Pon Yo
There are many things to like about Miyazaki ’s quiet little children’s film:  the bright, water-colorish cinematography.  The way the little children are intelligent, resourceful, articulate, and caring, like “Dora The Explorer” and her cousin Diego in an Asian context.  The part about the older people being honored, and treasured, known by name and revered, even in their nursing home, and even when they are being less then charming. The incredibly polite manner of these gentle people with one another.  The family overriding the little frustrations with one another.  The way the children quickly develop loyalty to each other.
            But there are also many things to be puzzled about:  a mother who leaves her five-year-old alone at home in a storm while she checks on her charges in the nursing home?  And she drives like a maniac on the wrong side of the road, even with her five-year-old in the car with her?  “Pon Yo” is the fish who turns into a human.  Wait, haven’t they heard of “The Little Mermaid”?   Yes, yes, we’ve done lots of mermaids who want to be human, but this one’s ancestry is decidedly more obscure:  a Neptune-like father who used to be human, before he gave it up to live under the water, and can now command the water to do his bidding?  And her mother is either the Goddess of Mercy or the Goddess of the Sea, and she’s big and beautiful and gentle but she disappears a lot?  For American audiences, that’s quite a hodge-podge, even accounting for cultural differences.
            Best not to question “Pon Yo” too carefully.  Just let the fish story wash over you, and enjoy the colorful backdrops and salty fish tale for what it is:  a cross-cultural children’s book on the silver screen.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas