54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2008
`Pom Poko' was one of those Studio Ghibli films I decided to leave to last in my purchase of the entire collection on DVD, mainly due to the majority of reviews here on Amazon, which generally consist of less enthusiastic comments in comparison to other more commercially succesful features released by this renowned Japanese studio. But having finally watched the film for myself I'm even more surprised by the uncomplimentary reviews, because in both style and story I found `Pom Poko' to be absolutely flawless.
The film has magic galore and an original ecological morality tale at its heart, which is in the same vein as `Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind' and `Princess Mononoke' with their man versus nature overtones, but `Pom Poko' is a very different animal in its own right- a raccoon in fact! There's also a real intelligence to the script, which is aided enormously by its boundlessly playful and at times poignant sense of humour.
The story is also extremely well plotted and has a sublime narration throughout that helps to make `Pom Poko' one of the most engaging Ghibli films I've yet seen. The narrator's voice and a couple of the other characters are recognisable as being provided by American actors, albeit lesser known ones than the customary band of A-list celebrities Studio Ghibli usually employs. But the characterization never suffers and being an ensemble piece I'd have to say that I think it's actually preferable, so that the audience sympathises with all of raccoon-kind, as they band together to thwart humanity's encroachment into their forest with increasingly inventive plans of attack.
Once again I'm moved to award five stars to this uniquely enjoyable Studio Ghibli release, not because it's as accomplished as the very best that Ghibli has to offer, but because in its own right `Pom Poko' succeeds and then some! Superb.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2014
About the film.
The movie by itself is based on popular Japanese folklore about Tanuki (raccoon dogs) as they struggle against the urbanisation of countryside regions of Japan, especially Tama Hills. The director Isao Takahata is famous by his unusual approach to animation, he always experiments with something new in his films. In "Pom Poko" he uses at least three different styles of animation according to situation on the screen: realistic portrayal of animals in their real life, animated humans traditional to anime, and comical representation of emotions more inherent to manga. Nevertheless this strange blending of different styles brings unforgettable feelings of tragicomedy.
About the European Blu-ray ediion.
It's just the movie. Nothing more (we not count the trailer reel and Storyboards). It's a shame it does not feature the original Extra from Japanese edition - Rakugo about the Tanuki, on which this movie is partially based. Rakugo is a Japanese "one man theatre" where one actor on scene tells and shows long anecdotes about different comical situations.
Overall it's a "must see" for all fans of Studio Ghibli and Isao Takahata, it's one of his best works. Moreover visual design for this movie was created by Kazuo Oga, the man who established visual look for all Ghibli films starting from "My Neighbor Totoro" in 1988. You definitely will n otforget its stunning backgrounds and fanciful animation approach.
50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2006
This film is a commentary on the out of control suburbs swallowing the countryside round Tokyo. It uses popular Japanese folklore to put across an anti-development message.
Tanuki are Racoon Dogs, native to Japan and in the film they struggle to stop the destruction of their forest by using their powers of transformation to try to scare away the humans. "Pom poko" refers to the sound Tanuki make to frighten wayfarers by drumming on their stomachs.
The animation is very special, but the many cultural references and long length (just shy of 2 hrs) mean this film requires perseverence.
The film has a kind of "Babe the sheep-pig" narration, which is good, and some funny scenes where the Tanuki try to learn their art and blend in to human society. Imagine Watership Down, but with the rabbits up for a bit of sabotage rather than moving home.
Although it features fluffy forest creatures, they aint Yogi bear (though they look a bit like him when they get happy!). They are quite prepared to wipe out a few construction workers for their cause.
Past english dubs have tried to gloss over some of the more earthy details. Real-life Tanuki are well known in Japan for their large balls, which were translated for the original Disney release to "pouches". These feature quite heavily in the film, ahem, sometimes literally so - as they are used to crush opponents!
The film has quite a serious message, which means the fun side of the Tanuki, which comes out in many scenes, is eclipsed by the sadness that their habitat is being destroyed for ever.
Overall quite interesting if you want to learn about another culture, and great if you are into animation. Perhaps not so good if you want light family entertainment.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 9 September 2009
Having the complete Ghibli collection people may be surprised to discover that "Pom Poko" is one of my all time favourite films. Although it has been deemed as a "let down" by some of the other reviewers, who quite rightly so have their expectations raised extremely high by masterpieces such as Howls Moving Castle, Spirited Away and of course Princess Mononoke.
However i have to disagree with many of there opinions. The film is both deeply affecting and visually mesmerizing, portraying the environmental issues we face in this modern society in a different way to the sinister and disturbing way that Princess Mononoke, for example, so clearly does.
I believe in order to understand this film, you have to leave all your expectations behind and approach this film with an open mind.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2006
It's not Spirited Away, but for likers of Ahime it's a good choice. Beautifully drawn with some absolutely breathtaking, wonderful scenes of glittering colour it's very watchable to any anime fan and many others too; children in particular will enjoy this. Moreover it's largely free of Disneyfication;it's cheesy but more original than most Hollywood cartoons and has a freshness about it that makes it accessible to more than just kids. The issues are often adult-I won't list them because such breakdown of this kind of film defies the entire point of it, and the characters are sympathetic and engaging, often humorous, while the plot is at times playful, at times sad and at times bleak and dark in a way that Hollywood just isn't. On the other hand, its greatest attribute is its ability to make one believe and hope that there is more to this world than meets the eye and that our lives may be touched by something outside our senses, by different experiences and by things beyond the realms of the physical.
All in all, a beautiful experience, albeit one that is full of gaping plot holes where the director's message about environmentalism isn't all that clear, and very worth watching, particularly if you can get it in Japanese with subtitles.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2012
I got this after I bought 'Princess Raccoon' and couldn't make much sense of that film at all! Wiki said that the folk beliefs about raccoons in Japan were strange and complicated, and I thought that "Pom Poko' might elucidate them a bit (apart from it being a Studio Ghibli film - always a recommendation). It certainly helped clear things up, but I hadn't expected it to be also a very serious examination of the negative effects of urban sprawl on the native Japanese ecology. Not as enchanting as "My Neighbour Totoro" but fascinating in the robustness of its critique, and salutary in its exposition of the effects of putting houses and industry before wildlife ... Still a good animated film and worth watching.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 24 March 2006
For fans of Studio Ghibli's films, this is probably worth seeing. It's a wonderful piece of animation, and it has several memorable scenes by any film's standard.
But... it's long, and it feels longer. The creators have not made concessions to their audience's patience, nor do they keep a close eye on developing the plot at an even pace. This veers all over and left my initial enthusiasm unrequited by the end. The film is packed with cultural references which might make limited sense to western viewers.
If you found the narrative pace and odd-ball parts of Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle to your taste, you still might find this goes off the deep end a little. If you're looking for an introduction to Japanese anime, or Studio Ghibli, there are a half dozen other films in the 'collection' I'd watch first. Save this for when you know you've got the Ghibli bug...
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is not the sparkling standard Ghibli fare of Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke but it is a strong outing that brings in extra quantities of Japanese cultural references and plentiful simple messages on the encroachment of urbanisation in what is an exceptionally overcrowded nation.
Pom Poko features a playful and celebratory Tanuki (raccoon) society under threat from the extension of urbanisation on the outskirts of Tokyo. The Tanuki's response to this threat is initially that of the wild animal - to combat their own kind over access to the diminished resources. Eventually they take to combat with the human population who are building over the rural areas to meet the housing needs of their expanding and densely populated mega-city. The Tanuki fight back is built on their mystical ability fo shape-shift, harkening to pre-industrial beliefs and fears in their battle to persuade the humans to cease their destruction of Tanuki lands.
The Tanuki are an entertaining and joyful society who revel in song and dance, a cultural reference that could be applied anywhere and not just the Japanese context. That society is riven with indecision and the need for strong leadership, the subtle subtext of local politics and conflicting interests chuntering along throughout the film but never intruding on the main plot that sees the Tanuki deploy ever more colourful and imaginative demonstrations to oppose the human actions.
The characterisation within the film is simple and effective. The Tanuki are shown in raccoon, human, and comic form but their personality traits remain in place and they are a consistent and endearing presence.
I would not recommend Pom Poko as a film for children, the colourful and entertaining Tanuki characters probably don't have the slapstick lovability that other Ghibli films offer and the overly cynical will probably not appreciate the simplicity of the pro-environment and anti-urbanisation messaging. However, the audience I watched it with absolutely loved it and were surprised that it is not heralded in the same way as the main Ghibli contributions.
Pom poko combines the lovability needed to identify with the characters, simple broad messages and more subtle inter-personal and political interactions, and an appealing charm that makes it a very worthwhile addition to the Ghibli stable.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2006
Another stunning film from Isao Takahata and the people at Studio Ghibli.
Set in the 1960's you follow 3 years in the life of a pack of Racoon's as Tokyo begins to expand and destroy their home.
These are not your ordinary Racoons though, they can transform themselves into anything they choose.
Plots, war, death to humans, ghosts, Gods, and much more await you in this film.
Be prepared for a strong message though, this isn't just a film about the Racoon's troubles, it highlights the issues of urbanisation and the loss of the countryside at the expense of our expansion.
A must have film for any Ghibli fan.
on 16 May 2015
One of the things that makes Studio Ghibli films so successful in my opinion, is the way Hayao Miyazaki, and other members of his team, not only give out good creativity in their storytelling, but also how those stories express universal messages in ways that can be understood by both kids and grown-ups alike. Sometimes the messages are clear like in 'Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind' and other times they're not so obvious like in 'The Cat Returns'. In the case of 'Pom Poko', however, it's clear throughout the movie what message they're trying to give us. Much like 'Valley of the Wind' and 'Princess Mononoke', the story deals with environmental messages - specifically how land development and destroying forests can greatly damage the lives of the animals living there. Ultimately, the aim of the narrative is to raise awareness of these damaging effects by showing them through the point of view of the animals, and expressing some of the drastic measures they have to take in order to survive. This alone is perhaps what lead 'Pom Poko' to being the number one Japanese film on the domestic market in 1994.
The story begins in 1960s Japan, on the outskirts of Tokyo, where major suburban development has started cutting into large areas of forest land, forcing many animals from their homes. By the early 1990s, tribes of shape-shifting raccoons have declared war on each other, fighting over what limited food and territory they have left. However, after seeing just how much of their forest has been lost, they agree to join forces and begin a revolution against the human race, in an attempt to end the construction project and save their homeland.
On the surface, the story might seem pretty straight-forward; a forest is being unjustly destroyed and the animals want retribution. But as with most Studio Ghibli films, what sets it apart from other stories in this genre is the way it deploys fantasy elements - specifically the idea that raccoons can transform. Whilst it's true there have been movies like 'FernGully' (1992) and 'Once Upon a Forest' (1993) that have blended fantasy, animation and environmental messages together before, Studio Ghibli does it in a way that reflects true Japanese culture and history. The idea of shape-shifting raccoons isn't something that was invented by Isao Takahata (the movie's screenwriter) to advance the plot - there are real Japanese folklores that believed raccoons once had the ability to do this. Also, the story ties in with several real-life events that took place in Japan like the New Tama project - the largest urban land development project in history - and even uses the raccoons' transforming ability as explanation for things such as the growth in energy drink sales, mysterious hauntings, and some of the gods that the Japanese people worship. Overall this makes the story feel more believable and gives the illusion that it's something that could've really happened. Another thing that makes the story believable is, unlike some environmental films, it doesn't portray humans as evil. Rather they're shown to be people who are trying to do what's best for their community, whilst not taking into consideration the effects they're having on wildlife. Throughout the film we hear about humans mistreating raccoons (e.g. killing them for their fur), whilst others are shown to be caring and considerate towards them. We see both sides to this supposed war between species and we can see that there's no one really who's wicked. What's good about this is that it allows the audience to make their own judgments and choose a side, rather than having one forced on them. One final thing that's worth mentioning about the story is some of the emphasis it has on inevitability and sacrifice. Because we know New Tama was eventually built, it makes the plot's outcome somewhat predictable and so it's no surprise to see the raccoons' situation gradually getting worse. In the end, they accept that only the strongest of them can survive and if they can't beat the humans they might as well join them.
So with all I have to say about the story, what about its characters? Well...honestly...they're not all that memorable. I won't deny there are some great voice actors involved in the English cast, like Clancy Brown as Gonta, Maurice LaMarche as the narrator and Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Shoukishi - who also did the voice of young Simba in 'The Lion King' (1994). There's even some voice actors who provided their talents to other Studio Ghibli films like Tress MacNeille ('My Neibours the Yamadas'), Kevin Michael Richardson ('Porco Rosso' and 'Tales from Earthsea') and John DiMaggio ('Princess Mononoke'). My one trouble with the characters is that there's so many of them. Even if you're able to remember all their names, the narrative never seems to focus too heavily on any of them for very long; there's no one or two that stand out as the main hero(es). Because of this the narrative goes off in all directions and leaves the audience guessing who they're suppose to be relating to. So the voice acting is good, but I feel the characters themselves could've been handled a little better.
Overall I feel the movie has good appeal to both children and adults. Things like the song 'Mr. Racoon' are catchy and memorable for children, whilst lessons about history and depictions of death are more in the adult territory. The story doesn't build to much of a climax, but there are some good moments to be enjoyed. One of my favourite is the classic 'it's behind you' gag - you'll know what I mean if you watch the film.
In conclusion, I wouldn't say 'Pom Poko' is one of my absolute favourite Studio Ghibli films, but it definitely has a good message to it - and it's told in a way that's believable. I would recommend this film to any Studio Ghibli fans, young or old, and anyone who really believes in preserving nature. This is a film that would make the World Wildlife Fund proud.
My next Studio Ghibli review will be on 'Kiki's Delivery Service'. Hopefully there won't be as much of a delay on that review as there was this one (7 months). I'm planning to release these on a monthly basis. Stay tuned.