The screening of Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea at the Venice Film Festival has provided reviewers from Hollywood’s top trade publications (Variety and The Hollywood Reporter) as well as from Time Magazine with a chance to preview the anime maestro’s latest work, and they were not disappointed.  The Reporter’s Deborah Young found the film “a work of great fantasy and charm that will delight children ages 3 to 100,” and concluded, “Excellent commercial prospects loom.”


Variety’s Ronnie Scheib waxed poetic about the film’s “magic limpidity, teeming with imaginative transports that owe nothing to CGI.  Effortlessly shuttling between sea, land and sky, this Little Mermaid-ish tale dives deep into the collective unconscious of Japan’s island culture, imagining a transparency between natural elements that promises salvation and apocalypse in equal measure.”  Scheib concludes: “Though targeted at tots, Ponyo may appeal most to jaded adults thirsty for wondrous beauty and unpackaged innocence.”


Both trade reviewers rave about the quality and efficacy of the film’s traditional 2-D cel animation and  note how successful Ponyo has been in Japan where it has topped the box office charts for six straight weeks and earned over $115 million, performance that, among Miyazaki's works, trails only Spirited Away, the all-time Japanese box office champ, in theatrical earnings. 


Time Magazine’s Richard Corliss, who also saw the film at Venice and who provides a sensitive and highly positive review for the current issue of the weekly news magazine, manages to place Ponyo in the context of Miyazaki’s entire oeuvre.  Corliss’ review will reach a far wider audience than the Hollywood trades, and Corliss confirms the informed speculation in ICv2 (and other venues—see “New Miyazaki Film to Venice”) that Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea will be released in the U.S. in 2009.  Though details of the film’s U.S. release are not yet clear, it is likely to be the top anime DVD of next year and should provide the category with a much needed booster shot.