Love is obviously the most important theme in the movie Ponyo, and the love portrayed between Ponyo and Sousuke is very innocent and uncomplicated. Essentially this love triumphs in the end, but what it triumphs over is one of two sources of conflict in the movie: separation… the other conflict being the magical forces that can’t simultaneously maintain Ponyo’s powers and human form, which I thought was the less interesting conflict. There are four notable examples of separation between people that love each other during various stages of the movie: Ponyo and Sousuke during the second act, Sousuke and Lisa during the final act, Koichi and his family for most of the film and finally Fujimoto and Granmamare. And in each case, whether via circumstances or through the sheer will, determination and love of the characters, these characters are reunited before the end of the movie. The Aldis lamp scene is one of the most memorable scenes of the movie, and it is here, in a relatively short exchange, that we learn so much about Sousuke’s family.
It’s clear that the bonds of love are extremely strong between all three of the family members, firstly with Koichi proudly declaring that his son is a genius to whichever of his crewmates happened to be within earshot to hear it, then with Sousuke wishing his father “good luck” on getting back on Lisa’s good side, and finally with Sousuke and Lisa trying to cheer each other up. Lisa’s relationship with Koichi is the most interesting here, though, as the separation between them necessitated by Koichi’s job has lead to a tangible amount of frustration the type which is typical in any relationship where distance is involved. Later on we see that Koichi’s job occasionally puts him in danger, which suggests that Lisa’s frustration in this scene isn’t simply selfish in nature, and that it’s borne out of genuine concern and worry for her husband’s safety… the type that we all feel at some stage when a loved one still isn’t home much later than we expected. The variety of strong and heartfelt emotions on show in this scene made it so sweet and charming, but also so relatable.There are two examples of Sousuke and Ponyo’s love triumphing over distance in a fairytale-esque manner, and certainly the most exciting of these scenes was the first one, with Ponyo running across the fish waves.
Ponyo may have had a relatively simple plot, but this was a thrilling scene. Sousuke’s search for his mother propels the last part of the movie, but it’s here where the story unfortunately becomes a bit weaker, as the whole conflict involving the balance of the world felt like it was added on ad hoc, especially in the sub . While it was explained more clearly in the sub, it took me a little while to put two and two together and rationalize it while watching the sub. Fortunately the wonderfully vibrant sea world is just as delightful to watch here as it is during the entire film.