Ponyo (2008)

7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great visuals

Strange adaptation of The Little Mermaid is hard to get into

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Ponyo

Studio:  Studio Ghibli

Genre(s):  Animated/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Family

Release Date(s):  July 19, 2008

MPAA Rating:  G


I’m just a fish, sittin’ here on top of a jellyfish…

A fish-child named Brunhilde lives under the sea but dreams of the surface world. When she becomes trapped in a bottle and is discovered by a boy named Sōsuke, Brunhilde heals Sōsuke’s injured hand…coming in contact with human blood. Sōsuke renames Brunhilde “Ponyo”, but Ponyo is taken back to the sea by her father Fujimoto. Refuses to abandon the surface world, Ponyo transforms into a human girl, causing the balance of the world to be threatened. Now, Ponyo must decide between being a princess under the sea or a human child in the surface world…and the fate of the planet might hang in the balance.


Water…blobs…will attack you!!!

Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Ponyo (or 崖の上のポニョ Gake no Ue no Ponyo) is a reimagining of the 1837 Hans Christian Anderson story “The Little Mermaid”.  It was relatively well received by critics and did well at the box-office in Japan with a limited release by Walt Disney.

Ponyo is a strange movie. The characters interaction with Brunhilde/Ponyo is just strange from the get-go, and it is hard to comprehend how to perceive the character. The events of the movie also have a really strange, surreal feeling that doesn’t really let the story anchor itself in either reality or fantasy.


That’s right…I don’t just walk on water, I run!!!

The story is a rather loose adaptation as mentioned. Disney’s The Little Mermaid also played with the rather morbid story, but this one leads to the lighter side of the story. There is a small time where Ponyo could become a victim of being transformed into sea foam (something which was random in both the original story and here), but it isn’t very scary or likely so kids won’t be too worried.

I had a hard time with the characters of Ponyo. Ponyo herself was just weird looking and I didn’t know if people could see this. As a fish, she didn’t really look like a fish (she had hair and a face), but it was unclear if that wasn’t how others perceived her. Also once the Earth was flooded and giant fish and creatures are essentially invading the flooded land, no one seems that shocked, surprised, or concerned. I did rather enjoy the almost E.T. like subplot with Sōsuke’s parents having marriage problems due to Sōsuke’s father’s job. The American version also contained great actors providing the voices including Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Frankie Jonas, Lily Tomlin, Cloris Leachman, and Betty White.


Mom, I really liked it when you sang with the Holograms…

Visually, like most of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, Ponyo is great fun. The colors and looks of the film just pop-off the screen and bring as much life to the story as a great traditional cinematographer. I just wish that the story lended itself to more of these great visuals, and I do find the Mother of the Sea (Ponyo’s mother) a bit odd looking when compared to the other characters.

I’m always a sucker for Hayao Miyazaki, though Ponyo is a bit too out there for me. Much like Spirited Away, there feels like there is a lot of weirdness for weirdness’ sake in Ponyo. Unlike Spirited Away, the movie doesn’t have as much heart with the weirdness and relies even heavier on the visuals. Ponyo is a good movie, but just doesn’t measure up to some of Miyazaki’s better films.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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