The forests of Tama Hills are being rapidly destroyed due to urbanization. The raccoon dogs of the forest battle to protect their home using their long-forgotten transformation talents. The once silly and lazy raccoon dogs, or tanuki, determinedly disrupted construction with hauntings and pranks.
The introduction to the story is told by a narrator, giving it a National Geographic documentary feel. You learn about the plight of the Tama tanuki through the narrator, and then as the story progresses, by the following the dialogue of the tanuki themselves. The tanuki are at first animated like realistic wildlife and transform into cuddly creatures who stand upright and speak. They are identifiable by the articles of clothing they wear.
Pom Poko may appear to be family friendly, but at close to two hours with some serious pacing issues, I doubt a child would last 20 minutes. It is unfortunate--with a good editor to trim about 45 minutes off the top, the film would have been more widely accepted, in my opinion. Secondly, the anime features tanuki. You might be familiar with the tanuki statue--a raccoon dog wearing a straw hat, sporting an enlarged scrotum. The scrotum symbolizes good financial luck. In the film on several occasions, the tanuki enlarge their scrotums to be used as blankets, parachutes and a boat. This might lead to awkward conversations with children.
My favorite part of movie was the Monster parade. The imaginative animation featuring yokai of Japanese folk lore was a delight to behold. At one hour six minutes, look for guest appearances from Kiki and Tombo and Totoro hidden within the parade.
The film presents a theme of wildlife conservation. In fact, the tanuki break the fourth wall and talk about the fate of forest animals in the last scene. Upon deeper reflection, the movie is an analogy for the adaptation of the Japanese people. Traditional ideas battle modernization and only those who are willing to adapt or transform will persevere?.
If you can sit still for two hours (maybe by watching one half of the movie at a time,) you will be rewarded with a magical glimpse at Japanese folk lore. Any fan of Ghibli will enjoy the studio's familiar man vs. nature plot with a tanuki twist.
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