Ponyo, one of Hayao Miyazaki’s many animated films, includes great quotes to match the exquisite artistry of the animation.
Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo, by widely adored director Hayao Miyazaki, is a children’s animated movie that can be enjoyed by all ages. The film features a young boy, Sosuke, and his mother Lisa who live in a small house atop a charming hill.
One day Sosuke comes upon a small ‘goldfish’—which looks more like a tiny red-haired creature in a dress—in the ocean, and the two set out on a tumultuous adventure together. Like all of Miyazaki’s films, the movie is impressive for its beautiful imagery and captivatingly unique creatures—but just as notable as these is the subtle wisdom in the dialogue of the film. Here are ten of the best quotes from Ponyo, ranked.
10. “You’re Only Five, But You’re Very Smart. Sometimes We Have To Take A Leap.”
Sosuke’s mother, Lisa, says these words to him before she leaves him and human-Ponyo alone in the house during a storm while she goes to aid the old folks home she works at. The quote highlights the film’s emphasis on independence and trust in the fact that Sosuke is only a five-year-old boy and his mother allows him to go off on his own quite a lot, and is now trusting him to take care of himself and another unknown child in their house…but if we see this as a slight extension of the element of fantasy in the movie and focus on the mother imparting confidence in her son, it’s a good message.
9. “Nobody Understands Weather Anymore. Might As Well Look At Shadows And Listen To Crickets.”
The elderly at the old folk’s home are a regular source of comedy in the movie. Similar to the elderly in real life, the characters at the old home usually remark upon the modern-day and its disregard for obvious signifiers and practices apparent to them from their experiences in life.
Just before the massive storm hits, this old woman is disapprovingly staring at the TV and the weatherman’s inability to make out what is happening. It’s a moment of dramatic irony because the viewer knows that Ponyo has caused the storm and that it isn’t in fact the weatherman’s fault. Yet, all the same, it casts small commentary on the value of listening to elders.
8. “You’re Not Busy, You’re Five.”
Something that stands out as the most obvious yet simultaneously most overlooked fact of the movie is that its lead character Sosuke is five years old. Five-year-old brains are just beginning to engage in normal conversation, have only been able to hold memories for about a year. Yet our protagonist is leading his own little life, having adventures, stating opinions, and finally even having the depth of his love for Ponyo tested by adults! The film does cast some acknowledgment on this through humorous quotes like the one above, which allows for it to move forward saying—hey, we know he’s five. But what if we imagine kids have such agency as this? Consider their worlds, and how real things are to them.
7. “You Should Never Judge Others By Their Looks.”
This quote is said once in the movie by Sosuke’s mother, Lisa, and then repeated by Sosuke—demonstrating the act of leading by example and learning from example. Sosuke’s mother is certainly unique in her parenting—a crazy driver, and openly emotional person who doesn’t hide it from her son. But the movie makes her a well-rounded, more realistic character by allowing her to be unconventional and then also giving her the credit of imparting lessons of kindness and empathy on her son.
6. “I’d Let A Fish Lick Me If It Would Get Me Out Of This Wheelchair.”
Once again, the old people at the home provide some hilarious dialogue. The scene of this quote, in particular, is interesting because Sosuke is describing how Ponyo licked him when she was a fish, and how it healed the cut on his finger. The old women then go on about all the things they’d need Ponyo to lick in order to get them back in good health again.
It’s a funny moment, and it inserts another instance of interaction between a young child and the elderly where the two age groups act as equals. The elderly don’t speak down to the youth in this movie, there is no baby-talk—which allows for mutual respect and encourages young viewers to relate to diverse groups of people.
While the exclamation is a simple one, it encompasses a moment of pure glee. Ponyo experiences a bursting transformation into a human body, and she relishes every moment of it. The joy she derives from simple things that everyday children likely take for granted is a reminder of the magic and privilege of having a body, and the wonder that is the opportunity to be a body on earth. Ponyo’s unyielding celebration of her experience as a human extends permission for viewers to do the same.
4. “This Is Not Weed Killer. This Is The Purest Ocean Water And It Keeps Me From Drying Out On Land!”
This is a hilarious moment early on in the movie where Ponyo has first escaped the ocean and her father comes chasing after her with a water-sprayer wetting the ground everywhere he walks. Naturally, Sosuke’s mother is skeptical of him and watches him worryingly as he walks toward them. But to our surprise, rather than voicing concern in his character (he looks a bit eccentric), she shouts “that better not be weed killer!” This is an expression of an attitude prevalent in the movie, which values letting people do what they please so long as it isn’t hurting anything.
3. “Life Is Mysterious And Amazing, But We Have Work To Do Now, And I Need You Both To Stay Calm.”
Sosuke’s mother Lisa says this to Ponyo and Sosuke during the storm. The weather is raging outside their home, and she chooses to emphasize how ‘amazing’ the world is, while also including the importance of keeping a level-head and being mindful of the need to get down to work. She leads a whimsical, open-minded yet grounded life with Sosuke, themes that can be found in many Miyazaki films.
2. “He Hates Humans, And He Keeps Me In A Bubble, So I Swam Away From Home.”
Lisa asks Ponyo about her father, and this is what she responds. While it seems like the melodramatic ramblings of a child—and it is—it’s also true. Ponyo’s father does not like humans, but the film allows us to see that he more fears them than anything. He has seen how they dirty the ocean, and he doesn’t trust them as a result. This has also caused him to be very protective of his children and old them to strict rules. Later in the film, we find Ponyo’s mother meeting her father with a mellow, amused demeanor, and urging him to be calm and to give change a chance.
1. “But If His Love Isn’t Pure, She’ll Turn Into Sea Foam.” “That Is Where We All Originate, My Darling.”
Ponyo’s father is worried that if their test to see if Sosuke truly loves Ponyo—and so ensuring that she stays human and remains on land—fails, then she will turn into sea foam. His wife is not concerned with this, responding to his paranoid personality with an unbothered sureness. Her calm facing the idea that Ponyo could possibly turn into sea foam creates a softened mood surrounding the idea of death, something helpful for child viewers—or, to be fair, any viewers.