Ponyo’s Magic Realism

In 2008, a character with a two-syllable name captivated a then 4 year-old NOC-in-training as she watched a movie about a fish-girl, magic, friendship, and bringing balance to the world. Many would guess that I’m describing The Little Mermaid, or even the early stages of Avatar or The Legend of Korra. All are fair assessments, but in this case we are referring to the eighth film from the amazing Studio Ghibli: Ponyo.

Now, I have written before about my introduction to anime while growing up in Peru, but it is my brother Diego that is the expert in our family. I remember him saying that I had to watch Princess Mononoke and Spirited Way, but I never got around it. And it wasn’t until one day he came to our house determined to introduce me and his niece to the world of Miyazaki.

I grew up as a son of a literature nerd. My father made me read early-in-age novels that I didn’t understand. I didn’t get into literature until I read Juan Rulfo and was introduced to the wonders of magic realism. I then picked up Gabriel García Márquez and got myself lost in his world. One that I could identify with. I honestly never thought i would experience that feeling again.

That was until my daughter, her uncle, and I sat down and watched Ponyo. If there is any way to explain the wonderful world of Miyazaki, “Magic Realism” would be it. We sat down and pretty much became immersed in the storyline of a goldfish that befriends a little boy named Sōsuke and wants to be human in order to experience the outside world. A father who is  a magician/scientist who forbids her from doing so and the imbalance it brings to the world when Ponyo (real name Brunhilde) uses her father’s magic to become human.

I can remember the expression in my daughter’s face. So attentively experiencing every frame of the film. At times gasping and at others screaming “PONYO! PONYO!” and pointing to the TV screen. For a couple of weeks after watching the film, all we heard was Ponyo this! and Ponyo that! and when could uncle come over to watch it again.

Wonderful memories of childhood and innocence. These are the effects of Miyazaki’s films. Which reminds me, I have two other NOCs-in-training that I have to introduce to this magical world.

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