By Marty Mulrooney
Optimum Home Entertainment have just released a special Limited Deluxe Edition (+ DVD copy) of Studio Ghibli’s most recent masterpiece, Ponyo, on Blu-ray. I reviewed the film for AMO when it was originally in the cinema, so I wasn’t planning to review the home release when it arrived. However, once I got my hands on this Limited Deluxe Edition I knew I would have to share my thoughts on this delightful set with as many people as I possibly could!
For those who haven’t see this film yet, you can read my original review here. Suffice to say, if you love Studio Ghibli, you will love Ponyo. Although perhaps slightly lighter on story than the studio’s previous efforts (this one is aimed strictly at the kids) the animation is breathtaking and it has held my attention 100% the three times I have watched it so far.
The reason this edition is so special is due in part to the wonderfully thought out digi-pack style packaging. This really is a film that makes full use of its watery setting, and Optimum has transferred that strength to the packaging art. Of course, cardboard will never be as durable as plastic (mine arrived with a bent corner, thanks once again Royal Mail!) but everything is held together really well and I was suitably impressed once I opened it up.
The included art cards are really nice too: I can imagine them looking excellent framed and hung up if a buyer chose to do so. The vivid colours really leap out at you, just like in the film. The stickers I will never use, but they are a nice inclusion I guess and I am sure kids would love them.
But of course, the most important aspect of this release is exactly how much better the film looks in high definition. Thankfully, Ponyo in 1080p HD is a triumph. It looks amazing, I cannot describe just how vivid and razor sharp everything looks. This is one of the best HD releases I have ever seen. The included DVD copy (although seeming slightly wasteful and redundant to me personally) is an excellent point of comparison: although it looks excellent, the DVD copy cannot even begin to approach the colour reproduction and sense of awe that the Blu-ray evokes.
Some very strict Ghibli purists may baulk at the International Print present on the Blu-ray disk: this basically means that the opening and closing credits are presented in English regardless of language selection. I am sure with seamless branching this could have been fixed (I am unsure if it was for the US release) but it is a very minor issue to my mind. Still, it has to be taken into account. The earlier US release caused grumbles itself due to only having a Japanese Dolby 5.1 track, but here that is rectified with an amazing Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 track, as well as the previously confirmed English LPCM 5.1 track.
We now come to the special features, which are all in 1080p HD, and actually feature some stuff not present on the US Disney release!
• Storyboards and Trailers
• Introducing Ponyo: Intro by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall
• Hayao Miyazaki
• Toshio Sazuki
• Hayao Miyazaki by John Lasseter
• Featurettes: The Five Geniuses Who Created Ponyo
• Behind The Microphone: The Voices Of Ponyo
• Creating Ponyo
• Ponyo and Fujimoto
• The Nursery
• Scoring Miyazaki
• The Producer’s Perspective
• Telling The Story
• The Locations in Ponyo
• Japanese TV Spots
• Dubbing Session and Interview with Japanese Cast
• Music Video of Theme Song
Overall, this is an amazing selection of special features. Although some only run for a few short minutes, none of them feel boring or padded out. It is also really nice to see not only the English voice cast at work (including Tina Fey!) but to see the original Japanese cast doing their thing too. Everyone involved seems very passionate about what they are doing and this adds to the enjoyment of these features substantially. The regular Blu-ray has the same contents of course but misses out on the nicer case, art cards and stickers, which I feel is worth spending the extra couple of quid on for the Deluxe Edition.
Basically, if you are a fan of Studio Ghibli and own a Blu-ray player, don’t miss out on this!
Blu-ray Package – 9 OUT OF 10