Review: Ponyo [On the Cliff by the Sea] (2008)

PonyoRomantization: Gake no Ue no Ponyo

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by: Toshio Suzuki
Screenplay by: Hayao Miyazaki
Story by: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring (voice):     Yuria Nara as Ponyo
                               Hiroki Doi as Sosuke
                               Tomoko Yamaguchi as Risa
                               George Tokoro as Fujimoto
                               Kazushige Nagashima as Koichi
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Cinematography: Atsushi Okui
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Distributed by: Toho (Japan)
                         Walt Disney Pictures (North America)
Release date(s): July 19, 2008
                           August 14, 2009 (United States)
Running time: 101 minutes

Synopsis (wikipedia):

Brunhilde is a fish-girl who lives in an aquarium with her father Fujimoto, a wizard, in his underwater castle with numerous smaller sisters. One day, when her father takes her and her siblings on an outing in his four-flippered submarine, Brunhilde is driven by a desire to see even more of the world and floats away on the back of a jellyfish. She ends up stranded on the shore of a small fishing town and is rescued by a boy named Sōsuke, who cuts his finger in the process. She licks his wound when he picks her up, and the wound heals almost instantly. After taking a great liking to her, Sōsuke names her Ponyo and promises to protect her forever. Meanwhile, Fujimoto is looking for his daughter. Upset that she ran away, he believes the humans have now kidnapped her, and he calls his wave spirits to return Ponyo to him. After the wave spirits take Ponyo away, Sōsuke is heartbroken and goes home with his mother, Lisa, who tries to cheer him up, to no avail.

Ponyo and Fujimoto have a confrontation, during which Ponyo refuses to let her father call her by her birthname, “Brunhilde.” She declares her name to be Ponyo and voices her desire to become human, because she has started to fall in love with Sōsuke. Suddenly she starts to grow legs and turn into a human, a consequence of the human blood she swallowed when she licked Sōsuke’s finger. Her father turns her back with difficulty and goes to summon Ponyo’s mother, Granmamare. Meanwhile, Ponyo, with the help of her sisters, breaks away from her father and releases his magic to make herself human. The huge amount of magic released into the ocean causes an imbalance in the world, resulting in a huge tsunami. Riding on the waves of the storm, Ponyo goes back to visit Sōsuke. Lisa, Sōsuke, and Ponyo wait out the storm at Sōsuke’s house, and the next morning Lisa leaves to check up on the residents of the nursing home where she works.

Granmamare arrives at Fujimoto’s submarine. On her way there, Sōsuke’s father sees and recognizes her as the Goddess of Mercy. Fujimoto notices the moon has come out of its orbit and satellites are falling like shooting stars. Granmamare declares that if Sōsuke can pass a test, Ponyo can live as a human and the world order will be restored. If he fails, Ponyo will turn into sea foam. Sōsuke and Ponyo wake up to find that most of the land around the house has been covered by the ocean. Lisa has not come home yet, so with the help of Ponyo’s magic, they make Sōsuke’s toy boat life-size and set out to find Lisa.

While traveling, they see prehistoric fish swimming beneath them. After landing and finding Lisa’s empty car, Ponyo and Sōsuke go through a tunnel. There Ponyo loses her human form and reverts into a fish. Sōsuke and Ponyo are taken by Fujimoto into the ocean and down to the protected nursing home where they are reunited with Lisa and meet Granmamare, both of whom have just had a long private conversation. Granmamare asks Sōsuke if he can love Ponyo whether she is a fish or human. Sōsuke replies that he “loves all the Ponyos.” Granmamare then allows Ponyo to become human once Sōsuke kisses her on the surface. The film ends with Ponyo jumping up and kissing Sosuke, transforming into a little girl in mid-air.

I Say…

Little Mermaid being my favorite fairy tale of all time, and an avid follower of Ghibli films as well, made me curious about Ponyo when I first saw it. I was awed by the abstracts of the film and wondered how Hayao Miyazaki-san pictures the sea inside his head. The first few moments of the film was delegated to describe Ponyo’s home and surroundings before she meets Sosuke. If that isn’t convincing enough, how about the tsunami scenes. They’re just… wow. Miyazaki-san is a genius.


The film was based on H.C.Andersen’s The Little Mermaid… minus the sad ending. Ponyo is just the one of the cutest Ghibli characters! Count Sosuke in as well. These two five year olds sure know how to get serious. I think they’re the youngest Ghibli love teams. The parents of Ponyo too, most especially Fujimoto, are both very serious characters. Fujimoto masked his protective feelings towards his daughter by acting up like a villain, when all he ever wanted is to make sure his daughter will not turn into bubbles in case Sosuke is not the right man (they are that serious!) for Ponyo. In the original story by H.C. Andersen, the mermaid turned into sea foam after refusing to kill the prince she loved so dearly who didn’t love her back.

Kids and kids at heart are sure to enjoy this flick, and will be thrilled of Ponyo’s adventure from being goldfish to a human girl. Dive into the signature Miyazaki-san’s abstract imagination. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea will be added on my list of memorable Ghibli movies ever made.


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