Critics by and large have always been taken with the artistry of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. So have overseas audiences, who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to see his films, which include 1997's Princess Mononoke , 2001's Spirited Away and 2004's Howl's Moving Castle. Not so in the U.S. But his latest film, Ponyo , a retelling of "The Little Mermaid" story is getting a great send-off from critics. (It is still unlikely to become a big hit, even though it is being released by Disney and has an impressive cast doing the voices. It's being released in fewer than a thousand theaters.) "There is a word to describe Ponyo," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times , and that word is magical. This poetic, visually breathtaking work by the greatest of all animators has such deep charm that adults and children will both be touched. It's wonderful and never even seems to try It unfolds fantastically." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post says that no one is going to mistake the movie for Disney's version of "The Little Mermaid." "This exquisite pastel-colored, eye-popping example of hand-drawn animation is still very Japanese, aimed most specifically at children around the world -- but with a storytelling sophistication that adults will savor." Greg Quill in the Toronto Star predicts that Ponyo will become Miyazaki's "break-through" film for North American audiences."It's a wonderful place that Miyazaki creates," he writes, "an alternatively sweet and savage world that defies physics and common sense, as imaginative and impossible in its own way as Jules Verne's sci-fi fantasies or Maurice Sendak's animal kingdom." And Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times suggests that what the film lacks in theater locations it could make up for in repeat business. "You'll be planning to see Ponyo twice before you've finished seeing it once," he remarks. "Five minutes into this magical film you'll be making lists of the individuals of every age you can expose to the very special mixture of fantasy and folklore, adventure and affection, that make up the enchanted vision of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki."