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POM POKO

Japan, 1994 (MIFF 1997, Mayhem, Magic & Maelstroms - Japanese Animation from Studio Ghibli)

Director: Ai Gakawa, Toshi Eguchi

Using the rich folklore of the indigenous tanuki (the fat happy 'raccoon dog' that welcomes you outside Japanese restaurants - now an endangered species in Japan), Pom Poko maps out a sociopolitical scenario to question the effectiveness of certain strategies in bringing attention to ecological issues. The message in this film is not simply 'save the forest' but a ques­tion as to how one saves the forest. The answers posed at the film's conclusion provide much food for thought. The story is densely 'Eastern', making it a film for the adventurous gaijin (for­eigner) - not due to the film's innumerable cul­tural references, but more because of the means by which Takahata characterises the tanuki.

According to folklore, tanuki are capable of transformative powers and can metamorphose into anything. Throughout Pom Poko, they do this while switching between modes of depiction - the three primary graphic states being realistic, comic and iconic. When and where this occurs relates to their state of mind and reactions to a current situation: despite this multiplicity of apparition, character is sharply defined.

Individual character is further refined through the story's social dynamics, as numerous debates and conflicts ensue when they try and solve the problem of the encroaching suburban sprawl of Tama New Town. Reflecting Takahata's own conceptual scope, the tangents that shoot forth from Pom Poko are many and varied.

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