I am on the side of dubbing animated films in your native language. I watch everything with subtitles at home, but I change the audio track to English for animated movies when given the choice. Disney held nothing back when selecting the voice cast of Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo English voice cast. Cate Blanchett, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, Miley Cyrus's younger brother, the baby Jonas brother, and Matt Damon all have voice roles in the English dubbed version.
Like anything from Studio Ghibli, the story of Ponyo is sweet and heartfelt. The visuals are a dazzling feast for your eyes. Ponyo has wonderful transition sequences between her human and fish states. Waves turn into fish and fill the screen as Ponyo runs along the crest. The animators must have had such a wonderful time creating this movie.
Ponyo is the daughter of Fujimoto, a human who now lives in the sea. Fujimoto is voiced by Liam Neeson and goes on a quest to get his daughter back. I made several ‘Taken but in the ocean’ jokes while watching the film. Fortunately, the movie does not go down that path and eventually, Fujimoto allows his daughter to decide to alter the course of her life for good.
The movie had me emotionally invested early on. I was concerned for Sosuke’s safety as his mom, Lisa, slides her car around treacherous cliffside roads, sometimes on two wheels. My eyes glassed over when Ponyo stopped responding to Sosuke and started transforming back to an unresponsive fish. The main story is about love and easily tugs at your heartstrings.
Studio Ghibli finally put some of its titles on a streaming service with HBO Max. It is a wonderful addition to the service. Ponyo is somewhat grounded compared to other Studio Ghibli projects and serves as a great entry point. There is magic, but the city that the story revolves around is believable. Subbed or Dubbed, you cannot go wrong with Ponyo.