Today I am talking about one of the crown jewels in the Studio Ghibli crown, Pom Poko. Released in 1994 and written and directed by the legend that is Isao Takahata, Pom Poko is a true masterpiece of animation. It is a movie that I have watched many times over the years and one of my favorites from the Studio Ghibli vault.
How to Download Pom Poko
You can download or stream the film from a digital platform. Click on the Download button at the end of this review and make your choice. Check out also our reviews of other Studio Ghibli titles, such as My Neighbors the Yamadas, The Red Turtle, or When Marnie Was There.
The Movie Review
I have a bit of an interesting story with this. I have been collecting Studio Ghibli movies for years and my son from a young age too an interest in them due to the bright and colorful art on the box. Now, if you know Studio Ghibli, you know that there are many of their movies that are just straight up not movies for kids and I would argue that Pom Poko is one of those.
However, due to the “cute” and funny tanuki that are on the box, my son was obsessed with watching this movie. It was not that there was anything wildly inappropriate in the movie that made me try to dissuade him. It was more the fact, I thought he might find it rather boring as he was eight at the time. Turns out I was wrong and while I am sure some of it went over his head, he loved it and after My Neighbor Totoro it is his favorite Studio Ghibli movie.
What I like about Pom Poko is that it is a movie that has some real substance about it. It is basically a commentary on man taking over nature and how we need to take better care of the nature around us. It can be quite a hard hitting story and unlike many other Studio Ghibli movies, Pom Poko does not have a super happy all is good in the world kind of ending.
The movie starts in the 60s and a group of tanuki are worried that this new land development is going to take away their home. The movie jumps forward 30 years to the 90s and the tanuki now have very little living space and food is now extremely scarce, forcing them to fight with each other for the meager resources that have been left since this expansion.
One of the elder Tanuki manages to get the fighting tanuki to form a truce and come together to try and stop any more expansion from being done. They pretty much resort to eco-terrorism and people end up getting killed! However, it is not enough to stop the development, and some hard decisions have to be made.
Now before, I continue, I have to say that despite this being a movie about tanuki, there is some fantastic character development here. We have a core group of tanuki that make up our core cast and they do a great job of making these fully fleshed out individual characters that you come to care about and have a real interest in.
Pom Poko is a great looking movie and I think that the tanuki have a ton of personality. I love the “ghost” scene and for me, it is one of the most iconic scenes from any Studio Ghibli movie. If I had to do a top five most memorable scenes from Studio Ghibli movies, that scene would be on it!
Tanuki have the ability to shapeshift, well some of them do, this is a bit of a “lost” ability and some Tanuki simply cannot do it. The Tanuki have to decide if they are going to stay and live free, but probably struggle to survive or if they will shapeshift into human form and try to live a life amongst the humans. This is pretty heartbreaking to see and as I said, it does not have the super happy ending that you may be expecting.
They also have a great voice cast here with the likes of Johnathon Taylor Thomas from Home Improvement, Clancy Brown, J.K Simmons, and Kevin Michael Richardson to name a few. They all manage to bring a ton of personality and realism that helps get you more invested in the story.
While I love Pom Poko, I will admit, it is not a movie for everyone. It may be a bit dark and depressing for some, but that is what I loved about this. It is a movie that made me think and I was so happy that my son picked up on the strong message of looking out for the environment the first time he watched it when he was in truth too young to be watching this!
- This is one of the more harder hitting Studio Ghibli movies for me
- At its core, this movie has a fantastic message
- Despite being “cute” the tanuki have a lot of personality and feel very real
- This is one of my favorite Studio Ghibli movies of all time
- The Blu-Ray release of this could have done with being a bit brighter
- I have a feeling some people see the cute tanuki and may not be prepared for how deep and dark the story can be