Ponyo (2008): A Magical Adventure on the Cliff

Ponyo (2008)

Ponyo (Japanese: 崖の上のポニョ, Hepburn: Gake no Ue no Ponyo, lit. ‘Ponyo on the Cliff’) is a mesmerizing animated fantasy film crafted by the visionary Hayao Miyazaki. Released in 2008, this masterpiece was animated by Studio Ghibli, enchanting audiences worldwide with its captivating narrative and breathtaking visuals. Let’s delve into the magical world of Ponyo, where dreams merge with reality and the bonds of friendship transcend all boundaries.


Japanese Title 崖の上のポニョ (Gake no Ue no Ponyo)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Produced by Toshio Suzuki
Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki
  • Tomoko Yamaguchi
  • Kazushige Nagashima
  • Yūki Amami
  • George Tokoro
  • Yuria Nara
  • Hiroki Doi
  • Rumi Hiiragi
  • Akiko Yano
  • Kazuko Yoshiyuki
  • Tomoko Naraoka
Cinematography Atsushi Okui
Edited by Takeshi Seyama
Music by Joe Hisaishi
Production company Studio Ghibli
Distributed by Toho
Release date July 19, 2008
Running time 101 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Budget ¥3.4 billion (US$34 million)
Box office US$204.8 million

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Fujimoto, a wizard turned underwater dweller, resides beneath the waves with his daughter Brunhilde and her many more minor sisters, resembling goldfish with human faces. During an underwater excursion in their submarine, Brunhilde strays away atop a jellyfish, encountering a fishing trawler that inadvertently traps her in a glass jar. Washed ashore, she is rescued by Sōsuke, a young boy who cuts his finger while freeing her from the jar. Brunhilde heals his wound with her magic, earning his devotion and a new name, Ponyo.

Meanwhile, Fujimoto, distraught over his daughter’s disappearance, unleashes his wave spirits in search of her, leaving Sōsuke bewildered and heartbroken. Amant about her human identity, Ponyo undergoes a transformative process fueled by Sōsuke’s blood, defying her father’s wishes. With her sisters’ help, Ponyo embraces her humanity, inadvertently triggering a magical imbalance that unleashes a tsunami.

Reunited with Sōsuke, Ponyo finds refuge in his home while Lisa, Sōsuke’s mother, does her duties at a nursing home amidst the chaos. As the ocean encroaches upon the land, Gran Mamare, Ponyo’s mother and the Goddess of Mercy, intervenes to restore balance. Anxious about the consequences, Fujimoto sets a test for Sōsuke to prove Ponyo’s worthiness to live as a human.

Navigating the submerged landscape with Ponyo’s magic, Sōsuke and Ponyo embark on a quest to find Lisa. Along the way, they encounter Fujimoto, who warns them of nature’s peril and pleads for Ponyo’s return. Captured by Fujimoto, they are led to safety in the protected nursing home, where Sōsuke confronts the gravity of Ponyo’s choice.

In a poignant moment, Gran Mamare presents Sōsuke with a choice: to love Ponyo regardless of her form. Sōsuke affirms his love, prompting Ponyo to relinquish her magic for a chance at humanity. As nature finds equilibrium again, Ponyo undergoes a final transformation, sealing her bond with Sōsuke in a kiss, as their world is restored to its rightful harmony.

A Tale of Friendship and Magic

Ponyo follows the extraordinary journey of a goldfish named Ponyo and a young boy named Sōsuke. Fujimoto, a wizard residing underwater, is Ponyo’s father. One day, while on an adventure with her siblings, Ponyo embarks on a daring escape and finds herself stranded in a glass jar on the shore. Here, she encounters Sōsuke, a kind-hearted five-year-old boy who rescues her and names her Ponyo. Their encounter sparks a profound connection, setting the stage for an unforgettable adventure.

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As Ponyo and Sōsuke grow closer, Ponyo’s desire to become human intensifies. However, her newfound powers, fueled by Sōsuke’s blood, trigger a series of magical events that disrupt the balance of nature. Fujimoto, frantic over his daughter’s disappearance, unleashes powerful forces to retrieve her, plunging Ponyo and Sōsuke into a whirlwind of magic and danger.

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A Journey of Discovery and Redemption

Amidst the chaos, Ponyo’s transformation into a human accelerates, guided by her unwavering bond with Sōsuke. Together, they navigate the challenges Ponyo’s newfound humanity poses, facing trials that test their courage and resilience. As they journey through a world teetering on the brink of imbalance, they discover the true power of love, friendship, and sacrifice.

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Gran Mamare, Ponyo’s mother and the Goddess of Mercy, presents Sōsuke with a fateful choice to determine Ponyo’s destiny. To restore the balance of nature, Ponyo must embrace her humanity fully, relinquishing her magical powers. It’s a decision that will shape their futures and the world’s fate.

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A Triumph of Animation and Imagination

Ponyo captivates audiences with its stunning animation and evocative storytelling. Miyazaki’s meticulous attention to detail brings the enchanting world of Ponyo to life, from the lush underwater landscapes to the vibrant coastal villages. The film’s rich visual tapestry and heartfelt narrative create an immersive experience that resonates with viewers of all ages.

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The film’s English-language release introduced Ponyo to a global audience, earning widespread acclaim for its universal themes and timeless appeal. Directed by John Lasseter and produced by The Kennedy/Marshall Company, the English dub captures the magic of the original Japanese version, ensuring that Ponyo’s enchanting tale reaches audiences worldwide.

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A Legacy of Inspiration and Wonder

Ponyo continues to enchant audiences and critics alike, leaving an indelible mark on the world of animation. Its enduring legacy is a testament to Miyazaki’s unparalleled creativity and vision, inspiring generations of storytellers and artists to dream boldly and embrace the magic of imagination.

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As Ponyo’s journey unfolds on the screen, it reminds us of the power of love, friendship, and the boundless possibilities of the human spirit. In a world filled with uncertainty, Ponyo’s timeless message of hope and resilience resonates more profoundly than ever, inviting us to embark on our adventures and discover the magic that lies within.

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Box Office

Upon its debut in the United States and Canada, “Ponyo” amassed $3,585,852 across 927 screens, boasting a per-screen average of $3,868. Despite opening at number nine, its box office performance gradually escalated, culminating in $15,743,471 domestically and $187,461,411 internationally, amassing a worldwide gross of $203,204,882. The film was subsequently released on DVD and Blu-ray formats, along with a DVD/Plush Toy bundle, on March 2, 2010.

Critical Response

“Ponyo” garnered widespread critical acclaim. By aggregating 174 reviews, Rotten Tomatoes reported a commendable 91% approval rating, with an average score of 7.6/10. The site’s consensus hailed it as a visually enchanting fairy tale, resonating with both children and fans of director Hayao Miyazaki. Metacritic corroborated this acclaim, assigning the film a weighted average score of 86 out of 100, signifying “universal acclaim” based on 29 reviews.

The Japan Times awarded “Ponyo” four out of five stars, lauding its simplistic yet profound thematic elements and visual artistry, drawing parallels to Miyazaki’s beloved classic, “My Neighbor Totoro.”

Anime Diet praised the film’s translation quality, asserting that it effectively conveyed the essence of Miyazaki’s vision without impeding the joy and delight intended for viewers. Despite minor pacing concerns, “Ponyo” earned an impressive rating of 88%.

Critics echoed this sentiment at the Venice International Film Festival with predominantly positive reviews. Wendy Ide of The Times likened the film’s spirited narrative to a tale spun by an exuberant child, awarding it 4 out of 5 stars. Renowned critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times hailed “Ponyo” as magical, attributing its enchanting allure to Miyazaki’s unparalleled artistry and universal charm, awarding it a perfect four-star rating.


“Ponyo” garnered significant recognition and accolades:

  • It is rated #2 on Dentsu’s esteemed “2008 Hit Products in Japan” list, second only to the Wii console.
  • It was selected as an entrant in the prestigious 65th Venice International Film Festival, where it received a special mention at the Bologna Future Film Festival for its exceptional artistic and expressive quality in animating the imaginative world of master filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki.
  • In 2009, “Ponyo” clinched five awards at the 8th annual Tokyo Anime Awards, including “Anime of the Year” and “Best Domestic Feature.” Hayao Miyazaki was awarded Best Director and Best Original Story, while Noboru Yoshida received recognition for Best Art Direction.
  • At the 32nd Japan Academy Prize, the film triumphed in Animation of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Music, further solidifying its acclaim and impact in animated cinema.

In conclusion, Ponyo stands as a testament to the transformative power of storytelling and the enduring magic of Studio Ghibli. With its enchanting tale, breathtaking animation, and universal themes, Ponyo continues to captivate audiences and inspire wonder with each viewing. As we journey alongside Ponyo and Sōsuke, we are reminded of the beauty of friendship, the human spirit’s resilience, and the imagination’s boundless possibilities. So, let us immerse ourselves in the magical world of Ponyo, where dreams take flight and miracles await around every corner.

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Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Date Created: 2024-06-22 14:35

Editor's Rating:

Gallery Ponyo (2008)

Images: Ponyo (2008) Studio Ghibli. All images published under Creative Commons ShareAlike licenses

FAQs about Ponyo

What inspired Hayao Miyazaki to create Ponyo?

Hayao Miyazaki was inspired by his experiences in the seaside town of Tomonoura and the works of Natsume Sōseki, notably “The Gate.”

How was Ponyo’s animation style different from previous Studio Ghibli films?

Ponyo’s animation featured solid and straightforward lines, prioritizing hand-drawn animation over computer-generated imagery to capture the essence of motion and emotion.

What was the significance of Ponyo’s transformation into a human?

Ponyo’s transformation symbolizes her desire to embrace humanity and the sacrifices necessary to restore the balance of nature.

How did Ponyo resonate with audiences worldwide?

Ponyo’s universal themes of love, friendship, and resilience resonated with audiences of all ages, making it a beloved classic in animation.

What is Ponyo’s legacy in the world of animation?

Ponyo’s legacy inspires and wonders, inspiring storytellers and artists to dream boldly and embrace the magic of imagination for generations to come.

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