Yesterday I decided to make the trip to Dendy cinemas in Portside, since it's the only place screening "Ponyo" in its original Japanese language (with subtitles). I am of the opinion, although it still lies at the heart of the fundamentals of animation, that the voices must be recorded BEFORE the animation and not after. The animators must make a performance based on the voice work! If you add voices after an established performance you are going to ruin it!!!!! The last (and only) Ghibli film I heard in English dub was "Spirited Away" which tore at my heart like a rain of knives. It's worse than listening to a ballad by Britney Spears! (I was going to say "shards of glass scraping across a blackboard" but I concluded that that might sound pretty cool)
So anyway, the movie, in its original Japanese...it's beyond words. It's what animation should be, and so much more, to the point of being excessive (which is a good thing). But what should animation be? Let me explain. Animation is about giving life to the drawings on your piece of paper. Animation should make you put aside your disbelief of what's real and what's not real - without you even realising it! This involves more than just illustration principles, there is also heavy reliance on sound-design, and also good story-telling. In this sense an animator is more like a wizard, a grand conjurer, a mage who defies the laws of energy-conservation and creates something from nothing. Hayao Miyazaki has shown with "Ponyo" that he is the grandest, most majestic magician alive. From the opening sequence of sea-life, watching hundreds of jellyfish moving across the screen all individually, and all of it drawn by hand!! It is absolutely captivating from start to finish. When Ponyo is running across the water, chasing the car, I was truly overwhelmed.
I love how Studio Ghibli is one of the last few Japanese studios to practice FULL animation. It doesn't associate itself with any of the other traditions and clichés that have befallen the rest of the market, which in turn has alienated the dedicated fans of the 80's and 90's pre-"Love Hina" anime who found something decent to escape into, but now is tainted with a system of executives and market-research to find out what "sells". Studio Ghibli still concerns itself with good, unconventional story-telling. The mood of Ponyo is like a rollercoaster that doesn't stop. All the characters are lovable, even Ponyo's father (who plays a bit of a villain, but not in a generic "evil" way). This is important, it makes me want to keep watching, knowing I'm in safe hands without awkward uncomfortable moments like heart-break and betrayal, the kind of Disney/Don Bluth stuff that rapes you and tries to hug you afterwards. Some people might crave that kind of stuff but I've been through it too many times, I'd rather a true sense of purity like a Miyazaki film, and then his own sentimentalities that come out (i.e. caring for the elderly and pollution in nature) have much more effect.
In summary, "Ponyo" was amazing. If you had any decent sense you would make it your NUMBER ONE priority to watch this film (providing it is in its original Japanese).
In other news I bought a scanner recently and I intend to use it.