Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea - Original Soundtrack
International Title
Music By: Joe Hisaishi
Record Label: Colosseum
Running Time: 67:28 Discs: 1
Release: March 2009 CD Number: CAS-8508.2
Anthony Romero
This disc is a bit hard to review. On one hand, it's a fine release with a good body of musical work. However, this is a Joe Hisaishi score for a Hayao Miyazaki film. In the past, their collaboration has lead to work such as Spirited Away (2001) and Howl's Moving Castle (2004), both of which are exemplary. So the bar is set high for this score and, sadly, it just doesn't reach the level of his other work with Miyazaki. Still, this is a good score and it deserves a fair review regardless of expectations.

The music here is solid, with no real weak cues. The problem is that it lacks much in the way of stand out cues either, save perhaps one. The best track on the CD is probably " Ponyo Rides a Sea of Fish", which is that one exception. It has a energetic start, with a slight ominous undertone, before becoming very lively and inspiring at the end, syncing up very well with the scene in the movie where Ponyo looks like she is riding the waves which is a reprise of "Ponyo Flies". "Ponyo's Sisters" is another nice theme off this disc, with a little more energy found in it compared to the others. In fact, the entire score benefits a lot from the large orchestra, which is the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. It gives the entire score a bit more of a robust and grand feel than what is the norm for Japanese soundtracks. Still, a lot of this music, despite being good, is more of the downplayed variety that supports the scene but does not lend itself as well to a stand alone experience.

On another note, the relative lack of piano work, a trademark in many Hisaishi scores such as the one for Parasite Eve (1997), is a bit surprising here. In fact, "Night Signal", "Sosuke's Tears" and "The Grand Finale" are really the only tracks on this disc to feature a piano in it, and in the case of the former and the latter its only at the start of the themes.

In regards to the songs for the soundtrack, they are fairly forgettable. "Mother Sea" by Masako Hayashi is okay, but a little overwrought and has a very stereotypical opera feel. In the context of the film, it was very over the top. As a standalone experience, it's a little better, but still pretty forgettable. The other song is "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea - Movie Version" by Fujimaki Fujioka and Nozomi Ohashi. It's aimed at a younger audience, but lacks the timeless and more widespread appeal that similar songs shared in films such as My Neighbor Totoro (1988).

In terms of this release in particular, it's a European edition done by Colosseum. It was first released in Germany, than France, and later the UK. The disc is a mirror of the previously released one by Tokuma (TKCA-73340) back in 2008 in Japan, although is notably cheaper than its Japanese counterpart. Despite this, the release never comes off as a "budget title" and contains three different booklets. Two of these booklets feature large foldout concept drawings of two different locations, which are the town and the ocean.

Bottom line, this is a good soundtrack. It's not great like the past few from this director-composer pairing, but still worth owning for fans of the movie and anime in general. This particular release is also recommended over the Japanese CD, as it's a lot cheaper without any downside and, outside of the two fold booklets, is in English as well.
Rating: Star Rating
  1. Deep Sea Pastures
  2. Mother Sea
    By: Masako Hayashi
  3. The First Meeting
  4. Town by a Cove
  5. Kumiko
  6. Ponyo and Sosuke
  7. The Empty Bucket
  8. Night Signal
  9. I Want to be a Girl!
  10. Fujimoto
  11. Ponyo's Sisters
  12. Ponyo Flies
  13. The Sunflower House Caught in the Storm
  14. Ponyo Rides a Sea of Fish
  15. Ponyo and Sosuke II
  16. Lisa's House
  17. A New Family Member
  18. Ponyo's Lullaby
  19. Lisa's Resolve
  20. Gran Mamare
  21. A Night of Shooting Stars
  22. The Toy Boat
  23. Towards the Sea of the Dipnorhynchus
  24. March of the Boats
  25. The Baby and Ponyo
  26. March of the Boats II
  27. Sosuke's Voyage
  28. Sosuke's Tears
  29. Underwater Town
  30. A Mother's Love
  31. The Tunnel
  32. Toki
  33. Ponyo's Sisters Lend a Hand
  34. A Song for Mothers and the Sea
  35. The Grand Finale
  36. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea - Movie Version
    By: Fujimaki Fujioka & Nozomi Ohashi