Pom Poko (1994)
The Raccoons of the Tama Hills are being forced from their homes by the rapid development of houses and shopping malls. As it becomes harder to find food and shelter, they decide to band together and fight back. The Raccoons practice and perfect the ancient art of transformation until they are even able to appear as humans in hilarious circumstances.
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i must have seen a different film!!
Not sure how, but this is easily one of the best movies all summer. Multiple levels of funny, never takes itself seriously, super colorful, and creative.
Although I seem to have had higher expectations than I thought, the movie is super entertaining.
Exactly the movie you think it is, but not the movie you want it to be.
3.5 out of 5 This is the most Takahata-ish Takahata movie. It has all his major quirks: a bizarre sense of humor, traditional Japanese mythology, environmentalism, a focus on story over character, an inability to juggle a lot of characters at once, random but fun singing that strangely does not disrupt the tone of the film, and a Japanese paternal preachiness that his films barely manage to not collapse under.A lot of the characteristics I mentioned are negative, I don't dislike this movie. If I were given the choice between it and a random Hollywood blockbuster, I would pick it every time, despite its many faults. But I'm disappointed. Most filmmakers tend to get better as they get older, or at least grow in interesting ways. Takahata did neither. As he grew in years, he exchanged complexity and intelligence for clumsy simplicity, and though the stylism he was once famed for did not go away, it was not nearly enough to cover up his declining artistic craft. He became simply a shadow of his former self, and though he was a rich and powerful man responsible for some of his country's enduring masterpieces, you couldn't help but feel pity for someone who had fallen so far, particularly because every now and then, there were traces of his old genius that exposed themselves for just long enough to give you hope.Yes, I'm saying he's basically the Japanese Francis Ford Coppola.The best thing about this film is the aesthetic. Every Takahata film has a great aesthetic, but this film takes it to the next level. It's better-looking than most Miyazaki films, and it has a greater deal creative designs too. A lot of hard work was put into making this film look as good as possible, from beginning to end. I'm not so adverse to Takahata's storytelling as to say you should watch this film on mute, but if you are planning to watch a film on mute, this would not be an a poor choice.I should probably explain the plot of the film: in the 60's, during widespread urban development, a group of raccoons fight to stop their home for being destroyed. Yes, it does not make its environmental message subtly. At least Nausicaa had a strawman. This film doesn't. In fact, on a whole, it is rather disconnected from reality.But that's not my main problem with the film. To explain, let me talk about my favorite scene. It's a romance scene between the 'protagonist' raccoon (I put it in quotes because this film doesn't really have a protagonist), and his love. It's a stunning scene, it's legitimately interesting, and the dialogue is rather well-written. It's the kind of scene you want to last forever.And then they go and terrorize some innocent workers. Yeah, just like that. While I don't think we're supposed to think of the raccoons as universally good, we're supposed to sympathize with them and think their tricks are funny. I don't. The way they're presented, I was cheering for the humans. But even if their tricks were funny, that kind of tonal inconsistency takes the viewer right out of the moment, and it litters this whole movie.Combined with unnecessary bizarre happenings that were not needed and break the pace of the film, and you have a ness of a movie. Takahata being serious is good. Think Grave of the Fireflies, his only truly great movie. Takahata trying to be funny is Takahata wasting the viewer's time. There are even parts of the film that are legitimately funny, but because they weren't weaved in with any artistic prowess, the audience doesn't care.It is not a coincidence that the last five minutes of the film, which are the darkest, are also the best. I was sent dreaming of a better film, one that capitalized on the potential of those last five minutes, and of the very beginning, and of the good character interactions and depictions of this interesting raccoon culture. But as it was, I'm stuck with that film. I'm all right with that. It's just that I hoped for better.By: Joshua A. Fagan
This is perhaps the only film by Ghibli that I really found it to be BAD. I mean, it is truly BAD. I watched it in the same day as Only Yesterday, and boy, the contrast in quality was amazing. Takahata really dropped the ball on this one: his previous film is easily the best film of 1991, for me at least, and this one is BELOW average. I mean, Ghibli has managed it: they made a film that is below the Hollywood average quality for their canned products.Why this film is so bad? Because nothing works: the characters don't fell like "people", they are cartoon characters truly. This film is perhaps the least artistically accomplished film that Ghibli ever made and one of the least intelligent ones as well. It feels much like an American cartoon, and yes, those suck. Not recommended, really: a genius like Takahata made this poppy!
(This review is of the Dusney Studios DVD via NetFlix in 2010, and may not exactly match some other releases.) While both the visuals and the storyline of Pom Poko are typical Studio Ghibli, the storyline doesn't completely translate across cultures to the U.S. readily.There are an awful lot of references to Japanese folklore and quite a few to Japanese culture, so many that the storyline only makes moderate sense to a naive viewer. For one example midway through the film there's a highly varied and lengthy parade of goblins. Every goblin shown is real in the sense that it has its own back-story in Japanese folklore. Although you can enjoy the display without knowing the details of each character, it's just not the same. For a second example, years are referred to in what at first appears to a U.S. viewer to be a rather strange construct about "era"s, something that's typically assumed to be specific to the characters in the film and somewhat random. In fact, the "era" construct for naming years is standardized and is used throughout Japanese society.Translation across cultures is a particular problem when it's not just secondary things but is the main characters. The main characters are "Tanuki", sometimes translated as "Tanuki" again, sometimes as "Racoon dog", and with a possible reference to something that would be called a "badger" in the U.S. While real, these creatures also have a central place in Japanese folklore. Particularly important are their "balls", which are displayed prominently, contained in a scrotum reputed to be as large as eight tatami mats. While the original is already a part of Japanese culture, is known by everyone, and is the source of quite a bit of gentle humor; American attitudes probably vary from some finding it a bit "odd" to the prudish finding it just plain "objectionable".Disney has done new/dubbed soundtracks for all the U.S. releases of Studio Ghibli material. Generally they're excellent, translating not only the words but also the most important cultural references. But here the Disney soundtrack has had difficulties (not blatantly obvious on first viewing, but clear enough on the second viewing); there are too many cultural references to translate, yet translating just the words results in a story that too often doesn't quite make sense. Even the earlier subtitles make obvious trade-offs that are not always successful, for example calling the main characters "Racoons" rather than "Tanuki" even though doing so risks changing the meaning of the story significantly. Both the old Japanese soundtrack and the new/dubbed Disney soundtrack are present. (As usual, the mouth movements of the anime characters don't quite match the English soundtrack, but the effect is not at all jarring and is in fact quite easy to just ignore.) More importantly, both the old subtitles that try to match the literal Japanese very closely and the new subtitles that exactly match the Disney soundtrack are present. Not being able to understand Japanese, I of course resorted to the English translations, but found neither the Disney soundtrack nor the original subtitles to be completely adequate. What worked better for me was a combination of the two -Disney new/dubbed English soundtrack (audio track 1 of 2) and original English subtitles (subtitle track 2 of 3).
When I saw the trailer for Pom Poko on another Studio Ghibli DVD I thought this would be an overly cute film as it featured talking animals. However it is quite different to any film of that type that I've seen as they are certainly more anatomically correct than animals in western animation and some of them do get killed.The characters are Tanuki, a raccoon-dog native to Japan although in the subtitles they were just referred to as raccoons. These creatures are masters of disguise and some are even capable of shape-shifting. At first this seemed very strange to me but I later learnt that it is based in Japanese folklore. Despite featuring cute animals this is one of Studio Ghibli's more serious films, which shouldn't be too surprising given that it was directed by Isao Takahata.The film is set on the Tama Hills in the late '60s which are in the process of being urbanised at the expense of the tanuki's habitat. They decide to use their shape-shifting abilities in order to scare the people off the land but even though some people are killed they don't stop the work. When that is unsuccessful they seek the assistance of three master shape-shifters from another island. These suggest scaring the people with a "goblin parade" which unfortunately is mistaken for the work of the new theme park opening in the area.As one would expect from Studio Ghibli the artwork is very good, especially during the parade where if you look closely you may spot characters from previous Ghibli films. This is a film that seemed to get better on further viewing when I had more understanding. The film has an obvious environmental message but that isn't over-played.