Pom Poko (Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko) is a feature length animated movie, better known as an anime, that was released in Japan in 1994. It was written and directed by Isao Takahata who is a well known animator for the very popular Studio Ghibli. The movie was based on a well-known manga that was written by Shigeru Suigiura. The tagline to the movie is “A Fantastic Tale of Survival”, and Pom Poko is certainly that.
Pom Poko is the story of the threatened extinction of a group of tanuki. Tanuki are a legendary creature from Japanese myth that is supposed to be part raccoon, part dog. The story starts in the year 1960, when a new developer is creating a town known as Tama New Town in the same space that the tanuki are trying to live. The tanuki are worried about the future, as well they should be. The movie then fast-forwards to the 1990’s when the development is expanding rapidly, and the tanuki are running out of food and space. Due to the decreased resources, the tanuki start warring amongst themselves.
An old tanuki named Oroku brings the tanuki together and explains that the real enemy is the humans. She says that all of the tanuki should band together against the humans and get them off of their land and out of their homes. The tanuki agree and it is under the guidance of a chief named Gonta and a wise-tanuki named Tsurugame that they learn how to use their illusion skills once again. Part of the legend of the tanuki says that they are able to “shape-shift” into different things, and these tanuki do so as a way to try to stop the construction from occurring.
It does not work, however, and they find themselves sending messengers into the world in order to find other tanuki to help them. A few years later, a trio of tanuki elders arrive at Tama Hills in order to help get the humans out. The tunaki undertake a massive effort to make the humans think that the town is haunted, but when a theme park says that the entire thing was a publicity stunt, the tanuki start to lose heart. They break up and each try different things, including arranging for a television crew to cover the story, even if it means publicly announcing their existence, which had never been done before.
Tanuki’s are notorious in Japanese legend for having overly large testicles. There is one part of the movie where this is very apparent, and a lot of people have had issue with this aspect of the tanuki existence being added to the movie. Most who watch the movie do not find it remarkable at all and are surprised by the fervor against the movie merely because of this. People were even more surprised when Disney, the production company that brought Pom Poko into the United States, elected to keep the references and jokes about large testicles in the movie.