer I watched Ponyo, the latest cartoon from Japanese legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki. I’ve had a special place in my heart for his stuff ever since I saw Spirited Away (unsettling-but-amazing Alice In Wonderland-esque tale), whose weirdly compelling characters, creatures, and magical elements redefined fairy tales for me. Princess Mononoke (girl-Mowgli falls in love story), while edgier and a little less fantastical, only strengthened my interest in his work. Ponyo is supposed to be a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, but the absolute freshness of Miyazaki’s interpretation makes it almost unrecognizable. True, there is a fish-creature (in Ponyo, it’s a goldfish daugher of a sorcerer and sea goddess, not a mermaid) that falls in love with a human and aspires to become human herself, but there are so many imaginative, unique – and sometimes, downright weird – elements added to it, that make it a completely new experience. Ponyo, for example, looks more like a doll-duck creature than a goldfish at all and Ponyo’s little sister goldfish-things can transform into huge fish, an embodiment of the powerful waves themselves, that surge through the ocean, carrying Ponyo to her human boy’s house. Of course, since this is Miyazaki, the climactic scene takes place in a nursing home in a bubble under the sea, and there are prehistoric fish roaming the waters of the flooded seacliff village; confusing yes, but in the middle of these Miyazaki fantasies, they don’t seem that out of place. It was definitely one of his more-cutesy, less-intense films, but still worth seeing. Check out more of Miyazaki’s films right here at Snell! I especially was excited to see Howl’s Moving Castle because I loved the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones that the film was based on. You can also read about the master himself and his breathtaking work here and here.