My children adore Ponyo, the masterful Hayao Miyazaki reinvention of the Little Mermaid, a tale of a goldfish who wants to be a little girl. I always found the film’s images deeply unsettling – a Japanese fishing village inundated by waves, massive prehistoric fish swimming through nursing homes, ships and cars tossed and disabled by nature out of balance.
The first images of the Japanese tsunami reminded me of a too-real version of Miyazaki’s dream seascape. I thought I would never want to watch that movie again.
Now I’m not as sure. Japan continues to roil in crisis, thousands dead, property destroyed, millions imperiled by nuclear disaster. In the film, Ponyo became a girl, and nature returned to normal. The villagers were unscathed as the water receded, and the boy Sosuke reunited with his mother and fisherman father. I will never watch the movie the same way, but I will watch it and wish it were true.
Children’s literature, fantasies, and movies help us face nightmare visions and emerge stronger. I pray that Japan does as well.
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