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Studio Ghibli Challenge #9: Pom Poko (1994) Anime Movie Review

Pom Poko Poster

Yeah, I get it, raccoons with oversized ballsacks that can be used to transform or to fly. Yes, you read it right they use ballsacks like a propeller to fly.

Of all the Studio Ghibli films, Pom Poko might've been the weirdest, wackiest, and most different than the others. Not only because it used shapeshifting raccoons but also the way the message of the movie is delivered.

From the brilliant mind of Isao Takahata, the story took place during the 1960s in Japan. A group of tanuki (raccoon dogs) got threatened by constructing a new subdivision. The development slowly destroys their habitat by cutting the forest. Food scarcity has now become a problem as well for the tanukis because some of their primary food sources are now gone. To combat this they decided to take revenge upon the humans. Formerly enemies, the group of tanukis from different places banded together to delay or stop the construction of the new subdivision. They use their abilities of illusion to disguise themselves as people to do industrial sabotage which is sometimes effective. Still, due to humanity's persistence toward development, their efforts were always in vain. After a few years, the subdivision is now in bloom, the group consults an elder from somewhere far away and decides to conduct a ghost parade to make the humans think that the place is haunted. However, all their efforts are still in vain when executives declare it a publicity stunt. Continuous quarreling made the tanukis split into small groups with one trying to gain media attention. They once again staged a final effort and conducted a grand illusion to make the town look like it was before the subdivision was built. Now without strength left, most of the tanukis followed the examples of kitsune and blend in with humans. Some tried to survive by scavenging food while dodging traffic. The movie ends with the tanukis now living in a small space within a golf course.

Tanuki devices a plan

Despite the weird features and abilities of these creatures, I find the film very respectable and important. It's important because the message that saving the environment should be a priority is delivered in a not-so-typical manner. Which I believe sometimes needed to really convey the proper information. Yes, the film has a lot of comedic and weird parts but then again what matters is the point it wants to deliver. It has also some mind-blowing scenes especially for me who is not quite familiar with Japanese culture and traditions. I don't really know if the abilities that the tanukis depicted in this film are the same as in Japanese folklore. But it is really nice to learn about them.

Ghost Parade

So these tanukis or Japanese raccoon dogs are shape-shifters that literally transform into any object or people. At the same time, they are sociable and mischievous. So I think that pretty much explains why they use weird and cunning tactics during their resistance. I think along with them being funny and all, we should respect what they are and what's their role in Japanese culture.

It is also quite confusing because there are tons of characters in the film. The tanukis themselves were like an army.

While the message is very clear that destroying the environment is bad and affects wildlife, it also raises the question of how should we stop urbanizing when our population growth cannot be stopped. Or something like how can we help preserve the environment instead of destroying it? It also makes you question whenever an animal gets hit by cars or people, do we blame them for crossing the road scavenging for food, or is it because we stepped into their habitat? These questions were not outright answered in the film but it was realized.

Tanukis praying

However, despite the oddities and message, I don't think that this will be someone's favorite Studio Ghibli film. I don't mean that it's not good it's just okay in my opinion. It is still like a typical Ghibli film wherein the animation is top-notch and the story was delivered in a fun way. Isao Takahata is still a genius. But if you compare it with other films it just didn't live up to its standard.

I do not agree that despite this being an animation, it is rated with Parental Guidance. For me, it should be for teenagers or adults because in order to fully understand the story you need to also reflect on the message it brings, and that for me is the most important.

Just don't let your eyes be fooled by their large ballsacks.

I will give the film a pretty solid 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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