Pom Poko - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Optimum Asia
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 119
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Pom Poko

Pom Poko

By Kim Wolstenholme     March 31, 2006
Release Date: January 31, 2006


Pom Poko
© Optimum Asia


What They Say
Pom Poko is a tale of the clash between modern civilization and the natural world. The Raccoons of the Tama Hills are being forced from their forest by the rapid development of houses and shopping malls. As it becomes harder to find food and shelter they decide to band together and fight back. The Raccoons practice the ancient art of transformation until they are even able to appear as humans.

In often-hilarious ways, the Racoons use their powers to try to scare off the advancement of civilization. But will it be enough? Or will the Raccoons learn how to live in balance with the modern world.

Celebrate the magic of the forest and the beauty of the creatures who live among us in Pom Poko, directed by Miyazaki collaborator and long time Studio Ghibli member, Isao Takahata.

The Review!
Shape-shifting raccoons attempt to save their natural habitat from encroaching human development. But while Pom Poko might sound like another environmental Ghibli film, it posses a wonderful sense of humour, and the conviction to show the downside of conflict with humans.

Audio:

This is the first Ghibli movie that I've decided to watch the English dub for, although that's probably because I watched Pom Poko a long time ago with the original Japanese soundtrack. I actually found the English dub to be very impressive, and while it doesn't seem to have the 'star cast' of other Disney dubs it does contain some talented voice actors. Clancy Brown is probably the most famous name on this dub, but he does an excellent job as Gonta and really captures the spirit of the character.

Video:

No complaints here, the transfer is good, and the detail comes across really well. Colours tend to stick to naturals like greens, browns and yellow tones, with the odd splash of bright colour (reds and blues).

Packaging:

Packaging not available as only a review disk was supplied.

Menu:

Unfortunately the menu leaves a lot to be desired. It consists of a still from the movie (of the raccoons looking at the workmen's shed), with the menu options on the bottom right hand side. If you choose one of the menu options the picture zooms in to a different area of the main picture and displays further options. All the menus are accompanied by music from the movie.

Extras:

As with many of the Studio Ghibli releases the main extra here is the Storyboard comparison, which allows you to watch the entire film in storyboard format. I'm unsure how many people will actually watch this the whole way through, but it's nice to dip in and see how your favourite scenes looked in storyboard format. The Original Trailer for Pom Poko is actually a selection of teaser trailers and full theatrical trailers; these are all in Japanese with English subtitles. Following this there is a trailer for Optimum's release of Howls Moving Castle. Finally Optimum have included a show-reel entitled the Studio Ghibli Collection which gives brief teasers for each of the films in this collection. This is a nice way of promoting other Ghibli films that the casual viewer may not have been aware of.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)

One theme that usually runs through the majority of Studio Ghibli films is how mankind are potentially ruining the environment for their own requirements. Princess Mononoke was overtly concerned with environmental issues, as was Nausicaa. Pom Poko adds to this cannon, but approaches the story from a slightly different angle " this time round we get to see the repercussions of mans development as they are felt by a community of raccoons (or tanuki).

As the population of Tokyo grows the demand for housing increases, and decisions are made to build housing on the green land surrounding Tokyo, specifically the Tama hills, home of the raccoons. The film opens with two groups of raccoons preparing to fight one another over their increasingly decreasing territory. However, before much damage is done, one of the older raccoons makes the younger raccoons see sense, and suggests that these two 'rival' group's work together to get rid of the real menace " the humans. These two groups listen to the wisdom of the older raccoon and decide that getting rid of the humans would indeed be their best course of action, but how to go about it? This is where the ancient art of transformation comes into play.

You see, according to Studio Ghibli, raccoons only ever move around on 4 feet when they are near humans, once away from the presence of humans they stand upright. Similarly raccoons have always had the ability to transform into any object they desire, although over the years this art has been lost as there has been no real need to practice it. Therefore the raccoons decide to bring back the ancient art of transformation and begin a 5-year plan to get the humans to move out of their territory. Although the older raccoons are able to transform and teach the younger racoons, a decision is made to send for some well regarded transformation masters, to supplement the older raccoon's experience. Therefore 3 of the raccoons leave the Tama Hills to find these notable raccoons and bring them back.

In the meantime, the raccoons that are left behind start learning how to transform and, by finding an old dumped television set, to study their human adversary. Initially the raccoon's attempts at transformation are rudimentary at best with them being unable to hold a transformed shape for long, eventually though, certain raccoons become highly skilled at the art and are especially capable of mimicking humans. The ability to transform does unfortunately have a down side, as the art of transformation takes up a lot of energy and concentration on the part of the raccoon, which unfortunately leads to a couple of mishaps during their first forays into the city in human shape. In fact it's intimated in the film that the proliferation of energy drinks on the market is probably due to the raccoons needing the extra energy in order to keep their transformed shape.

Male raccoons have a slight advantage over their female counterparts, due to their 'raccoon pouches' (as they are sensitively referred to in the dub). These pouches can be put to all sorts of uses, and can be stretched to phenomenal sizes. Some of the more memorable uses of the pouches in the film are as parachutes and a bridge (although I really wouldn't have liked to be the raccoon chosen for that job).

The bulk of Pom Poko concentrates on the raccoons learning the art of transformation and their attempts to get rid of the humans that are working on the construction site. Some of their schemes are quite inventive and placid, such as pretending to be faceless ghosts and a pair of young twin girls who are lost. Others are more direct (and are usually the ones led by Gonta), and are much more destructive and result in several humans being killed. Although the raccoons are united in their battle to rid their territory of the humans, it's interesting to note the differences in opinion between them. Gonta is very gung-ho about saving his territory and is really not concerned whether their victory is as a result of human loss. Shokichi on the other hand is far more placid, and argues that if the raccoon's actions lead them to kill humans are they really any better than the people who are taking over their territory.

Pom Poko is probably far less preachy than either Nausicaa or Princess Mononoke, but that's not to say that either of those two films suffers as a result of their message. Pom Poko prefers to look upon the situation with a lighter touch that adequately disguises the quite serious message underneath, and as a result is a film that is suited far better to a younger audience. Although the film does not shy away from showing the repercussions of the raccoon's actions, in fact there are a couple of scenes that might be upsetting for very young viewers and it's worth bearing this in mind.

The raccoons are admirable in their attempts to get rid of the human menace in their territory, it's just a shame that they probably don't get their message across until it's probably too late for all concerned. Their last ditch attempt to show the humans who have moved into their apartments what the landscape actually looked like before the construction started, was unfortunately too little too late.

Throughout the film what continually comes across is the raccoon's spirit " they frequently look on the bright side of life, and with every defeat comes even more determination to rescue their territory. They also take every opportunity to enjoy life and throw numerous parties to celebrate even the most minor victory. It is this sense of determination and optimism that keeps the film quite light-hearted, even during the more downbeat scenes.

In Summary:

Pom Poko definitely isn't one of the widely recognised Ghibli films, and this is unfortunately probably down to the fact that it doesn't have the instantly recognisable name of Hayao Miyazaki to promote it. Even so, this film more than adequately demonstrates that Studio Ghibli are capable of producing enjoyable films without having to resort to using their mentors name as an enticement. Hopefully, in future, the name Studio Ghibli alone will manage to promote the same amount of interest in their output as the name Pixar does currently.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Original trailer,Alternative Angle Storyboards,Howls Moving Castle Trailer,The Studio Ghibli Collection

Review Equipment
Panasonic 42" Plasma, Sony 335 DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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