Friday, November 14, 2008

Review | Movie | Pom Poko

POM POKO : The raccoons of Japan lived simple, peaceful
lives in their luscious forests, until one day, to their shock, the humans began
to tear down all the forests to make way for new housing developments. Enraged
and terrified, the raccoons must use their secret shape shifting abilities to
defend their homes from the new intruders, even if it costs lives.

Another Studio Ghibli masterpiece, Pom Poko brings something new to the table: Animals who, instead of fleeing from the deforestation that threatens them, choose to resort to a different method by turning the tables on the humans that shamelessly and thoughtlessly tear away at their homes. Based on the Japanese Tanuki folklore, many of the raccoons featured in Pom Poko have magical shape shifting powers, some a little more rusty than others. These creatures begin to notice their food and shelter becoming scarce after the invasion of their land by the crew of new housing construction, and must call on their elders, the masters of transformation, to teach them how to change their shapes. They hope to use these abilities in many different ways, but all for one sole purpose: to reclaim the land that is being stolen from them.

Though in the film they are introduced as raccoons, the Tanuki folklore is centered around a very different breed, known as the raccoon dog. In either case, the creatures in this movie are far too plump to be easily identified, doubly so with the fact that in the movie, the raccoons do not possess the famous ringed-tail that raccoons are known for. Studio Ghibli's depictions of the Tanuki are nonetheless charming and adorable. Even the mean and stuffy raccoons are hard characters to hate.

Also featured briefly in the film is another creature of folklore known at the Kitsune, a transforming fox, which in the film tries to convince the raccoons to stop their personal war with the humans and instead use their shape shifting abilities to change into humans and begin new lives. This decision is widely argued in the film, partly because of the raccoons' inability to transform into convincing humans.

I think a child would thoroughly enjoy this movie, however, here's where the warnings begin to come in. I had not been familiar with the Tanuki folklore before I watched this movie, so was surprised to discover that until about an hour through the movie, I had not noticed the raccoons' exposed genitalia. I later learn that this exposure is a prominent detail of the Tanuki in folklore, representing good luck financially. Though it may seem overly risque to the unknowing, their exposure is never, in the lore or the film, intended as sexual, and the film does not illustrate them sexually either. Rather, in the film they use what is referred to in the English dub as their "Pouches" to contribute to their shifting, such as parachutes which are seen later in the film.

Other material in the film include the deaths of humans and several raccoons, and though there is occasionally blood, it is never graphic. Additionally, there is a short scene narrated by one of the raccoons talking about how, because of lack of food and sheltering, they must halt breeding. While the raccoon talks about the female raccoons making sure this rule is kept, we see male raccoons charging at female raccoons, some seemingly drunk, and the female raccoons using karate moves to fight back, which implies their attempts to cease reproduction. Some female raccoons also have exaggerated breast size with occasional cleavage.

This movie I predict would otherwise be a delightful watch for children, even if they have to watch for 2 hours waiting for the conclusion. I extend yet another ovation for Studio Ghibli.

Overall Rating:
/ 5

No comments: