Pom Poko

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Pom Poko Movie Poster Image
Anime tale with environmental message; some peril, sadness.
  • PG
  • 1994
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Strongly advocates for respecting nature as human civilization infringes upon wild animal habitats. Comments on the value of peaceful means to bringing about change as opposed to dependening on violence; different raccoon factions advocate differing points of view. To promote the rights of wild creatures, the raccoons are depicted with feelings, spirituality, and a capacity for love, friendship, and fun.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The raccoons in positions of leadership are courageous, resourceful, and self-sacrificing, and take steps to be well-informed. Within that group some push for violence to affect change, while others hope to rely on less destructive methods, preaching hard work and clever tactics. Human beings are the enemies of nature; they are portrayed as unaware of the damage they cause, callous about the wildlife they displace, and, in some cases, greedy and mean-spirited. The raccoons consistently label them "cruel," "stupid," and "heartless." Female raccoons are a part of the ruling elite and are shown respect.

Violence

Cartoon violence throughout. Alliances of raccoons fight one another with sticks, injuring many. When humans are recognized as the enemy, raccoons use multiple methods to try to stop destruction of their land. Vehicles are overturned, fires set, and bridges damaged; three human workers are killed in the process. One angry raccoon leader presses to "Kill all the humans" in several scenes. Raccoons, able to transform themselves into a variety of shapes and beings, become monsters (skeleton, dragon, teeth-bearing beasts) to scare the humans. Many raccoons die, either from starvation, road accidents, or traps. Narration describes the plight of the animals, while visuals show multiple dead raccoons.   

Sex

Springtime finds the raccoons with romance on their minds; they court, marry, and have offspring. The raccoons depicted are tanuki of Japanese legend; they are drawn with visible testicles. 

Language

Humans are frequently described as "cruel," "sick," "heartless," "mean." A raccoon encourages his peers to "Kill the humans!"

Consumerism

One crane reads "Hitachi."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Raccoons engage in numerous celebrations; in some they consume drinks that appear to be alcohol. In one lengthy scene, two obviously inebriated men sit at a bar reacting to raccoon pranks going on behind them.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the heroes of Pom Poko, a Japanese anime film by Isao Takahata, one of the founders of the prestigious Studio Ghibli, are raccoons -- but raccoons that can transform into anything and everything, particularly humans. It's an environmentally themed story about human invasion of wildlife spaces. Lots of cartoon jeopardy and some scares accompany the intriguing critters as they try to stop urban sprawl. Colorful, fierce, and mythic monsters parade through scenes, and raccoons battle each other with sticks and fight their human enemies with elaborately destructive pranks. The raccoons are responsible for several human deaths and are themselves killed in great number (raccoons who have succumbed to starvation are seen stacked up; others are on-camera roadkill). Despite those issues and its nearly two-hour length, the film offers older kids and teens a unique experience that is funny, touching, informative, and even inspiring. Audiences will identify with the beleaguered little creatures. However, don't look for any sympathetic humans; in the Tama Hills outside of Tokyo, they don't appear to exist.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byoggathac February 17, 2015

The 'Watership Down' of Japan

This movie is more geared for teens and up if mainly for the reason that the Japanese find testicles funny in the way westerners find rear ends funny. As the r... Continue reading
Adult Written byzeekattacklee July 4, 2015

Pom Poko review

I absolutely love the studio Ghibli films.. this film might go over younger kids heads a bit. Otherwise, a great a family film..
Kid, 11 years old July 21, 2015

Sad but a good message

This movie is a lovely little anime including a beautiful message on saving nature. The story follows a tribe of raccoon's whose secret is they can shape s... Continue reading

What's the story?

Late 1960s Japan. A housing shortage in Tokyo sends construction crews to the Tama Hills on the outskirts of the big city in POM POKO. Developers will put up thousands of new houses, hoping to accommodate the expanding population. But the Tama Hills have been the lifelong habitat of an extraordinary breed of raccoons. Japanese legend has it that these raccoons (tanuki) are capable of magically shape-shifting, transforming themselves into any creature on the planet, even mythical ones. The raccoons know that for their species to survive in its natural home, the construction must be stopped. Led by an array of colorful, food-obsessed, fierce, and heroic leaders, the raccoons embark on a multifaceted campaign to cut the development down in its tracks. The resident raccoons of Pom Poko unleash every kind of prank, battle, shape-shifting, and scare tactic they can muster to stop their enemies. Some tricks are comic, some outrageous, some mean-spirited, some awe-inspiring. Along with their efforts over several years, the raccoons mature, disagree, fall in love, and multiply. When at last it appears the raccoons may be able to delay the project but that human progress cannot be contained, they up the ante even further, willing to risk everything, even their lives.

Is it any good?

At nearly two hours long, with its sophisticated themes and the deaths of many of the raccoons (and three human victims), Pom Poko is best suited for older kids, tweens, and teens. The messages are solid, as are the voice performances, including Clancy BrownJ.K. SimmonsJonathan Taylor Thomas, and Tres MacNeille. Especially entertaining is the narration by Maurice Lamarche. The animation is original and delightful, a Studio Ghibli trademark. Still, the raccoons' antics are repetitive. They play tricks; they celebrate; they mourn; they give up; they try again. It's understandable that the filmmakers wanted to fully develop the environmental issues, provide in-depth characters, and offer an informative look at both the real critters and the Japanese legends that are attached to them, but, although each element is successful, the sum of the captivating parts is not entirely so. And, though true to nature, the extensive animal deaths may be upsetting, particularly for younger kids. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of environmental stories. Do you think such stories make a real contribution to our attitude about nature and our planet? Did Pom Poko change any of your ideas or enrich your knowledge of wildlife habitats? What other environmental movies have inspired you?

  • Describe the differences between standard animation (from Disney, Pixar, and so on) and Japanese anime. Which style do you think is best suited to fairy tales? To adventure stories? To science fiction and fantasy? 

  • Find out about the Japanese legend of the tanuki, shape-shifting raccoons. Create your own legendary animal character. What powers could that animal have? How might it protect itself from predators and trespassers?  

Movie details

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