Pom Poko Review
Being both an odd and excellent entry for Studio Ghibli, the late Isao Takahata’s Pom Poko is an incredibly fun and magical tale that touches on important issues traditionally not seen in film.
Set in a developing Japanese community, a group of raccoon dogs, or Tanuki’s as they are properly called in Japanese culture, are slowly moved out of their woodland homes by construction. The human developers see the Tanuki’s as small creatures who are of no real threat to them, but these creatures have the very unique ability to transform their bodies into just about anything. However, this practice hasn’t been used by the Tanuki’s in quite some time and the species is easily distracted and lazy. Now the Tanuki’s must get it together and find a way to stop the humans before their land is destroyed.
Pom Poko feels like an incredibly different Ghibli film as it doesn’t necessarily have just one streamlined story or focuses on one specific character. The story constantly flows between different characters and has a narration giving viewers a deeper look into the Tanukis’ culture. With this narration comes a group of talented voice actors, including J.K. Simmons, Clancy Brown, Tress McNeille, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and many others who help give these creatures unique personalities.
Because Pom Poko’s story is told this way many will even see where acclaimed director Wes Anderson got his ideas for his recent success Isle of Dogs. Anderson is well-known for being inspired by the works of Studio Ghibli and his inspirations are clear with Pom Poko as the two films share similar methods of story-telling and humor.
The story of Pom Poko also warrants some clear and wonderfully done social topics to be included in the narrative. Themes of environmental protection and cultural understanding are seen throughout the film and add interesting moments that audiences will be drawn to. Often times, the Tanuki’s will also face similar issues that people endure so audiences will feel that they are completely relatable.
The film is quite odd, though, and not necessarily in a bad way. American audiences will likely be a little confused or “weirded out” by the Tanuki’s “pouches.” They typically perform their transformations through this “pouch” and it is drawn a certain way that many viewers might feel is distracting or inappropriate. However, it is a part of the mystic animal’s legend so it is completely accurate. It can just be a little jarring for viewers who are not expecting it.
Other than that, though, the film is drawn beautifully and has some truly magical moments. Audiences will undoubtedly feel they have entered another unique Ghibli world. The Tanuki’s transformations add even more magic to the film and can feel both incredible and hilarious.
All of these things lead to an ending that feels just right and perfectly encapsulates the group’s story. For me, it made me feel a range of emotions and will definitely give viewers something to think about even after the credits roll.
Overall, Pom Poko is a truly incredible film that showcases the incredibly creative minds of Studio Ghibli and the late Takahata. It’s hilarious in nature and tells a truly impactful story of a world that viewers won’t surely forget.