(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Pom Poko)
Doug (vo): By popular demand, Pom Poko. I wish I had a better excuse as to why I didn't include this in the original Disneycember, but honestly, I just forgot. I thought I had it scheduled, but then, when I looked over the list, it looked like it wasn't on there, so I said, "Okay, we'll get to it now." The film itself is anything but forgettable, with a very distinct and entertaining story.
Doug (vo): Pom Poko is about a bunch of raccoons, or tanukis, who are constantly fighting for their land that is trying to be taken over by the humans. However, the angle in this isn't quite as dramatic as, say, Princess Mononoke. It's actually got a lot more comedy and is more upbeat. Uh, for the most part. When you think about a bunch of raccoons trying to attack humans, you don't really think of that much variety. But, again, remember, this is Japanese lore, and the tanukis could shapeshift. Yeah, remember in Mario 3, how he could always turn into a statue in the tanuki suit? Well, this is the same idea. The raccoons can not only turn into people, but they can also bend and shape their body however they want. The only problem is, a lot of them have forgotten how. And with the land constantly being destroyed more and more every day, they send out to the elders to show them how to do it once more. The elders, of course, teach them well, and it's a constant battle back and forth to see who can keep the land and who's going to lose it.
Doug (vo): Being much more comedic, these characters end up being very likeable and very funny. It's almost like watching a Looney Tunes cartoon. Just seeing these big-eyed fluffy animals constantly go against people, and a lot of them screaming and yelling and running around, flailing their arms and making jokes back and forth, it always keeps the energy really high. But at the same time, it has a lot of character, too. You do get to know these raccoons and their personalities, and you like how they work off each other and how celebratory they are and how they always get along, for the most part, and they're always going on adventures, and you don't want to see them lose their land.
[A couple of the film's characters are shown]
Doug (vo): The voice acting doesn't have as many celebrities as much as natural voice-over artists, like Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche. But they do fit in a few names like Jonathan Taylor Thomas and J.K. Simmons, and they all do fine for what's required.
[Several darker scenes are shown]
Doug (vo): The only thing I might have a little bit of an issue with is that there's a surprisingly kind of high death toll in this movie. Yeah, it doesn't look like it, and in some ways, the tone doesn't even act like it, but a lot of characters die in this, both people and raccoons. Some have a heavy impact, but others are just kind of a glance in a sentence. On the one hand, I say this kind of gets in the way with the light-handed tone, but then, on the other hand, we don't really question that much when we see Stormtroopers falling to their deaths constantly. And, hey, maybe a little bit of dark reality can help, too. It doesn't totally ruin the tone, just once in a while, it's a touch distracting.
[The scenes that are about to be described next are shown]
Doug (vo): And, oh, yeah. Let's talk about this elephant in the room. For anyone that has seen the original Japanese version, there's a scene that you might find a little...um...awkward. When they're finding out what their bodies can do and what they can make shapeshift, they find out something very bizarrely unique: They can blow up their genitalia to an incredible size. Yep, those big things that they're bouncing off of, that's supposed to be their private parts. Um...different cultures, I guess. Again, on the one hand, I can see a bunch of kids laughing at this. "Oh, isn't that funny? They're using their private parts and making them big! Tee-hee-ha-ha!" But on the other hand, "Jesus Christ! They're using their private parts!" Now, to be fair, they don't really look that much like their private parts, seeing how they're playing with the size and shape and everything, but...this is still kind of fucked up! I remember when I saw this in Japanese, I said, "Well, there went the chances for an English dub there." But nevertheless, Disney still picked it up. So I remember thinking to myself, "How the hell are they gonna tap dance that little bit?" Well, apparently in this version now, tanukis have pouches. Yep, that's their way around it. And in all fairness, I don't think it's actually that bad a way around it. I mean, come on. Even taking the Disney equation out of it, wouldn't you be a little uncomfortable if American audiences saw raccoons using their junk to fight people? Different cultures, I understand, but as someone who grew up in this culture, yeah, that would never get a market and instead would be replaced with a ton of angry parents. So I actually think it was a very clever solution.
Doug (vo): But whether they keep that in or they don't, it's still a very highly entertaining movie. Most of it is just watching them trying to stop the humans from taking over the land and trying to show the value of what they have. Very simple, but very effective, and very funny. Sometimes, it gets a touch heavy-handed, like the main character actually looks at the camera at the end and speaks to the audience saying the very obvious message. But for the most part, it's just a really enjoyable adventure with a ton of creativity and a lot of imagination. It's also nice to see Studio Ghibli do kind of a different story, something that doesn't take place in a fantasy world but has fantasy characters, and they're not human, they're all animals. I don't really see that from Ghibli too much, where all the main characters are animals. It's got good characters with a good plot and a good moral. It's definitely a lot of fun to check out. Transform into something that's fast and check it out for yourself.
[A scene showing the raccoons dancing with each other is shown]