In the 1960s in the Tama Hills, there is a large clan of raccoons that have lived in the area for years. When the humans decide to develop the land in the Hills, the raccoons have to figure out a way to keep their homes. It isn’t just their homes that’s a problem, but also their food and water is scarce. This means that they had to stop having cubs due to the diminishing resources.
A special skill that some of the raccoons have is the ability to transform into different animals, shapes, and even humans. The charismatic members of the clan — Oroku, Gonta, Seizaemon, and Shoukichi — decide a plan to make the humans leave by transforming themselves into spirits. It’s a gamble, but they have to try something or lose their homes forever.
POM POKO is maybe the strangest animated movie I’ve seen since Ralph Bakshi’s WIZARDS. The raccoons can look like three different raccoons at any given time: your average raccoon, a caricature style, and what I would call a “Ghibli style” raccoon. The last one is the form they spend the most time in. The other thing I found a little different from the norm is that the male raccoons are anatomically correct. Let’s just say that it’s easy to tell the males apart from the females.
The way that the story is told is like a documentary or an educational film on a learning channel. In no way is it dry or boring, but it has this flare that the movie maintains the entire time. This is one of the more kid-focus movies from Studio Ghibli with the silly raccoons, the abundance of songs, and the overall tone. The songs aren’t what you’d hear in a musical, but more like children songs: short, rhyming and fairly easy to remember. The film’s message is made for all ages to understand: be good to the environment because you only get one. This is a message that most Studio Ghibli movies try to convey.
Maurice LaMarche as Narrator
Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Shoukichi
J. K. Simmons as Seizaemon
Tress MacNeille as Fireball Oroku
Clancy Brown as Gonta
Jess Harnell as Inugami Gyobu
Kevin Michael Richardson as Bunta
Brian George as Kincho Daimyoujin the Sixth and Yashimano Hage
Wally Kurth as Tamasaburo
Kevin Michael Richardson as Wonderland President
Jillian Bowen as Kiyo
Brian Posehn as Hayashi
David Oliver Cohen as Ponkichi
John DiMaggio as Ryutaro
Marc Donato as Sasuke
Olivia d’Abo as Koharu
Russi Taylor asOtama
Mark Moseley as Reporter and News Anchor
The film has been transferred in a 1080p AVC encode and it’s been remastered for the Blu-ray. POM POKO is mostly set in the forest where the raccoons live, so the coloring doesn’t spread across a large spectrum like some of the other movies from the studio. That being said, the coloring has been brought out in the remaster. The animation is clean and smooth with the full amount of frames that are present in the Blu-ray format.
The DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio is nice and the effects come through better than some of the other stereo mixes I’ve heard. Unlike PORCO ROSSO, this movie uses less sound effects, so they have better separation between it and the score. There is very little bass except when a vehicle of some sort is on the screen or during the songs. It’s incredibly dialogue-heavy, but when it all comes together, it sounds great.
The Supplements are in Japanese, but seeing the images from the original trailers and storyboards that haven’t been remastered made me appreciate the movie even more.
– Original Japanese Storyboards
– Original Japanese Trailers
1 Blu-ray and 1 DVD
1080p AVC MPEG-4
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
French Dolby Digital
As I said, POM POKO is one of the weirdest animated movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a cute film and I feel like kids would love it. My only concern would be some of the images are a little odd when the “spirit parade” happens. Also, there’s the whole raccoon scrotum bit, but there’s nothing offensive about it. The animators just keep it realistic. Even though I haven’t seen the pre-HD version of the movie, I’m sure the remaster is a success. Like any Studio Ghibli film, this is well worth picking this up.