Blu-ray Review: Pom Poko

Studio Ghibli as an animated studio goes places where Disney will never tread. The Japanese studio has no problem dealing with a subject matter that might be a little too much for a very small kid. In a way they’re more like mischievous Ralph Bakshi than wholesome Walt Disney. Case in point is Pom Poko. The story goes that after wrapping up Porco Rosso, Hayao Miyazaki declared, “After a pig, the next is a tanuki.” What is a tanuki? That’s what they call Japanese raccoon dogs. These are extremely cute and social critters. They don’t appear to be domesticated since they’re more raccoon than dog. But there’s plenty of folklore about them. While others might have ignored the film suggestion, Isao Takahata (partner in Studio Ghibli and director of Grave of the Fireflies) took up the challenge and made Pom Poko.

In the late ’60s, Japan is a grow nation. There needs to be more space for the population boom especially outside of Tokyo. Land clearing crews arrive in the wilderness for another job of flattening the Earth. But what they don’t count on is tanuki. Turns out there’s more to these cute creatures than romping around the woods. They have magic powers and a desire to not move off their property. They have the power of illusion so these fuzzy critters can appear human. Although they have to relearn this skill since there’s been no need to transform over the years. But the construction workers aren’t easily spooked. They try their hardest by getting publicity for their plight and eco-terrorism on the heavy equipment. They don’t want to leave especially because of mankind.

What makes Pom Poko more than a Disney film? Turns out in order to create an illusion, the tanuki have to mess with their private parts. Although when Disney released the movie back in 2005, they called them “raccoon pouches.” Different words are in the subtitle. Also strange is how Disney just refers to them as raccoons. Guess they figured raccoon dogs was too much for the audience to fathom.

Pom Poko is a highly entertaining film as the tanuki fight their own battle against the suburban encroachment by faking to be humans. There’s a lot of gags when they don’t quite get the spells right. Isao Takahata and his crew did a fine job making Hayao Miyazaki wish an entertaining reality.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the secret raccoon pouches. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 for both the English and Japanese dubs. The English version mixes the wildlife with their wild lives. Why wouldn’t you want to hear Clancy Brown (Highlander) and J. K. Simmons (Oz) working together? The French track is 5.1 Dolby Digital. The subtitles are in English, Japanese and French.

DVD with movie.

Feature Length Storyboard of the movie with the finished audio. You get to see what went into transforming the raccoon dogs into people.

Original Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots (7:27) shows the raccoon dogs battling it out and learning how to change shapes.

Shout! Factory & GKIDS present The Cat Returns. Directed by: Hiroyuki Morita. Screenplay by: Reiko Yoshida. Starring: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Clancy Brown, J. K. Simmons, Olivia d’Abo and Brian Posehn. Rated: PG. Running Time: 119 minutes. Released: February 6, 2018.

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