Pom Poko (1994)

Pom Poko Movie Review

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Pom Poko Movie Review

Pom Poko is a 1994 fantasy drama anime film from Studio Ghibli and directed by Isao Takahata. It is one of the weaker, but still underrated Ghibli films.

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They used their balls as weapons in a brave kamikaze attack

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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So this is basically another nature tale where environmentalism is the prevailing message. This time around we follow raccoon dogs who have the power to transform into anything and are forced to transform into humans and live in their society as their forests are getting destroyed. So they do try to hammer this message a bit too much and for some that would be a deal-breaker, but I didn’t mind it too much as it is a very important message and people and children should be aware of this problem.

This is a very interesting film in that it very much seemed like a live-action film. Let me explain. Its running time is two hours and the film is sprawling, ambitious and rich in themes and characters which are all rarely seen in animation. That was a two-edged sword however. It was admirable in ambition, but it was also probably too long and some scenes in its middle section felt either repetitive or even unnecessary. There were too many details and plot points in my opinion.

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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But the story in Pom Poko still worked and these raccoon dogs were very interesting as they have the power to transform and all those transformations were beautiful and interesting to watch. I loved how the humans were realistically portrayed in all their actions and yes – the ending killed me. It  affected me emotionally as it truly is a beautiful, poignant scene. Watching them live as humans and miss their forest home was devastating, but still that final scene where Shoukichi gathers with his companions was so touching and the fourth wall breaking finale was also devastating.

So Shoukichi is a memorable, likable protagonist, Oroku is a lot of fun and old Seizaemon is great. Now most of these characters are underutilized as you got too many of them, but still they all felt like a big family thanks to a lot of emotional connection, excellent interactions between them and fun humor. I loved their relationship with humans too. The voice acting is also pretty good per usual.

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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So let’s talk about the animation. Firstly, the character design. Let’s first address the elephant in the room – those giant balls. Yes, these animals have giant balls that in the movie they use to fight the humans in the end even. So yes, it felt weird, but if you are used to anime, you would not mind it like I did not. In fact, it was quite funny to me and it is the most memorable thing about the movie for better and for worse. Love it or hate it, it is bold and the overall character design is actually excellent as they have three forms and they shift from realistic to anthropomorphic to transformed so smoothly and all the forms are beautiful.

The overall animation is very competent and actually great. I loved the natural landscapes, but the city imagery was also very memorable. That scene where you witness the destruction of the hill for the placement of the city was truly heartbreaking. The animation here is so polished and so beautiful as a whole that it honestly doesn’t stay too much behind their more well known, earlier efforts. The parade sequence is particularly dazzling to witness.

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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Pom Poko also has a very strong score which accompanies those emotional scenes so well and I really liked it personally. The pacing is problematic, but the direction from Isao Takahata is very strong per usual as he is one of my favorite anime directors for sure. But I have to say that I really did not like the narration here.

The dialogue overall is excellent here and the movie is smart, but that narration kidified the movie a bit too much and it was just so unnecessary and extremely overwhelming as it took up a lot of the movie. But the humor is honestly quite solid and the film is charming and poignant enough that it overcame those many flaws and it is in my opinion quite underrated and possibly better than overrated ‘Porco Rosso’.

Pom Poko is a flawed, but solid and ultimately even underrated Ghibli film. Its narration truly is overwhelming, the film may be too weird for some in regards to the character design and it was too long and the middle section dragged a bit, but still this is a very moving, rich tale with a strong environmental message, likable characters, accomplished animation and such a poignant, truly touching third act.

My Rating – 3.5

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Posted in 1990s, 1994, Animated, ANIME, Drama, Fantasy, FILM DECADES, Foreign, Japanese, MOVIE REVIEWS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

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