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post #1 of 3 Old 02-02-15, 07:44 AM Thread Starter
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Pom Poko - Blu-ray Review

Title: Pom Poko


HTS Overall Score:79

The final movie in our trio of Studio Chibli films is a long forgotten and almost obscure little film by the director of the upcoming movie “The Tale of Princess Kaguya”. The early 90’s film was one of his first in the Studio Chibli lineup and still remains one of the most unique (if not downright strangest) of the collection. It’s what I lovingly refer to as “that raccoon movie”. “Pom Poko” takes a goofy, but somehow deeply saddening look at the industrialization of Japan and the effects it has upon the creatures of the land. Some parts of the movie tend to be a bit bloated and stumble along, others are sweet and innocent as a child, and others delve into deeply disturbing material (at least for small children).

In the 1960s Japan was struggling to keep up with the population growth of its country, so the nation spent an enormous amount of money and energy to start building more high-rise buildings and expanding its cities into the surrounding countryside to keep up with the growing human population. This tale tells the story of one particular place called Tama hills, an area that is home to a group of raccoons who have lived there for centuries. The raccoons see the destruction of their home and realize that they have to fight back. It seems that raccoons have the mythical power of transformation and utilize this power to fight back against the encroaching humans. It starts out as simply working on transforming into different shapes and forms in order to scare the humans, but this changes when they realize that the humans aren’t easily scared. Gunto, the most aggressive of the raccoons wants desperately to start a full scale war against the humans, but is kept under a tentative level of control from the elders Oroko and Seizaemon. When it is clear that their efforts are not as effective as they might have hoped, the elders send for the great transformation masters on distant shores.

Their war efforts increased 10 fold by the inclusion of the transformation masters, the feisty little raccoon’s plans seem to be working. Only they come to realize that the price that their transformation carries almost too late. Raccoons have been able to survive because they keep a low profile. The humans are kept blissfully unaware of their transformative abilities, but only because the raccoons have kept the transformations under wraps. With the increased exposure and proclivity of the rebellion, humans are now starting to notice that something hinky is going on. Now full-fledged confrontation is imminent and it’s unclear if the raccoons are up to the task.

“Pom Poko” has a very bizarre mixture of silly childish humor and darkly poignant lessons on the environmental issues that plague the growth of industrialized countries. The little raccoons are usually animated as a sort of goofy “chibi” presentation, where the raccoons look more like animated bears than anything. Interestingly enough, the animation will go back to a more traditional raccoon look when looking at the story during its harsh lessons. Once the raccoons talk, the animation will slide right back into that Chibi cartoon style once more. Even though there is plenty of goofy fun (the raccoons themselves would love nothing more than to party all day long), the story has no problems at showing the harsh realities of survival. Raccoons die, wars are fought and ground is lost. For a children’s PG rated movie it really earns that PG rating, unlike many of todays animated PG films which really feel like a G rated movie with a snide comment here or there.

The lessons in the story are important, whether you are a full-fledged environmentalist or not. However, the manner in which it is told has some flaws in it that hamper “Pom Poko” from being one of the better Chibli movies. Isao Takahata directs a visually striking and extremely detailed film, but the excessive running time feels a bit bloated and unwieldy. I felt as if there could have been about 30 minutes less of the film and the point could have gotten across without losing as much steam as it did in the process. A movie about raccoons fighting back against the humans doesn’t sound like it should be a 2 hour film, and really that two hours was a bit too much. I enjoyed the little nuances in the film in regards to the raccoon lives, but after a while the battles and pranks that they employed got a bit excessive and sometimes a little bit repetitive.


Rated PG for violence, scary images and thematic elements

As with all three of the releases given to us by Disney, “Pom Poko” looks simply fantastic on Blu-ray. With a 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio and encoded on disc with an AVC encode, the image pops off the screen like I have never seen it before. There is a very natural layer of film grain over the animation and it gives the film a rugged and definitely 90s feel to it. The animation itself is superb, with strong lines and cheerful colors to brighten up the picture. Black levels appear to be on par with the best of them and the hand drawn animation looks vivid and crisp as can be. I didn’t notice any banding or encoding issues whatsoever in the transfer and can proudly say that this is the best it has ever looked by a large margin. Studio Chibli always does a fantastic job with their video encodes, and this one is no different.

Like “Porco Rosso”, “Pom Poko” is given two different lossless 2.0 tracks to enjoy, with one in English and the other in Japanese with English subs. As usual, I enjoyed the Japanese track a bit better than the English one, especially since the Japanese voice actors gave the movie a darker and harsher feel, while the English cast seemed younger and gave it a lighter tone. Sadly the subtitles included on the disc are both “dubtitles” instead of having a literal translation on the disc like “Porco Rosso” had. In regards to the actual fidelity, this is a great 2.0 track, with very impressive dialogue and some solid channel separation among the two speakers. There is some mild LFE baked into the encoding that gives a fuller feeling to the track and there was some impressive use of directionality in film, specifically among the boisterous moments.


• Japanese Storyboards
• Promotional Materials
• Trailers


“Pom Poko” is one of those Studio Chibli titles that I honestly had almost forgotten about. It’s about as remembered as “My Neighbors, the Yamadas” and “The Cat Returns” in the archives, but still is a rather interesting trip down memory lane. A very whimsical and unique trip at that. While it isn’t one of the greatest of the series, it certainly is faithfully presented on Blu-ray with fantastic technical specs and certainly deserves a watch for fans of Japanese Animation. While I usually tell everyone to give it a watch or a buy, this is one of the few that I would honestly recommend a rental first, as it is one of the strangest of the entire Studio Chibli lineup.

Additional Information:

Starring: Shinchô Kokontei, Makoto Nonomura, Yuriko Ishida
Directed By: Isao Takahata
Written By: Hayao Miyazaki (Idea) Isao Takahata (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 2.0, Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0, French DD 2.0
Studio: Studio Chibli/Disney
Rated: PG
Runtime: 119 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 3rd 2015

Buy Pom Poko On Blu-ray at Amazon

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post #2 of 3 Old 02-03-15, 05:55 AM
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Re: Pom Poko - Blu-ray Review

Thanks for the review. I never heard of this movie actually. I have enjoyed watching “My Neighbors, the Yamadas” and “The Cat Returns” so I will have to check this movie out as well. Thanks for the insight.

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post #3 of 3 Old 02-03-15, 06:20 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Pom Poko - Blu-ray Review

tripplej wrote: View Post
Thanks for the review. I never heard of this movie actually. I have enjoyed watching “My Neighbors, the Yamadas” and “The Cat Returns” so I will have to check this movie out as well. Thanks for the insight.
you're quite welcome. I'd say it's probably the most obscure of the Ghibli releases, so I'm not completely surprised that this one is a new one for you.
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