As the human city development encroaches on the raccoon dog population's forest and meadow habitat, the raccoon dogs find themselves faced with the very real possibility of extinction. In response, the raccoon dogs engage in a desperate struggle to stop the construction and preserve their home.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
Unlike Miyazaki, who can leave us guessing sometimes, Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) has a knack of hitting us over the head with a sledgehammer message, leaving us only with the desire to be hit again and again. We are given a view from the Tanuki (a kind of badger) perspective of human encroachment on their environment. Takahata gives the Tanuki all the powers that Japanese folklore ascribe to them, including the power to change their appearance at a molecular level, a full awareness of Japanese political geography, the ability to speak and write Japanese, and apparently their own Emperor (as they refer to the years of Pompoko). He also gives them limitations, such as the inability to remain serious for any length of time and the general tendency toward sloth and partying. Many Japanese even today believe Tanuki can transform.
In this story, the ability to transform is not universal nor is it a task they can undertake without stress. These capabilities and limitations work for and against the Tanuki throughout the film in humorous, touching, and tragic ways.
The principle characters lived in the western outskirts of Tokyo in the late '60s, when a massive suburban bedtown, called "Tama New Town" was being built (This is a real place). They want to stop or reverse the progress of the construction, but are divided in how to accomplish this fact. One of the more extreme members favors killing the humans and driving them all out--until he is reminded that he won't be able to eat certain foods, such as hamburgers, potato chips, or Tempura. The story is focused on their efforts to stop the project and the events leading to the conclusion of the characters' situation.
This film will have a bit of difficulty with US distribution for a number of reasons--the biggest being the fact that you can tell the genders of the Tanuki by looking at the males. The DVD of this film will be released shortly in Japan and will include English subtitles. Unfortunately, Japan uses Region 2 encoding and their DVDs won't play on American Region 1 sets. Unless you're willing to wait forever for Disney to figure out how to distribute this masterpiece, it's worth buying an all-region DVD player just to see it. I give this film a 10 out of 10 rating.
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