Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Pom Poko is a film produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Isao Takahata. It was released to Japanese theaters in 1994. This is a film that relies very heavily on Japanese folklore. Pom Poko was released by Disney as part of the deal the company made with Studio Ghibli; the film was released in the United States on DVD in 2005.
Pom Poko opens in Japan in the 1960s. A group of Tanuki (who are referred to as raccoons in the English dub and subtitles) are threatened by a suburban development project called Tama New Town. The development is located in the Tama Hills, on the outskirts of Tokyo; the development cuts into the forest habitat. Then, the story moves ahead in time to Japan in the early 1990s. The construction on Tama New Town is still going on, and is causing a decrease in living space and food for the Tanuki. The Tanuki begin to fight amongst themselves for what is left; however, Oroku (the matriarch) convinces the others that they must unite against the humans and to try and stop the development.
Prominent members of the Tanuki lead the resistance: Oroku, Gonta, Tsurugame, and Shoukichi. The Tanuki must re-learn their illusion skills in order to blend in with the humans, and they also conduct acts of industrial sabotage. The attacks injure and even kill some of the construction workers. While some of the workers are scared off, more come onto the job site to replace them.
The Tanuki then send messengers to find some legendary elders who live in faraway regions to ask for their help. While the messengers are away, the Tanuki continue to fight for their home. After a few years, one of the messengers returns, and brings with him a trio of Tanuki elders from the island of Shikoku. Can these elders help the Tanuki to convince the humans to stop the development effort?
The animation in Pom Poko employs at least two or three different styles, especially when it comes to the Tanuki. Not that this is bad, but it can be a bit disorienting at times. Personally, even though this film was given a PG rating, I don't think it's entirely appropriate for younger viewers. There are shots of a couple of the Tanuki being run over by automobiles, which could be disturbing to young children. Also, in at least one battle, the male Tanuki use their testicles as a weapon. Personally, I would recommend Pom Poko for anime viewers who are 13 or 14 years of age and older.
Pom Poko was released as a two disc set. There is only one special feature included on the first disc. This feature is the trailers and TV spots for Pom Poko, and this runs for about eight minutes. There are four promotional spots in all, which have the original Japanese audio with English subtitles. The second disc only has the storyboard version of the film included on it.
Pom Poko has an interesting premise, but it is one of the longer films in the Studio Ghibli catalog. The pacing of the film is also a little slower than the other Studio Ghibli films, which is another thing that younger children wouldn't appreciate about this film. However, if you are a fan of Studio Ghibli or Isao Takahata, then you should add this DVD to your collection.
In order to write this review, I checked out a copy of the DVD through the King County Library System.