Follow TV Tropes


Headscratchers / Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Go To

  • Character Development. Did I miss it in the movie? Where did it go? CD was a defining attribute of Miyazaki films. What happened?
    • Well, considering it's a movie about a five-year old boy and his basically equivalent aged friend... I think the best CD you're going to get is from Fujimoto going from hating all humans to letting Ponyo stay with her human friend. But, really, the kids are "five"- cut them some slack.
    • It's not too much to hope for some solid character development when this movie has an entire subplot about the continuously-strained relationship between Sosuke's parents.
    • Advertisement:
    • The movie's beauty in it's simplicity. Think about it: Does Sosuke's family need to develop anymore? The mother is a little exhausted, but knows how to smile through it. The father is usually away on business (much to the chagrin of his wife), but is by no means neglectful, and is pretty much always thinking about his family. Sosuke, while a bit awkward, is a bright, compassionate, and respectful child. Their story arc is much more about the power of determination, love, and inner strength, and by not changing, they earn their happy ending. I feel Sosuke's family is meant to be a contrast to Ponyo's more scattered, disconnected family.
  • Okay, I know everyone here is gonna hate me for this, but as you know, most of the time, long term relationships don't work out. So Ponyo and Soskue love each other now, whats keeping them together later in life?
    • Our hope, I guess. I know what you mean, I also think it's too much asking a five-year-old (IIRC) boy to keep such a promise, but, hey, it's a cute movie! Maybe the sea mage and goddess will lend a hand on the matter as well...
    • Advertisement:
    • Wait, another question, if one of the kids ceased to love the other, would the world go out of balance again? IIRC Soskue telling Ponyo's mom he loves her apparently fixed everything.
      • I thought that the main issue was "You cannot be human and magic at the same time." Ponyo was a human with magic powers, and that's not allowed. But all she has to do is choose one or other other, and then everything will be fine. Soske's love inspired Ponyo to give up her magic permanently, and that saved the world. So even if something happened to Soske later on, the world wouldn't be doomed again, because Ponyo would still lack magic.
    • This troper got the impression that the love thing between Sosuke and Ponyo was more of a sibling or friend-type of love, mainly because she found it hard to believe that two children of preschool age would think about each other in a romantic way.
    • Advertisement:
    • Also, the concept of true love is a foundational premise in this kind of fantasy. You could ask the same question about the heroines in any Disney movie.
    • Oy, it's not always romantic! As a troper mentioned above, they are five years old. They probably don't complicate the concept of love with specifics. As far as they are concerned, they love each other. End of story. How that love blooms, well, who knows. Maybe they end up married, or stay as friends, or brother and sister. The fact is, the bond they share is strong enough to last a lifetime. They will never cease to love each other.
      • This. Furthermore, I assume that The Power of Love will keep them bonded. I mean, they sealed the deal with a literal kiss.
    • This troper recalls that Sosuke said to the sea goddess: "I love ALL the Ponyos!" This seems to indicate that it is Sosuke's love for the living things of the ocean that has brought the world back into balance, not (or not just) his affection for Ponyo herself.
  • Also, how the hell did Lisa adapt to the fact that this girl just comes up, tackle hugs her son, then both claim that the girl is actually his pet goldfish turned human who now has to live with them so fast? You'd think she'd be more skeptical.
    • I think she was just going along with her son's story, but came up with a far more reasonable explanation in her head (for instance, she's a girl he met at the school).
    • Considering everything that was going on, I think Lisa had far more pressing things on her mind than worrying about where Ponyo had come from. A storm was going on, the children needed dried off and fed, and she didn't know whether her husband and the people at the senior center were safe or not. I actually found it refreshing that Lisa focused on what was important at the time, rather than cause unnecessary tension by going Agent Scully on Sosuke.
      • It could also be the same magic that means nobody notices that this little kid is running around with a fish with a human head...
    • Also, the entire movie runs on Little Kid Logic. When the first candle runs out in the boat during Sosuke's extended Crowning Sequence of Awesome, do they have another? Of course they do. Are any of the evacuating townspeople concerned about the safety of two five-year-olds heading towards the disaster zone? Is there any motivation to stop them? Of course not, because everything will turn out just fine. (Although, when Ponyo gets sleepy and starts fishifying, things do not look like they are going well, but that's to raise the dramatic tension.) Or, Ponyo is a Reality Warper.
      • The fact that townpeople are not quite "concerned" may relate to Japanese culture. In Japan, it is known that toddlers go to school by themselves (with cell phones and no-talking-to strangers rule).
    • It's kind of a Miyazaki thing. You'll notice that in some of his other movies, the adults there are also quick to accept the existence of magic and magical beings. Hell, in Ponyo, only ONE PERSON reacts strangely to the fact that the fish has a human face, and it's not "A fish with a human face? How weird! Must be a new species! Call an itchyologist!", it's "A fish with a human face? This is bad luck and the result of magic which totally exists!".
      • Dude, there's a sea goddess in this movie and Ponyo literally preforms magic. 1) What most people don't seem to realise is that the world of Ponyo is an Urban Fantasy, like most Ghibli films. Magic is a normal thing in their world. 2) Goldfish in their world are what Ponyo's species is called. 3) The old lady believes that goldfish brings tsunamis in the same way that some people people believe that black cats bring bad luck.
  • So what does this mean for the environment now that fish which were dead millions of years ago have returned?
    • I think they died again (or returned to their own time) when Ponyo's reality warp died down again.
      • Or if they didn't it may not matter. Some fish from long ago, for example the Coelacanth (of What Measure Is a Non-Cute? fame) are still around, and with the lack of depth with which humans have explored the oceans, some of the dino-fish could be out there RIGHT NOW.
    • The sea goddess says in the end that all will return to normal, so I assume the prehistoric fish go away too.
    • Who knows? Maybe Ponyo brought back the Coelacanth?
  • Why did Sosuke's mom want to get home SO badly that she braved a typhoon? She just left only a few hours later to go back too!
    • Because the house up on the hill, equipped with a signal light, serves as an auxiliary lighthouse for ships out at sea, so it's essential to have someone up there especially during a typhoon. Lisa says as much to Sosuke when she leaves him and Ponyo to go help the old ladies.
    • And because her child and another little kid were at home. She's a loving mom and loving moms tend to worry a lot about their children and want to protect them, even if their children are mature and can be left alone for short periods of time.
  • How did they keep the breast milk scene in and retain a G rating?
    • This is the MPAA we're talking about. Who knows why how or why they rate anything?
    • It was toned down a bit, even then. You can actually get away with quite a bit and still keep a G rating, which Disney has proven time and again over the decades.
    • Because breasts aren't being used in a remotely sexual context there, and not everyone has built in hangups that make the mention of them inherently dirty. A mother feeding a baby seems pretty darn G-Rated to me.
    • Also, the age of the children this movie is being targeted to—that is, under ten—would have a good chance of having infant siblings and be well aware how mommy feeds baby.
  • Remember Lisa criticizing Fujimoto for spraying what she didn't know was 'the purest ocean water'? Why is it in Japanese, they translate it to "insecticide", but in the English dub, they say "weed killer"? Do they think we can't wrap our minds around the word?
    • It's possibly to do with fitting the Mouth Flaps, and possibly simply due to slight differences in translation - remember, the film is aimed at children, and perhaps "insecticide" in Japanese is as simple an expression as "weedkiller" in English.
  • Those bubbles that appear around the characters when they are in water... what exactly are they? Air? Purest Ocean Water? LCL? Because all humans are surrounded by one under water, I thought it was air, but when Ponyo is trapped in one by Fujimoto when she attempts to transform, she breathes bubbles.
    • Just magic, likely. If the moon can fall, then our water can still be breathable.
    • Super-duper dense bubbles plus some magic to make the water breathable.
  • So what now? Does Ponyo fall off the cliff into the sea? It reminds me of when I watched the teaser for The Princess and the Frog, and I made a joke about hoping that when the princess does kiss the frog, she's not still holding him over a balcony. Here, Ponyo's floating over the cliff. Are Sosuke and his mother going to have to rescue her as their first act after her becoming permanently human?
    • Fujimoto catches her or something?
  • What kind of a five-year old can identify prehistoric fish from the "Devonian Age"?
    • It's not weird. North American kids who are into prehistoric life/dinosaurs know about things like the brachyosaurus and the velociraptor and the T. rex., and can talk about the "Jurassic age," because in the U.S., we have placed like Montana full of the prehistoric fossils of land animals and kids learn that stuff. The exact same kid in Japan would instead know about prehistoric sea creatures and the Devonian age because Japan was underwater during that time, so the fossils that are found are sea creatures, and THOSE kids know about THAT stuff. It's just a culturally different way of learning about "dinosaur times." It's not at all strange to think of an American boy saying "Look! A triceratops!", is it?
    • Kids knowing the names of dinosaurs at a young age is not at all unheard of. Heck, I was able to correctly pronoounce "Triceratops", "Tyrannosaurus", and "Apatosaurus" (To the point where I annoyed my teachers whenever I corrected them about the pronounciations) when I was in kindergarten, and I even gave a lecture on dinosaurs in the first grade. It's really not that different from a child gaining knowledge about anything he/she has a particular interest in. Would be any different from a kid who can correctly name the model and year of a particular car? Or a kid who can tell you the names of five different species of canine? Not at all.
    • Ponyo is a magic fish child. I just assumed that she magically knew the name of every single fish species that ever existed, just because of her origin. And I figured that Soske was just repeating whatever she said, not that he had any prior knowledge of ancient fish.
  • I only wonder one thing, how did that conversation go between Lisa and her husband about Ponyo, after the fact? It kind of seemed like she was going to end up adopting the girl.
    • She probably told him the truth. He probably saw her transform, and if they needed to ask her birth parents to show up to prove it all, they likely would. Plus, he seems a bit like a Henpecked Husband and after being gone for so long, the last thing he'd want to do is get on Lisa's bad side.
  • After watching the Japanese version of the movie with subtitles. I've been scratching my head ever since trying to figure out this nagging question. Why Sosuke uses First-Name Basis with his own mother?
    • There are in fact parts of Japan where families refer to one another by first names as a sign of affection and familiarity. Like many cultural behaviours, it seems odd to outsiders who don't practice this, but perfectly normal to those who do.
  • While I enjoyed the movie thoroughly, I'll admit a few things did bug me. It does feel like there were elements missings, which could be a result of them making the movie largely more for kids this time around. For one, Fujimoto's plot seems to get booted out of the story once Ponyo mucks up the well, with not even something like him saying "Maybe I'll postpone the new sea age." Of course, it's understandable that they probably couldn't work in a conceivable climax that would work with Sosuke's young age and not suddenly have him pulling off unrealistic heroic moments. Only other little nitpicks would be that they don't quite explain why Ponyo falls asleep, as Fujimoto seems to imply he or his wife were the ones making her sleepy. Overall, it still works nicely for a kids movie, and the faults, if anything, should be easily ignored when considering it's just that, a kid's movie.
    • I thought Ponyo getting sleepy was from using so much magic. Also why when tired/ not trying she turns back into a fish (best example offhand is when she watches them drive away, sadly turns fishy, sees them come for her and while excited goes human again...but slowly because she is already exhausted.) Being her parents, they would know to expect it.
    • Fujimoto has an invested interest in not causing human extinction once his daughter and eventual grandchildren are growing up on land.
  • The mom is a crazy driver even when there's no emergency. It's even worse because she has a kid in the car with her. Why does no one acknowledge this?
    • It's a Miyazaki flick, main characters are always driving like maniacs, be it a car here, a broomstick or Fujimoto's boat.
    • From a Doylist perspective, the purpose of the crazy-driving scene was to establish that she's really good at it. This comes in handy during the tsunami scene.
  • Why is Fujimoto suddenly so concerned about the sea level rising? Wasn't that his plan to begin with? Drown out humanity and let nature thrive outside of their influence?
    • But the moon falling destroys the balance of the entire world.
  • So when Fujimoto is putting his elixirs in the well, he talks about how if "one living creature" got into the elixir then the balance of nature would be disrupted. Sure enough, that's what happens when Ponyo floods the room and opens the door to the well. But... he's planning to eventually dump it all into the sea anyway, bringing about a new Devonian Age (and killing off all the humans somehow). Wouldn't that irreversibly upset the balance of nature and destroy the world? And also, how come Fujimoto can look human (even though he apparently isn't one) and use magic, but Ponyo can't?
    • To answer your questions in the order they were asked. 1. The mix wasn't ready to use yet, he wanted to wait until the well was full on his own time. 2. He wasn't gonna dump it, he specifically said when they well gets full the new age begins. In other words earth would be screwed the second he filled the well to the brim. 3. Fujimoto used to be human before he married the Goddess of Mercy.

Alternative Title(s): Ponyo On A Cliff By The Sea


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: