Pom Poko, Blu-ray (1994/2015)

Pom Poko, Blu-ray (1994/2015)

Director & Writer: Isao Takahata
Voice actors: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Clancy Brown, J.K. Simmons, Tress MacNeille
Studio: Studio Ghibli/ Walt Disney Home Ent. 120348 [2/3/15] (2 discs)
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color\
Audio: English DTS-HD MA stereo, DD 2.0
Subtitles: English, French
Dubbed: French, Japanese
Extras: Original Japanese Storyboards, Original Japanese Trailers, Previews
Length: 119 min.
Rating: ****

This is not only a terrific Blu-ray restoration, as all of the Studio Ghibli/Disney efforts have been, but also a fantastic English dubbing, with a high quality translation and voices that really seem to fit the animated images on the screen as well as their mouth movements. Those who are into Japanese folklore might enjoy it more than the rest of us.

In Japanese folklore, certain cats, foxes and raccoons are shapeshifting tricksters who can look like we expect when humans are around but also can transform themselves into warriors, ghosts, pots, you name it, if wanting to scare the humans. The story is basically the old one about these creatures being driven from their homes by the actions of the humans of putting in new developments and apartments. They react by launching first a Monster Parade to scare the humans, and then they do actual battle with them. Unfortunately the head of the local theme park takes credit for the Monster Parade, when it was all the work of the transforming raccoons.

There’s much discussion in reviews about the many uses of the raccoons’ testicles as weapons (Disney calls them a “pouch” but that’s not really accurate). You wouldn’t see raccoons run over by cars or transforming themselves into demons in a typical Disney cartoon, but it’s nice they have released this Blu-ray.

The director of this one previously did the touchingly emotional Grave of the Fireflies, and does a fine job of telling the story of the raccoon’s efforts to exist alongside the humans. When the raccoons are partying (which they love to do) they often look like the Care Bears. There are some beautiful images, and the lovely backgrounds and various characters are up to the usual Studio Ghibli standards.  It’s certainly not like most animated family films – you should be aware of that from the start. There’s even supposed to be one scene (which I must have missed) where there’s cameo appearances by Porco Rosso, Kiki and Totoro. Don’t know why they didn’t mix the original soundtrack to 5.1 surround while they were at it.

—John Sunier

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