Isao Takahata's wildly inventive, animated social satire delivers a plea for animal preservation without resorting to cuddly anthropomorphizing.
In 1967, the peaceful co-existence of man and nature is disrupted during a housing boom. Until then, pom pokos (raccoon-like animals native to Japan that feature in many folk tales) wandered to and fro between their forest homes and suburban garbage cans. But to build the Nutama development, demolition crews launch a massive decimation of the adjacent woods. Osho (voice of Andre Stojka), the pom poko community's 105 year-old sage, convenes an emergency meeting, urging his fellow creature to rebel against their imminent exodus from Tama Hills. Obstreperous Gonta (Clancy Brown) advocates all-out warfare, but cooler fuzzy heads prevail and launch a two-pronged program. First, the pom pokos will study human behavior on television, the better to sabotage their construction sites and second, they'll revive the ancient art of pom poko shape-shifting and pass among the humans to eavesdrop on their latest plans. To help achieve the latter goal, Tamasaburo (Wally Kurth) must venture to Shiko Island, and Bunta (Kevin Michael Richardson) must travel to Sata Island to locate the master-teachers of transformation. In the interim, the raccoons are moderately successful at disguising themselves and sabotaging the humans' efforts. Every pre-emptive strike by the pom pokos causes delays, but the government never cancels the expansion altogether. When Tamasaburo returns with the famous instructor, Shincho (Brian George), the racoons train hard for a terrifying ghost parade. Unfortunately, that public fright only scares off the most superstitious settlers. Perhaps the advice of a wily fox is what the raccoons need to launch a truly effective strategy.
This splendid, environmentally conscious comedy takes short-sighted urban developers to task and only occasionally loses sight of its wryly humorous tone. The richness of the film's animation is astounding, but parents should be forewarned about an odd scene in which the raccoons fly away by puffing up their testicles like balloons – a traditional part of pom poko folklore, but in American cartoons, cute forest creatures don’t even have genitals!
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG
- Review: Isao Takahata's wildly inventive, animated social satire delivers a plea for animal preservation without resorting to cuddly anthropomorphizing. In 1967, the peaceful co-existence of man and nature is disrupted during a housing boom. Until then, pom pok… (more)