Anime / Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea
aka: Ponyo

"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 2008 film by anime master Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Very, 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 and be with the boy she loves.

In comparison with Miyazaki's other works, this is a return to his more whimsical, Slice of Life movies such as My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. However, some long-time Miyazaki fans found it hard to swallow that the film was targeted at the under-ten set. It is also the studio's first film in years not to feature any CGI, being completely hand-drawn.

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.

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea contains examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: We have Brunhilde (Ponyo), Fujimoto, Granmamare, Lisa and Sosuke.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Ponyo's mother Granmammare is apparently the personification of the sea. She is also an archetype, the Great Mother.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Granted, Ponyo isn't an ordinary sea creature, but normally putting sea creatures in fresh water is deadly to said sea creatures.
  • Bad Moon Rising: Way too large and drawing the tides way too high.
  • Berserk Button: Don't insult Ponyo in fish form or threaten Sosuke or she'll spit water on you.
  • Big Eater: Ponyo, who managed (in fish form) to gobble down a piece of ham as big as she was.
  • Blood Magic: Drinking human blood gives Ponyo the ability to become human too.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: But she becomes human.
  • Bullet Time: Sosuke running from Fujimoto with Ponyo in the later half of the movie.
  • Catch Phrase:
    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 Sosuke because he is so innocent.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Being completely alien to human life, Ponyo acts like an overexcited 5-year-old, which she pretty much is, when living with Sosuke. An overexcited five-year-old who accidentally floods a heavily populated island just to see that cute boy she likes again...
  • Cosy 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.
  • Declaration of Protection
    Sosuke: Don't worry Ponyo, I will always protect you. I promise..
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Ponyo goes barefoot for nearly the entire film. "Nearly" because the rest of the time she's a fish.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul"
    My name is not Brunhilde, it's Ponyo!
  • 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.
  • Fun Bag Air Bag: Sosuke crashes into an old lady this way while carrying Ponyo.
  • Genki Girl: Ponyo. She is a 5-year-old, after all.
  • The Glomp: Once Lisa and Sosuke arrive back home, a large wave washes Ponyo a short distance away from it. Upon seeing Sosuke getting out of the car, she immediately runs toward him and does this.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: 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.
  • Handy Feet: Ponyo's feet act like hands. One scene has her toes wiggle very much like fingers, while Sosuke attempts to do the same to no avail.
  • 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.
  • Heroes Want Redheads
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Played straight with Ponyo and Sosuke at first.
  • Humans Are Bastards: 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.
  • 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.
  • Imprinting: Ponyo becomes imprinted on Sosuke after she drinks on his blood.
  • Interspecies Romance: Ponyo the goldfish-youkai-thing and Sosuke the human, also Fujimoto the ambiguous humanoid youkai-creature and Granmamare the goddess.
  • 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
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Fujimoto, though possibly subverted (see Fridge page). Toki becomes this near the end of the film.
  • 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!!!
    • Ponyo ATE the large ham!
  • 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
  • Limited Wardrobe: In Fujimoto's room there hangs an identical blue and white striped jacket to the one he is already wearing. However, later in the film he changes to a red and white striped one.
  • Mad Wizard's Adorable Daughter: Ponyo.
  • Magical Girlfriend: Ponyo is a toddler version.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Mobile Fishbowl: Fujimoto is forced to take a back-mounted machine with him whenever he ventures onto dry land, as it carries a vat of salt water that he must spray around himself to keep himself humidified. Still, he is biologically human, which requires him to wear a bubble underwater.
  • 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. Though it's never shown or mentioned how the rest of the world is affected with the moon being too close and the tides risen up.
  • No Indoor Voice: Ponyo, more so in the Japanese version.
  • Non-Dubbed Grunts: During the scene where Fujimoto finds Ponyo and takes her back from Sosuke, when the latter runs into the water to search for Ponyo and Lisa sees, her cry of "Sosuke!" (provided by Tomoko Yamaguchi) is kept from the Japanese version, as is Sosuke's crying afterward.
  • 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.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Liam Neeson doesn't hide his Ballymena accent when he played Fujimoto in the English dub.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Ponyo's real name is Brunhilde. "Ponyo" is just the name Sosuke 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?
  • Parents as People
  • 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. Impliedly, Fujimoto could be this as well.
  • Plucky Girl:
    • Ponyo, to the point of being this trope's poster child.
    • 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 Sosuke is put through, to see if Ponyo will be allowed to stay with him.
  • The Promise: Several are made. Some are broken.
  • Puppy Love: Ponyo and Sosuke, although the ending seems to imply they'll grow up as brother and sister.
  • Rapunzel Hair:
    • Ponyo's mother has never-ending hair!
    • Even Fujimoto's easily reaches his knees.
  • 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, 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. Given the fact that he's several centuries old, he probably knows how ridiculous he looks to most people and just really doesn't care.
  • 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 Sosuke 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.
    • Somewhat unexpectedly, the movie also references The Ring of the Nibelung. Ponyo's original name is Brunhilde, and like the character of the same name from the opera, she's a supernatural being who defies her father and falls in love with a human. In case someone thought all this is coincidental, the connection is further emphasized when her leitmotif is orchstrated as a pastiche of the "Ride of the Valkyries" during the climactic tsunami scene.
  • 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: Ponyo and Sosuke doze off on the sofa together.
  • Soft Water: Huge waves fell all over the city, but little apparent damage was wrought.
  • A Storm Is Coming
  • Sunken City
  • Tears of Joy: When Sosuke realizes that Ponyo hasn't died.
  • Third-Person Person: Ponyo when she start talking.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Fujimoto is really tall, but Granmamare in her normal form is at least a hundred feet! She can shrink herself a lot to resemble a human (sort of), but even in this form, she looks about eight feet tall!
  • Trademark Favorite Food: "HAAAAAAAAM!!!"
  • True Love's Kiss: But it's not the big deal that it usually is, probably since the protagonists are young children around the age of five.
  • 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, Sosuke'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. It's implied (but never outright stated) that humans have a hard time perceiving magic, (the big example is that the fishermen comment on the waves, but not that they are made of watery fish) and that Sousuke never saw the eyes, and other than the one woman, nobody noticed that Ponyo had a human face.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Fujimoto, though his good intentions only extend to life in the ocean. 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Ponyo, while still possessed of her potion-boosted fair-folk sea powers blesses an infant child. While her parents help clean up the damage she caused at the end of the movie they never actually reverse it, and the child is never mentioned again. So there is a random kid in town with the blessings of a sea-goddess. Take that Aquaman!
  • 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. Possibly justified, as prehistoric fish are to the Japanese what dinosaurs are to large areas of the Western world note , so a 7 year old could very well know a lot about those fish.
  • You Are What You Hate: Fujimoto vis-à-vis humanity.
  • Youkai: Fujimoto, Ponyo, and Ponyo's sisters are ambiguous supernatural creatures that are most likely youkai (or half-youkai demigods, in the cases of Ponyo and her sisters).
  • Younger Than They Look: Sosuke is five years old, but looks like he can already be about seven or eight.

Alternative Title(s): Ponyo