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Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo - fishy in the sea!
Tiny little fishy, who could you really be?
Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo - magic sets you free!
Oh she's a little girl with a round tummy!


Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (Gake no Ue no Ponyo) is a film by Anime master Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli in 2008. Loosely (very loosely) based on the Hans Christian Andersen story The Little Mermaid, the movie follows the adventures of Ponyo, a sort of... goldfishy thing, and her quest to become human.

In comparison with Miyazaki's other recent works, this is a return to his more whimsical, Slice of Life movies such as My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. The difference is, it's also his only movie that is directly aimed at the under-ten set. The result is that many long-time Miyazaki fans didn't know what to make of it. It is also the studio's first film in years not to feature any CGI!

The Disney dub of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea received a U.S. theatrical release in August 2009 under the abbreviated title Ponyo (after being initially marketed as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea). As of March 2, 2010 Disney has released it on DVD and Blu-ray as well.

Oh, and — as usual for Miyazaki—the animation is awesome, in the original sense of the word (i.e. awe-inspiring).

Tropes used in Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea include:


Fujimoto: This is bad. This is very bad.

  • Cheerful Child: Sosuke. Ponyo, even more so.
  • Children Are Innocent: Her father wishes she could remain so forever, and later objects to testing Sousuke because he is so innocent.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
  • Cozy Catastrophe: The dramatic rise of sea levels is mostly treated as a reason to have an extended picnic.
  • Cute Bruiser: Ponyo accidentally causes a tsunami.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Ponyo is barefoot the entire movie
  • Doing It for the Art: Pretty much a given with Miyazaki films, but impressive even by his standards. Hand-drawn animation, folks.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Lisa. It certainly does not help that Sosuke is in the car for most of her road antics.
  • Fish Out of Water: literally with Ponyo, though she's not a typical example of this trope.
  • First-Name Basis: Sosuke with his own parents. (Not in the dub, though.)
  • Fisher King: Ponyo sets the world out of order when she is neither magic nor human.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Lisa. She accepts Ponyo pretty easily, works with the elderly, and even defends weeds from (suspected) pesticides.
  • Genki Girl: Ponyo. She is a 5-year-old, after all.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: Amazingly, Disney didn't try to localize this movie unlike certain other dubbers. The English dub preserves a few Japanese Honorifics that have "loanword" status -san," mostly, and "sensei, possibly to help enforce the fact that this takes place in Japan.
  • Gonk: The baby. Of all the places to avert Generic Cuteness. (A very mild example.)
  • Green Aesop: Although not entirely: the point seems to be that despite pollution, humans are NOT bastards—at least not individually.
  • Grumpy Bear: Fujimoto, who (understandably) cannot get past the pollution thing enough to be optimistic about anything where humans are involved.
  • Henpecked Husband: Sosuke's dad, although not entirely unjustified (see Married to the Job). Also, Ponyo's father with Granmammare—in this case the reason is obvious.
  • Hot Mom: Lisa. Also Granmamare, but it's to be expected since she's a goddess.
  • Hot Dad: Fujimoto, Glam-rock star of the sea. In the Finnish dub, he is voiced by Ismo Alanko, who is literally a rock star (by Finnish standards).
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl:
    • Inverted with normal-sized Fujimoto and HUGE Granmammare. She can shrink herself to almost-human size, but she's still head and shoulders taller than Lisa.
    • Played straight with Ponyo and Sosuke at first.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Subverted and deconstructed. Fujimoto is resentful towards humans for polluting the sea, yet when Ponyo falls in love with Sosuke he is forced to rethink. By the end he sees how, despite doing some messed up stuff as a whole, humans individually can be nice guys. Probably not incidentally, Ponyo's first encounter with humans is a trawling ship cleaning up junk and sludge from the ocean.
    • Its a Miyazaki film, if you've seen the previous works you'll know this is a given. It just a more low key version this time.
  • Hypocritical Humor:

Lisa: Well. That guy was a freak show. But don't you call people "freak show". We never judge people by their looks.
Sosuke: ...I know, Mom, I don't.


Sosuke: Don't worry Ponyo, I will always protect you. I promise.

  • Interspecies Romance
  • Invisible to Normals: Only children can see that the waves have eyes... And only a single one of the elderly ladies seems at all confused at the fact that Sosuke's goldfish has a human head.
  • Iris Out
  • The Jimmy Hart Version: Of "Ride of the Valkyries", when Ponyo rides the tsunami to the surface. Possibly a Shout-Out, because her real name is Brunhilde.
  • Kick the Dog: Fujimoto mentions offhandedly that he plans to eradicate human civilization by using magic to create a new era of sea life. This is quickly derailed by Ponyo in her eagerness to return to the surface. As a result, prehistoric fish appear (specifically Devonian, even though he mentions the Cambrian Explosion) but humanity goes on.
  • Large Ham: Ponyo, with emphasis on HAAAAAAAAAM!!!
  • Licked by the Dog: If the personification of the sea and all sea life liked you enough to marry you, you're probably not that bad a person. They have a LOT of kids too. Ponyo's got to have at least fifty sisters!
  • Lighter and Softer: In America, fans were rather... surprised at how kid-friendly Ponyo is compared to the generally more all-ages/adult-skewing Studio Ghibli output.
  • Lighthouse Point
  • Mad Wizard's Adorable Daughter: Ponyo.
  • Mama Bear: Lisa sure knows how to handle situations with danger, especially if her son's around. Although she's also the cause of a few dangerous situations herself (see Drives Like Crazy), so Your Mileage May Vary on this point.
  • Married to the Job: Sosuke's dad, which is a real sore spot with Lisa, although it leads to a Crowning Moment of Funny during the "signalling" sequence.
  • Meaningful Name: Granmamare. Basically means "Great Mother of the Sea" ("Mare" is "sea" in Latin).
  • Meaningful Rename: Ponyo insists on it.
  • Meet Cute: Very cute, at that.
  • Magical Girlfriend: Ponyo is a toddler version.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Although Ponyo raised the water level high enough to drown almost all of Tomonoura, no harm seems to have been done to the town, its inhabitants, or any of the fishing ships nearby. The explanations are three-fold: 1. It's a kids' movie. 2. They're probably prepared for flooding, considering they live on an island. 3. The goddess of the sea was in an extremely nice mood that day.
  • No Indoor Voice: Ponyo, more so in the Japanese version.
  • No Social Skills: Ponyo doesn't "get" humans, and thus makes a lot of gaffes—like carrying a bucket and towel to the table, referring to sandwiches as "milk" as the result of a conversation with a breastfeeding mother, and others. She also doesn't understand that when water comes from people's eyes, that means they're sad.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Ponyo's real name is Brunhilde. "Ponyo" is just the name Sousuke gives her. Her father doesn't exactly roll with it, but her mother likes it.
  • Overprotective Dad: Fujimoto all the way
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Where to start with this one?
  • Partial Transformation: Ponyo has an intermediate, amphibian form between her fish- and humanlike forms. Except amphibians don't have chicken legs...
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Ponyo when trying to find Sosuke. Justified since she'd been doused in a powerful magic potion designed to create another spontaneous burst of sea-life, Cambrian Explosion-style. Despite plunging the town into the ocean, she doesn't appear to cause any casualties or even property damage, though.
  • Plucky Girl: Lisa can be considered a grown-up version of the ones who always appear in Miyazaki movies. Think an adult Kiki.
  • Power of Love: The test Sousuke is put to.
  • The Promise: Several are made. Some are broken.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Ponyo's mother.
  • Reality Subtext: Miyazaki made Ponyo as a means of trying to reconcile with his estranged son (the one who directed Tales From Earthsea).
  • Reality Warper: Ponyo (as implied by her dad), since she can cause a tsunami, wipe out at least one whole town, gather up every ship in the sea, and bring the moon a couple thousand miles closer to earth with no ill effects. It's not quite clear whether that was her doing or a result of the magic from that well-thing that she accidentally set loose.
  • Reset Button: The town looks as splendid as ever, considering it has been fully submerged by the ocean. Then again, the goddess of the sea was involved.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Ponyo when she's a fish; can even apply to when she's a human girl.
    • Ponyo's sisters too.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Ponyo has three "stages" of transformation: fish, Mr Toad frog/amphibian thing, and human. When put in context with Fujimoto's talk of evolution and pre-history, Ponyo's speed evolution is a nice touch.
    • Ponyo's sisters breaking her out of her bubble look extremely similar to sperm cells having at an egg.
    • It's not surprising that the movie is crowded with little girls, young mothers and elderly obaa-san, because they're all women at different stages of the life Ponyo desires.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Fujimoto is rather fond of clown-like striped suits.
  • Running Gag: "HAM!!!"
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Sosuke is considerably more calm and reserved than Ponyo.
  • Scenery Porn: It's a Ghibli movie. Though it's a different flavor than usual.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Fujimoto's ship looks like a boat crossed with a flaptor.
    • The old ladies' knick-knack shelf has a mini-bird god in it.
    • When Sosuke puts his captain's hat on he looks a lot like Mei and Satsuki's friend Kanta, or like a young version of Seita.
    • There's a Totoro magnet on the refrigerator in Sosuke's house, Lisa briefly sings a line from the opening song of the same movie ("I'm happy as can be!"), and Ponyo flashes Totoro's signature smile the first time she grows teeth.
    • When Sousuke and Ponyo traverse the flooded town, they come across a tunnel remarkably similar to the one in Spirited Away.
    • The little girl, Kumiko, who Ponyo drenches with water, resembles a young Kiki.
    • The family with the baby resemble Satsuki, Mei and their father from My Neighbor Totoro.
  • Shown Their Work: The underwater life is pretty much an animated paleontology textbook. The kids recognize and name Dipnorhynchus, Bothriolepis, and Gogonasus. Trilobites and Opabinia can be seen in the opening, and just possibly a tardigrade
  • Sleep Cute
  • Soft Water: Waves fell all over the city, but little apparent damage was wrought.
  • A Storm Is Coming
  • Sunken City
  • Tears of Joy: When Sousuke realizes that Ponyo didn't die, once.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: "HAAAAAAAAM!!!"
  • True Love's Kiss: But it's not the big deal that it usually is.
  • Tsundere: Lisa is an interesting adult version of one. Just ask her husband.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Ponyo is a fish with a face, but nobody finds that strange (save one elderly woman who is treated as being a tad paranoid anyway). There's also Ponyo's "chicken/frog legs" when she uses magic, Sousuke's giant toy boat, the underwater jellyfish dome that covers the senior home... The people of this town seem to be pretty chill.

Sosuke: (After seeing a wave with eyes.) That was weird.

  • Weird Moon
  • Weirdness Censor: Nobody seems overly amazed at any supernatural event that occurs. In fact most of the adults continue to believe that Ponyo is a 'goldfish'. See also Unusually Uninteresting Sight.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Fujimoto appears very similar to Jung Zorndyke of Blue Submarine No. 6. In the beginning. He quickly becomes a Harmless Villain because Ponyo accidentally foils his plans to cover the world with a prehistoric ocean and at the end he is only genuinely worried for his daughter and for the planet.
  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue: Exceedingly brief: one shot during the credits shows Ponyo happily playing with the other kids at Sosuke's kindergarten and Fujimoto talking to humans on the surface.
  • Widget Film
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Sosuke, sometimes Up to Eleven. Beyond the heroic scenes he gets, it's impressive how he mans the signal light - he reads, writes and mediates between his parents who just had a fight because his father had to stay out at sea.
    • He also knows an astounding amount about extinct sea life. He even recognizes that all of the fish he sees are from the Devonian.