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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids learn about the importance of not polluting the environment and of not judging a book by its cover.
The film's many messages -- most embodied in the main character of Sosuke -- include being open to change, taking care of your pets, being kind to the elderly, sharing with others, and being brave enough to face obstacles. Sosuke and Ponyo's adventure together also demonstrates compassion, courage, curiosity, and empathy.
Positive Role Models
Sosuke, only 5, is more responsible and selfless than some young adults. His love for Ponyo, both as a fish and then as a little girl, is remarkable, as is his determination to find his mother after the storm. He's also incredibly kind to the tenants at the retirement home where his mother works. Sosuke takes to heart his mother's advice not to judge others by their appearance, which is why he's so willing to take care of Ponyo whether she's a fish or a girl. Ponyo and Sosuke both demonstrate compassion, courage, curiosity, and empathy.
Ponyo stands out as a brave young girl. Her mother, Gran Mamare, a powerful ocean goddess, and Sosuke's mother, Lisa, provide examples of strong adult women. Although not technically a single mother, Lisa appears to be raising Sosuke mostly on her own while her husband works at sea. The women whom Lisa cares for in the nursing home serve as additional maternal figures. Amid fantastical elements, director Hayao Miyazki infuses the film with attentive details of everyday life, from the depiction of an idyllic seaside community in Japan to its mouth-watering animation of Japanese food.
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Violence & Scariness
On a couple of occasions, Sosuke thinks Ponyo has died or is lost at sea. There's a tsunami, and things get a bit tense when Sosuke and his mom drive back to their cliffside home. When Ponyo finds his mom's car but not his mother, he begins to cry. For a while it's also unclear whether Sosuke's father, a boat captain, has survived the storm. The waves that turn into fish could scare very young children. Some little kids might also be confused about why Lisa leaves Sosuke and Ponyo during a dangerous storm.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Ponyo's parents embrace, and Ponyo plants a kiss on Sosuke's cheek and hugs him a lot. Discussions about true love, Ponyo and Sosuke growing up together and loving each other forever, etc.
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Ponyo's father calls humans "stupid," and Sosuke's mom sends a "Bug Off" message to her husband using Morse code. The word "weirdo" is also used a couple of times.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Sosuke's mom drinks what looks like a beer after finding out that her husband won't be coming home from work. Later she appears to be "passed out" from exhaustion, but she could also be tipsy.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ponyo, a stunning adventure from anime master Hayao Miyazaki, is one of his most kid-friendly films to date, with memorable characters and positive messages. Strong female characters play a central role, including the titular Ponyo (voiced by Yuria Nara in the original version and Noah Lindsey Cyrus in the English dub) and Sosuke's (Hiroki Doi/Frankie Jonas) mother Lisa (Tomoko Yamaguchi/Tina Fey). There's little violence, although a few scenes during and after a climactic storm may disturb the youngest viewers. Some scenes in which parents and other characters seem to be missing might also be upsetting. Parents may be put off by the idea that two 5-year-old characters must at one point fend for themselves without supervision -- but this is, after all, a fairy tale-like story. The film champions the young heroes' demonstration of compassion, courage, curiosity, and empathy. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a classic Miyazaki film, from the enchanting anime style to the recurring theme of humanity's relationship with nature.. And, once again, Ponyo features several unmistakably strong female characters: Ponyo is quite literally a force of nature, and her mother the ocean queen (Yūki Amami/Cate Blanchett) is even more powerful. Plus there's Sosuke's mom and the trio of women she tends to (Tokie Hidari/Cloris Leachman, Tomoko Naraoka/Betty White, and Kazuko Yoshiyuki/Lily Tomlin) at a nursing home, who form a sort of chorus for the film. And there is, at the heart of the Ponyo (and every Miyazaki story), a hero's journey.
Ponyo is just like a real 5-year-old girl -- in awe of the world, adventurous, hilarious. Sosuke, on the other hand, is wise beyond his years, courageous, responsible, and loving. Those who dive in to Miyazaki's world will be rewarded with a humorous, touching fable that will leave young children wide-eyed, although possibly demanding ham (you'll see!).
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.