Movie Review: Pom Poko

Mr Raccoon, Mr. Raccoon, won’t you play with me somehow?

Tanukis are a part of ancient Japanese folklore. They are a larger version of raccoons, but they’re more mystical: they have the power to shapeshift. However, like raccoons, they’re mischievous but they mean no harm. Actually, you may have seen tanukis in popular culture without being aware.

 

Remember Super Mario Bros 3, that whenever you grabbed a leaf Mario/Luigi transformed into a raccoon? That’s actually a tanuki they’re transforming into, and leaves are worn by tanukis to help them shapeshift into whatever form they want. This is also why Mario/Luigi in a tanuki suit can turn into statues in-game to avoid enemies.

Pom Poko is an animated movie made by Studio Ghibli, known as the Japanese Disney. The movie takes place in 1960s rural Japan, as a big boom in population forces the country to destroy a lot of forestry to create more residential areas. Unfortunately, this leaves the tanukis no choice but to fight back in order to save their home. At first, they decide on killing all of the humans as revenge, but then one tanuki mentions all the wonderful stuff they’ve gotten from the humans, such as hamburgers, television, and tempura, they decide to instead spook them away using their ancient shapeshifting techniques.

Okay, forewarned, this may sound a little biased because I have not seen a Studio Ghibli movie that I haven’t loved, but Pom Poko is easily one of my favorites. It’s pretty adult for an animated movie: you can see their testicles (which is a nod to the ancient tanuki folklore, not a perverted animator’s idea); female tanukis have cleavage; you see both tanukis and humans drink alcohol; and there’s some violence and gore. However, none of these things are as important as the message it brings, which is why I think so highly of this movie. Destroying homes of wildlife just to sustain our needs as humans is a very real issue today. There may be public awareness, but we know nothing’s really being done to prevent it. We’re still removing large acres of forestry for profit or create residential areas. This movie does not sugercoat things- this wasn’t just an issue for Japan forty years ago; this is a real issue that the world is facing today until the end of time.

I honestly think that even if you don’t like animated movies, you will like this. Pom Poko was written very well, translated and voiced perfectly (with Disney handling it, not surprised), and it’s not a movie to spoonfeed you about how wonderful that is our world.

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