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Pom Poko (Heisei tanuki gassen pompoko) (1994)

  Directed by: Isao Takahata
Written by: Isao Takahata
Starring: Kokondei Shinchou
Links: Pom Poko on the IMDb, Buy on DVD
Genre: Cartoon/Animation

This movie gets: 8.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"And under the surface, there's..." - a review by pearly

A community of tanuki (raccoon dogs) has just spent a wonderful year living in an abandoned countryside house, where they were free to gather food from the surrounding hills, and shelter in the house itself. But this particular piece of green landscape has been slated for re-development by the humans, and in come the bulldozers to turn the mountain into an urban maze.

Incensed, the tanuki wonder what can be done, and they begin to devise many plans to be able to keep enough of their land to survive upon. A few of the elders in the group have learned the ways of shape-shifting, and can, at will, turn their physical selves from raccoons into any number of objects. After realising that this is their best weapon against the humans, they set about training the younger raccoons so that they may also participate in the battle. After getting off to a bit of a dubious start, by killing a number of the builders of the new town, the raccoons fine-tune their techniques, but will it be possible for them to avoid the onslaught of change?

Pom Poko is a mythical adventure with its roots in reality - it is, in this way, extremely similar to the films of Hayao Miyazaki. I like the exploration of the Japanese mythological culture within both his and this film, and the way that, even though it appears on the surface as though the story is whimsical, there is, in actuality, a deeply serious message behind the film. Pom Poko is, in a way, a Japanesified version of George Orwell's classic Animal Farm (1954), though the story does contain quite a number of divergences, and the overall message is not exactly identical.

As with any film coming out of Studio Ghibli, Pom Poko is a visual treat. Some of the segments in which the raccoon dogs are performing their shape-shifting are a delight, and the little guys are so quick that you realise that you're missing things, and want to come back again to be able to watch more closely and see all the objects - with all the popular Japanese objects being represented. With the first viewing of the film, there's a lot to concentrate on, so that you understand all that is going on (I still missed bits and pieces here and there), but with subsequent viewings, I can imagine that the film would be a lot more fun, as you would be able to escape further into the visuals, and not worry so much about where the story itself was headed.

I love the intricacies and levels of this film, but it is not my favourite of Takahata's. Regardless, you can be sure that it receives a fairly high rating.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 19 Sep 2005

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