The XX Factor

Miyazaki’s “Ponyo”: Too Scary for Kids? Good Question …

Emily, when I saw the title of your last post ( “Worshipping at the Shrine of Hayao Miyazaki” ), I was afraid you meant it sarcastically, and that you were going to debunk the cult of the great Japanese anime director. If you had, I would’ve had no response except, “Gee, I can’t help it if it’s trendy to swoon over his work-I just do. “It’s nice to hear that you and your kids are also unironically floored by Miyazaki’s exuberant imagination (and as a parent who’s watched at least part of My Neighbor Totoro nearly every day for the past year, it’s helpful to have a guide to which of his movies comes next in the growing-up cycle.)

Your question about what age his latest movie, Ponyo , would be right for is one I’m actively struggling with right now. While I was watching it, my pleasure was augmented tenfold by the image of my 3-year-old daughter flipping out as all of her favorite things (Magical transformations! Iridescent bubbles! Swimming! Brave girls performing heroic rescues! Queens of the sea with long flowing pink hair!) came together in one glorious rainbow-hued bundle. Honestly, I think if she saw this movie she might disintegrate from pure joy. But I can’t decide whether the scary parts, which include personified ocean waves with angry eyes, a moment when a child is left alone to fend for himself during a flood, and at least two near-deaths of the main character, would be too much for her or not. I sat her down at my computer last night to watch some Ponyo trailers, hoping to gauge how frightening those images were, but in her excitement at the prospect of getting to see a movie at a real theater, she waved away any possible downside (yep, she’s her mother’s daughter all right). I think I’m going to risk it and just take her this weekend, after recounting the whole story a few times so she knows that (spoiler alert!) the titular fish-girl and her loved ones make it through to the end just fine. I’ll report back and let you know whether my own fish-girl does the same.