Ponyo (Gake no ue no Ponyo) (Studio Ghibli Collection) (Blu-ray) (2008)

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Released 28-Jun-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Audio & Animation
Reversible Cover
Storyboards-P-I-P
Booklet-2
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Lots
Featurette-Making Of-Lots
Introduction
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 102:16
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Version Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hayao Miyazaki
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Yuria Nara
Hiroki Doi
Jôji Tokoro
Tomoko Yamaguchi
Yûki Amami
Kazushige Nagashima
Akiko Yano
Shinichi Hatori
Tokie Hidari
Eimi Hiraoka
Rumi Hîragi
Tomoko Naraoka
Nozomi Ohashi
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $44.95 Music Joe Hisaishi


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese DTS HD Master Audio 6.1 ES Discrete
English Linear PCM 48/16 5.1
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0
English Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement Unknown
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, in the extras
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

     A few months ago, I reviewed the DVD edition of this magical film and so was very pleased to be able to make Ponyo one of my first few Blu-ray reviews for the site. I rated the DVD edition quite highly (compared to other SD releases) but I was utterly blown away by how much difference Blu-ray makes for this particular title. I came away thinking not only how marvellous Blu-ray is, but also how marvellous this specific release from Madman is and also how incredibly beautiful Miyazaki's film is. For me, this Blu-ray treatment reveals the true majesty and artistic prowess of this work, which was not as obvious on DVD.

     Gake no ue no Ponyo or literally Ponyo on the cliff (aka Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea or just Ponyo) is the latest animation masterpiece from renowned Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli animation studio. Personally, I came across Miyazaki’s work quite late only having been introduced via My Neighbour Totoro in the last couple of years. His animated films are the antithesis of loud, all action children’s films (like the recent G-Force) relying on beautiful hand-drawn animation, cute characters, fantasy and adventure to excite and enthral their audience.

     Ponyo is ‘inspired by’ the classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of The Little Mermaid however takes it in a different direction with more fantastical elements and the beauty of its very artistic animation. The story is quite simple telling the tale of a young boy, Sosuke, who lives near the sea with his mother and often absent sea captain father. One morning he finds a goldfish (who he names Ponyo) near his house with its head stuck in a jam jar. He helps her and they soon grow to love one another. She has magical powers as her father is a sorcerer who lives under the ocean and her mother is a sea spirit. She decides that she wants to become a little girl and begins to transform herself accordingly. Her father disapproves of this as he hates humans for their polluting of the sea and tries to stop her. Her transformation causes a large storm and huge waves, resulting in the countryside being flooded for miles around Sosuke’s house. Now they must work out how to return the world to normal.

     This is a beautiful film, full of sweetness and magical animation combined with some exciting and possibly scary passages for young children during the storm. The opening couple of minutes are especially beautiful featuring wonderful underwater scenes and great sound design which really takes you into the underwater world. These first few minutes although wonderful on DVD are incredibly beautiful on Blu-ray, a beauty which I cannot convey in words. The plotting and character development is not as linear and obvious as western animated films but certainly the audience I watched it with did not let it bother them. They quickly fell in love with the characters and the beauty of the story.

     The film was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and the beautiful score was written by his regular collaborator Joe Hisaishi. The score is by turns poignant, beautiful and exciting adding significantly to the film’s atmosphere. The detail in the score and soundscape of the film are wonderfully realised on the stunning audio transfers available on this disc (See Below).

     The film is presented here with either the original Japanese soundtrack or an English dub put together by John Lasseter from Pixar. The English dub features Cate Blanchett as Ponyo’s mother, Matt Damon as Sosuke’s father and Liam Neeson as the sorcerer, Fujimoto. Sosuke is played by Frankie Jonas and Ponyo by Noah Cyrus. Purists will obviously prefer the original Japanese however the English dub is quite good and is obviously easier for the film’s core audience. Having both options is great.

     Highly recommended as an antidote to an overdose of G-Force or Alvin & the Chipmunks. This is a demo disc for Blu-ray aficionados to show how Blu-ray can do subtle and detailed just as well as loud and powerful. This is a must-own disc.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The video quality is stunning and beautifully detailed. The feature is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio. It is encoded using the AVC codec.

     The picture was extremely clear and sharp throughout, with lots of intricate detail showing off the marvellous, hand-drawn, deeply artistic animation style. Although the level of detail is obviously limited by the skill of the artist's drawing and painting, the level of that skill is extremely high.

     The colour was stunningly beautiful, the depth and variation of the colours is a wonderful sight to behold. In the first few minutes of the film the colours are stunning especially the colour effects on the bubble around Fujimoto's ship. The colours leap off the screen when compared to the DVD version.

     There were no noticeable artefacts.

     There are subtitles in English which are clear and easy to read. They seem to be based on the Japanese dialogue rather than the English dub.



Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio quality is absolutely magnificent with many wonderful moments of sound design beautifully rendered on the various audio options. To me this is the biggest step up from the DVD version of the film and a marvellous way to show off how your home theatre can do subtlety instead of power.

     This Blu-ray contains four audio options; a Japanese DTS-HD MA 6.1 track, an English dubbed LPCM 5.1 48/16 track along with two Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks in Japanese and English. Obviously, if you have the capability the two HD tracks are miles ahead of the Dolby Digital options (which are still fine for what they are). The two main tracks are quite similar in quality, although as you might guess the original Japanese track is incredibly beautiful. The thing about these audio transfers which makes them so marvellous is the incredible detail in the sound design around the various speakers and the numerous minor sounds that leap out in this version compared to the DVD. Some examples include the popping and movement noises of the plankton during the opening sequence, the babbling of Ponyo's little sisters, the incredible sound design in the scene where Ponyo gets swept up by a rubbish net and gets her head caught in a glass jar and the almost human sounds of the waves as they try to get Ponyo back. These are merely examples as there are so many moments like these during the film (and I haven't even begin to go on and on about the music yet!).

     Dialogue was very clear and easy to understand at all times.

     The music by Joe Hisaishi is absolutely beautiful and wonderfully transferred here. Once again, the true beauty of this score really comes out on this marvellous disc with the various themes (such as the one for Ponyo) really catching the ear.

     The surround speakers are in constant use for parts of the music, detailed sound effects such as a passing squall of tiny fish jumping in the sea and lots of marvellous atmospherics. Simply Magnificent.

     The subwoofer is also in constant use adding bass to the music, depth to the sounds of the storm, waves, boats and various sea creatures.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A huge selection of high quality extras. Many are in Japanese but all have subtitles. They are nearly all 1080i or 1080p.

Menu

     The menu is a magnificent art work in itself. If you leave the menu onscreen it rolls slowly to the left revealing various scenes from the film including the storm with accompanying sound effects. It is beautiful and is quite enjoyable to watch unlike most menus which quickly become annoying.

Reversible Cover

    You can choose either and English cover or one in Japanese which is a nice touch.

Booklet

    One page containing details of chapters and a list of available Miyazaki titles (although no other Blu-rays to date).

Storyboards PIP

    There is a picture-in-picture feature on the disc (assuming your player can support it) which allows you to have 480p storyboards playing in the bottom right hand corner of your screen while the movie plays at 1080p. A really nice feature which allows you to see how close Miyazaki's original sketches are to the final product. These were available on the DVD as an alternate angle.

Meet Ponyo (2:21) 

    Introduction to the film by US producers Kathleen Kennedy & Frank Marshall.

A Conversation with Hayao Miyazaki & John Lasseter (3:28)

    Short conversation about the Ponyo character and his approach to animation. Good Stuff.

Behind the Microphone - The Voices of Ponyo (6:00)

    Featurette about the US voice cast, how they became involved and their thoughts on the movie.

Creating Ponyo (3:56)

    Short featurette focused on an interview with Miyazaki. He talks about having five year olds in mind as the audience, our relationship with nature are other interesting topics.

Ponyo & Fujimoto (2:56)

    More Miyazaki this time focused on the two characters in the title, how they were created and named and why.

The Nursery (1:57)

    Another short piece about how the film was initially planned to be focused on the Nursery School and about how Studio Ghibli created a nursery school in real life.

Scoring Miyazaki (7:17)

    The Producer, Toshio Suzuki, and the composer, Joe Hisaishi, talk about the music used in Miyazaki films including Ponyo but also Totoro, Kiki & Laputa. Interesting.

The Producer's Perspective - Telling the Story (2:28)

    Toshio Suzuki discusses the development process, storyboards, agreeing on the story, animation and character development.

The Locations in Ponyo (9:43)

    Excerpt from a longer documentary from Japanese television called The Scenery in Ghibli which it would have been great to get all of. This section covers the location which inspired Ponyo, a town on the Japanese inland sea where Miyazaki spent two months on his own developing the story and characters. Includes interviews with locals and various shots of the scenery which is very reminiscent of the film. Good stuff.

The Five Geniuses who created Ponyo (48:57)

    The most extensive extra is again from Japanese television and is essentially a tour through the Ghibli office spending time with each of five leaders of areas within the studio including animation, art direction (backgrounds), colour, music and sound design. There are lots of interesting details here for animation buffs and you can see the incredible work being done using very hands on approaches. Shows that Miyazaki is a bit of a practical joker and also a perfectionist. The only problem with this extra is that the English subtitles are in yellow and are often placed over the top of Japanese on screen captions making them very hard to read at times. Excellent extra anyway.

Hayao Miyazaki Interview (14:50)

    An interview with Miyazaki for Japanese Television. Fascinating insights here into his creative process including what he was driving at with this film, meanings of names, the ideas behind some of the scenes and other information. Fans will enjoy this. Annoyingly, the early parts of the interview are punctuated by some idiot taking lots of flash photographs.

Toshio Suzuki Interview (29:40)

    Miyazaki's long-time producing partner talks quite openly about the studio, thoughts of closing it down as Miyazaki gets older, the film, why they decided to stick with hand drawn animation for this film, their influences and challenges in the animation. Made for Japanese Television and an excellent extra.

Dubbing Session and Interviews with Japanese Voice Cast (24:53)

    Miyazaki talks to each member of the Japanese voice cast about their character; there is some recording session footage for each one and then they talk about their character. Not bad but not as insightful as the previous three or four extras.

Theme Song Music Video (3:30)

    Very Japanese and quite bizarre this music video is about a real little girl with lots of middle aged men as servants (including the producer playing her chauffeur).

Theatrical Trailers (1:26, 1:46)

    Japanese Trailers.

TV Spot (0:15)

Tie-in Promotions (0:16 x 3)

 

 

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A Blu-ray release of this movie includes a few extra items about other Miyazaki films however crucially does not include a HD audio track in the original Japanese language (only the English dub). To me this makes our local release the best Blu-ray available (which is exactly the same as the UK release; in fact, you get to choose the territory on start up and you get Madman logos one way and UK Optimum Releasing logos and trailers the other way). There are also Japanese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong Blu-ray editions of this film although I am having trouble getting any conclusive details about those. The US and UK releases are also packaged with a DVD version of the film whereas the local one is not. I would say our local release is tied for the best available for English speaking audiences with the UK release unless you want a DVD copy as well.

Summary

     A marvellous, beautiful and very sweet animated film from Japanese master, Hayao Miyazaki.

     The video quality is stunningly beautiful. The audio quality is incredibly detailed and excellent.

     A wonderful selection of extras are included which seem to be a combination of the best available from global releases.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplayLG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into BD player. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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