Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Ponyo Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Miyazaki's stunning adventure is geared to younger kids.
  • G
  • 2009
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 5+
Based on 93 reviews

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 101 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids learn about the important of not polluting the environment and of not judging a book by its cover.

Positive Messages

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.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The movie's female characters are all quite brave, powerful, and strong -- especially Ponyo, her mother, and Lisa. 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 elderly ladies 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.

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.

Sexy Stuff

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.


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.

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.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this stunning adventure from anime master Hayao Miyazaki is one of his most kid-friendly films to date, with strong characters and positive messages. 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byHollyworld September 12, 2009

Good one for older than 4 set who've watched a few movies

I was a bit reluctant to see this movie with my 6 year old daughter after reading some of the reviews, but was glad I did.
First, to clarify, the mother didn... Continue reading
Parent of a 2, 4, and 9-year-old Written byFinsoria January 28, 2019

This film is great for all ages.

Studio Ghibli produces beautiful films for people of all ages. This one in particular is enjoyable regardless of age. Anyone can appreciate it. It's Hayao... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old May 12, 2016


OK so ponyo is a mutant ham loving fish. There are 1000 ponyos
but the main one is the oldest.My sis likes it shes like 3 so good.I love it too.
Kid, 12 years old August 31, 2012

Totally Amazing

I am a huge fan of Studio Ghibli's films. The animation is fantastic and the plot is very cute. I don't know why people are having a cow over the brea... Continue reading

What's the story?

Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid tale, PONYO follows a goldfish princess named Brunhilde (voiced by Noah Lindsey Cyrus) who wants to explore beyond the sea. When she ends up nearly lifeless on the shore of a small oceanfront village, 5-year-old Sosuke (Frankie Jonas) rescues her, renames her Ponyo, and vows to take care of her. Ponyo's father, an undersea sorcerer who seems human (Liam Neeson), recaptures her -- but Ponyo is determined to use her father's magic to turn into a girl and return to Sosuke. By unleashing her powers, Ponyo does transform into a girl, but she also disrupts the balance of nature and causes a tsunami that nearly destroys Sosuke and his mother Lisa's (Tina Fey) village.

Is it any good?

This is a classic Miyazaki film, from the enchanting anime style to the recurring theme of humanity's relationship with our surroundings (in this case, the sea). You just have to overlook the Disneyfication of the voice casting (you can just picture the pitch meeting: "We'll get Miley's little sister and the Jonases' little brother!). Once again, there are several unmistakably strong female characters here: Ponyo is quite literally a force of nature, and her mother the ocean queen (Cate Blanchett) is even more powerful. Plus there's Sosuke's mom and the trio of elderly women she tends to (Cloris Leachman, Betty White, and Lily Tomlin), 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.

American audiences unfamiliar with anime or Miyazaki's work may not "get" the movie's magical realism or the utter lack of pop culture references and big musical numbers. 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!).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Sosuke and Ponyo's journey to be together. What obstacles did they each have to overcome, and what sacrifices (if any) did they each have to make? Is it strange that Sosuke and Ponyo are 5, instead of teenagers?

  • Miyazaki loosely based this story on Hans Christian Andersen's original Little Mermaid fairy tale. How does this version of the story compare to the Disney movie?

  • Families who want to learn more about anime may want to screen Miyazaki's other films together. How are they similar to each other, and how are they different from most American-made animated movies?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animation

Themes & Topics

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