Anime 
TL;DR
Pom Poko (1994)
平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ (Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko)

Synopsis

The Tanuki living in the forest near a government construction project, are being threatened by the destruction of their habitat. Banding together and seeking help from other tribes of Tanuki, they live up to their traditionally mischievous reputation by changing their shape and trying to sabotage the construction effort. When this fails, they stage one last great illusion, hoping to alert the city folk to the natural wonders being bulldozed to make room for yet another Tokyo suburb, before it is too late…
Directed by
Written by
Screenplay by
Music by

Rating

  • The overall rating of the show.

Poor < Fair < Good < Great

Animation

  • Animation quality and consistency for that time. 

Poor < Fair < Good < Great

Story

  • How well the story flows and keeps you engaged.

Poor < Fair < Good < Great

Pros

Dialogs
Visual
World building

Cons

Uneven-pacing

PROs CONS

Overview

The phrase “Pom Poko” in the title refers to the sound of tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs, Nyctereutes procyonoides viverrinus) drumming their bellies as a form of Tanuki-bayashi. Specifically, the phrase started as a jocular explanation of meditative percussion at Shōjō-ji taken up in a 1919 poem by Ujō Noguchi, which became a popular nursery rhyme recorded in 1925.

Consistent with Japanese folklore, the tanuki is portrayed as a highly sociable, mischievous species, who can use “illusion science” to transform into almost anything, but too fun-loving and too fond of tasty treats to be a real threat – unlike the kitsune (foxes) and other shape-shifters. Visually, the tanuki in this film is depicted in three distinct ways at various times: as realistic animals, as anthropomorphic animals that occasionally wear clothes, and as cartoon-like figures based on the manga of Shigeru Sugiura (of whom Takahata was a great fan). They tend to assume their realistic form when seen by humans, their cartoon-like form when they are doing something outlandish or whimsical, and their anthropomorphic form at all other times.

Prominent testicles are an integral part of tanuki folklore, and they are shown and referred to throughout the film, and also used frequently in their shape-shifting. This remains unchanged in the DVD release, though the English dub (but not the subtitles) refers to them as “raccoon pouches”. Also, in the English dub and subtitles, the animals are never referred to as “raccoon dogs”, which is the more accurate English name for the tanuki, instead they are incorrectly referred to as just “raccoons”.

Alternative titles

– Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko
– Pom Poko
– 平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ
– Pom Poko: Meškėnų karas
– Pom Poko: Pesukarude sõda
– Pompoko
– Rakunların Savaşı
– Szopy w natarciu
– יער הדביבונים
– La guerra de los mapaches
– Pom Poko – A tanukik birodalma
– Η Αντεπίθεση των Ρακούν
– Пом Поко
– 百變狸貓
– Die Schlacht der Waschbären in der Pompoko-Ära
– Heisei Era Raccoon War Pom Poko
– Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pompoko
– The Raccoon War
– Война тануки в периоды Хэйсэй и Помпоко
– ponpoko

TL;DR Review

Pom Poko (Japanese: 平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ Hepburn: Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko, lit. “Heisei-era Raccoon Dog War Ponpoko”) is a 1994 Japanese animated comedy-drama fantasy film directed by Isao Takahata, animated by Studio Ghibli for Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network and Hakuhodo, and distributed by Toho.

This movie premise is pretty much nature versus man. We follow a group of Tanuki (Raccoon Dog that can transform) as they fight to save their forest from urbanization. Though the theme of man encroachment on nature is a serious matter, the whimsical and comical aspect of the Tanuki makes it hard to take the message seriously.

The movie has way too many characters that look alike. We don’t have a particular protagonist to identify with. Not to mention the entire movie was pretty much narrated, giving it a sense of detachment.

This movie also showcases a lot of Japanese mythology, which many Western audiences may not get the references. Despite all of that, the movie is comical and entertaining to watch, especially if you are a kid.

I do recommend Pom Poko if you are a Studio Ghibli fan, but it isn’t as memorable as most of their work. The film is too ridiculous for an adult to take seriously and for children to understand the underlying motif. This movie contains graphic violence and suggestive themes/dialogs. Parental guidance is advised.

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Music

Closing Theme

– “Itsu demo Dareka ga” by Shang Shang Typhoon

Insert/Image Theme

– “Asia no Kono Machi de” by Shang Shang Typhoon
– “Genmyou Fukashigi Ongaku”
– “Tanuki no Mambo”
– Tanuki-san Asobojanaika”

Credits

Photo

All images are copyright to their respective owners.

Photo by Nicolas LB, Jon Flobrant, and Yvette de Wit on Unsplash.

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