Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says OK for kids 5+
Miyazaki's stunning adventure is geared to younger kids.
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.
- 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?
The good stuff
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: 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.
What to watch for
Violence and 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.
Sex: 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.
Language: 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.
Consumerism: Not an issue
Drinking, drugs and 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.