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Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea
Score Album

Image Album

Composed, Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by:
Joe Hisaishi

Tokuma Japan Communications

Release Date:
July 22nd, 2008

Also See:
Princess Mononoke
The Mighty
The Little Mermaid

Audio Clips:
Score Album:

1. Deep Sea Ranch (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

12. Flight of Ponyo (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

29. Underwater Town (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

36. Ponyo by the Cliff by the Sea (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

Both albums are regular Japanese releases. The score album more commonly available as an import sells in America for over $30.


Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea
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Buy it... if you have only a peripheral appreciation of Joe Hisaishi's career and seek a good time to introduce yourself to some of most pleasant orchestral and choral magic to ever come from the composer's collaboration with Japan's Studio Ghibli.

Avoid it... if you have little tolerance for children's film music that is so hopelessly optimistic that it becomes "catchy," a potentially tedious exercise in feathery fluff.

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea: (Joe Hisaishi) Rocking the 2008 Venice Film Festival with a style of magic rarely seen in animation features of the 2000's, Studio Ghibli's only 2008 production resurrects the basic concept of The Little Mermaid by depicting the plight of a young mermaid to become human. In the process of making that transition, she befriends a 5-year-old boy and unfortunately places the balance of nature in peril. The feather-light plot thrives on writer and director Hayao Miyazaki's ability to take two-dimensional pastel and watercolor-styled animation technologies and still attract audiences with other production values that are compelling enough to make Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (known as Gake no ue no Ponyo in Japanese or Ponyo on the Cliff alternately in international showings) one of Japan's top earning motion pictures of 2008. One of those elements of the film that continues to impress is Joe Hisaishi's extremely diverse and accomplished music. The collaboration between Hisaishi and Miyazaki has endured for decades, leading to music that in Japan rivals the popularity of the Steven Spielberg and John Williams pairing in America. During those years, Hisaishi has written countless scores of high quality that flew under the radar in the international film music community, but with 2008 proving to be remarkably devoid of fresh ideas and standout compositions in the remainder of the world, Hisaishi's music for both Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea and the live action drama I Want to be a Shellfish are worth a closer look. While both scores offer orchestral harmony of impressive stature, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea excels in its fantastic sense of whimsy. It is truly difficult, if not nearly impossible, to write charming music and record extremely optimistic performances of that material without passing into the realm of obnoxious. Some animation scores, including the majority that accompany straight-to-DVD releases, are so predictably saccharine that they tend to annoy most listeners after just a few minutes.

Hisaishi manages to avoid the pitfalls of the genre, however, by using techniques of swirling orchestral majesty, remarkable instrumental diversity, and occasional complexity in layers to constantly keep the environment refreshing to the ears. For the most part, what will matter to listeners will be the composer's knack for gorgeous melodies for Western orchestration. His limitless romanticism is reminiscent of Georges Delerue's styles of the 1970's and 1980's. Also expanding the scope of the composer's work is the employment of solo voices, which is arguably a highlight of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Because of Hisaishi's utilization of Western mechanisms, there's really no excuse for this music to not receive international praise. His themes for Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea flourish in an environment of performances ranging from full ensemble exposition to solo or paired performances by woodwinds, violin, or piano that are extremely well enunciated. The theme for Ponyo herself may be the most memorable aspect of the score (especially with its monumental brass performances in British fanfare mode in "Flight of Ponyo"), but ideas for other characters, such as the march for Ponyo's father, constantly rotate the attention of the score and never leave the collection of themes for more than a few seconds. Some of them share significant progressions and an inspirational fantasy tone with Trevor Jones' The Mighty, and all adhere to pleasant progressions that are bound to remind most listeners of some other piece of film music already in their collection. The most intriguing aspect of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is also its potential downfall for some listeners: its unyielding charm. Through the use of major key fancy and every tingling, fluttering, and tapping instrument available, Hisaishi keeps the atmosphere of the score so fluffy that it sails effortlessly without even the drag of a single extended sequence of dissonant interruption. Perhaps the most accurate word used to describe the tone of this score is "catchy," though that descriptor points heavily towards the adaptation of the score's themes into memorable vocalizations.

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The addition of voices to the underscore often produces the best moments, from the massive fantasy environment of the opening "Deep Sea Ranch" to the turbulent but still enticing "Ponyo of the Fish of the Wave" (which returns to the bold brass performances of the title theme). A variety of different vocalists contribute bright sonic colors to the overall performance, from the straight operatic tones of "Mother of the Sea" (which, in its closing bars, eludes coincidentally to Alan Menken's "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid) to the lilting solo that ends all too soon in "Underwater Town." The film version of the title song is the only questionable material, translating the score's themes into a pop duet that takes "catchy" to such extremes that it could potentially drive a person insane with too many listens. For Hisaishi collectors, the entirety of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is about as good as it gets, including even some of the composer's own lovely solo piano performances in a few cues (highlighted by the dramatic "Finale"). Until the film's American dubbing debuts in 2009 (with a high profile cast of voices), the only albums for this score exist from the Tokuma Japan Communications label. A 67-minute score album is accompanied by a shorter "Image" product (essentially a preview of the music written for the film's storyboards) with different score performances and an emphasis on additional song adaptations. Also be aware that Hisaishi arranged several portions of music from this score for a recent Studio Ghibli-related concert, translating all of the most impressive choral and solo vocal sequences into an even more digestible package. All of these recordings were initially quite difficult to obtain outside of Japan. Overall, Hisaishi continues to speak with a uniquely lovely voice in Japanese cinema, and while his dominance of that industry is well deserved, there will be ongoing speculation about why he hasn't been approached or taken an assignment for a Hollywood blockbuster. The tone of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea may be too hopelessly optimistic for mainstream appeal in America, but there is a mastery of the orchestra here that is so technically adept that it should compensate for the detriments of that innocent character for most curious Western ears. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.39 Stars
Smart Average: 3.28 Stars*
***** 73 
**** 56 
*** 46 
** 35 
* 35 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Alternate review of Ponyo on the Cliff at M...
  Jonathan Broxton -- 2/6/09 (4:53 p.m.)
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 Track Listings (Score Album): Total Time: 67:29

• 1. Deep Sea Ranch (4:18)
• 2. Mother of the Sea (2:21)
• 3. Encounter (0:31)
• 4. Ura Town (2:36)
• 5. Kumiko (2:06)
• 6. Ponyo and Sosuke (2:17)
• 7. Empty Bucket (1:30)
• 8. Flash Signal (2:37)
• 9. I Become Human! (1:30)
• 10. Fujimoto (1:34)
• 11. Little Sisters (1:32)
• 12. Flight of Ponyo (1:43)
• 13. Sunflower House in the Storm (2:20)
• 14. Ponyo of the Fish of the Wave (3:36)
• 15. Ponyo and Sosuke 2 (2:01)
• 16. Lisa's House (3:20)
• 17. New Family (1:09)
• 18. Ponyo's Lullaby (1:29)
• 19. Lisa's Determination (1:33)
• 20. Granmanmale (2:14)
• 21. Night of the Meteor (2:40)
• 22. Hot-Bulb Engine Ship (1:55)
• 23. To the Sea of Dipnorhynchus (1:41)
• 24. Fleet March (2:26)
• 25. Baby and Ponyo (0:33)
• 26. Fleet March 2 (1:14)
• 27. Voyage of Sosuke (2:08)
• 28. Tears of Sosuke (1:02)
• 29. Underwater Town (2:02)
• 30. Mother's Love (0:49)
• 31. Tunnel (1:26)
• 32. Toki (0:48)
• 33. Little Sisters (1:40)
• 34. Song of Praise for Mother and the Sea (2:15)
• 35. Finale (0:44)
• 36. Ponyo by the Cliff by the Sea (Film Version) (1:36)
   (written by Joe Hisaishi, Hayao Miyazaki and Katsuya Kondo
   and performed by Fujioka-Fujimaki and Nozomi Ohashi)

 Track Listings (Image Album): Total Time: 35:32

• 1. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (2:45)
   (written by Joe Hisaishi, Hayao Miyazaki, and Katsuya Kondo - performed by Fujimaki-Fujioka and Nozomi Ohashi)
• 2. The Coral Tower (3:36)
• 3. Ponyo Comes (3:36)
• 4. Mother of the Sea (4:34)
• 5. Little Sisters (3:59)
   (written by Joe Hisaishi and Hayao Miyazaki - performed by Little Carol)
• 6. Fujimoto's Theme (3:28)
   (written by Joe Hisaishi, Naoya Fujimaki, and Takaki Fujioka - performed by Fujimaki-Fujioka)
• 7. Flash Signal (4:28)
• 8. Ponyo's Lullaby (1:47)
   (written by Joe Hisaishi and Hayao Miyazaki - performed by Nozomi Ohashi)
• 9. Real Feelings (3:10)
   (written by Joe Hisaishi, Naoya Fujimaki, and Takaki Fujioka - performed by Fujimaki-Fujioka)
• 10. Rondo of the House of Sunflowers (4:09)
   (written by by Joe Hisaishi and Hayao Miyazaki - performed by Mai Fujisawa)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The inserts include no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea are Copyright © 2008, Tokuma Japan Communications. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 2/2/09 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2009-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.