For Reel


Pom Poko (1994)
August 8, 2012, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Isao Takahata

Isao Takahata’s Pom Poko is rooted deep within Japanese folklore, portraying lazy, fun-loving raccoon dogs (known as tanuki) with shape-shifting abilities. In the film, they are uprooted out of their natural leisureliness and are forced to defend their forest from mankind’s devastation. When several of the tanuki kill human construction workers in the beginning of the picture, it becomes clear that Takahata is not taking his themes lightly – appropriately, he stresses the tremendous urgency of the increasing problem of deforestation (a theme which also serves to explore how Japan is losing its ancient, more wholesome roots in the industrial age). Regardless of the picture’s achievements, audiences outside of Japan will likely have one take away from it – the prominent testicles of the raccoons. While the English dub refers to them as “pouches”, they are quite unmistakably genitalia, which, in the film’s most bizarre set piece, are used as weapons of assault in a surprise attack. Over-sized testicles are one of the defining features of the tanuki in Japanese folklore, one of many such cultural references that make the picture slightly less accessible than any other Ghibli effort. Regardless, many of its pleasures remain universal – the early narrated moments are frequently hilarious, including some particularly inspired gags in which the raccoons try to assimilate into human culture, and the environmental message is delivered with a brutal grittiness that ups the ante over Miyazaki’s comparatively innocent nature fables.

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