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Exclusive review: Inu-Yasha:
Rumiko Takahashi's (Ranma 1/2, Maison Ikkoku, Mermaid Tales) new hit TV series in Japan
  Rating: PG
  U.S. Distribution Rights: Disney
  Genres: Comedy, Fantasy

Pom Poko (Movie)
Alternate Titles: Raccoon Wars, Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pom Poko

Description:    Pom Poko is about the tanuki. Tanuki (often imprecisely translated as "raccoon" or "badger") are wild creatures with raccoon-like markings, belonging to the canid (dog) family, native to Japan. Japanese folklore credits the tanuki with the ability to do magic and to transform into different shapes.

The tanuki in Pon Poko use their powers to try and discourage humans from developing and destroying the forests where they live. The also use them to try to pass for human and fit into human society. Directed by Isao Takahata for Studio Ghibli.

Overall Grade: 90% (A-)

  Reviewer #1: Clyde Adams III
  Episodes reviewed: Movie; Subtitled
Grade: 85% (B)
   Pom Poko is a comedy with a serious underlying theme: the war between humanity and nature. Whatever you think of that theme (I don't think much of it myself), Pom Poko is a funny, engaging movie, beautifully realized, but it's not one of Studio Ghibli's very best. It lacks focus, because there is no central character; we meet lots of tanuki, but we never get to know any one of them well.

The tanuki are comic. Their fantasy forms are funny looking. They are deliberately mischievous. "If we lose our sense of fun, we will no longer be tanuki!" one says.

Faced with a serious problem, the tanuki debate and try various approaches: frightening the humans or murderously attacking them. Nothing they do seems to slow down the development, or the destruction of their beloved forests.

Two of the most striking scenes are huge illusions. In one, the tanuki fill the city with imaginary creatures: A gigantic glowing skeleton, a huge floating snake with a head like a human woman's, and many more. In the other, the tanuki create the illusion that the city buildings and paving are gone, and that the trees and plants are growing there again.

  Reviewer #2: Mariela Ortiz
  Episodes reviewed: Movie, subtitled
Grade: 95% (A)
   When the Disney/Tokuma deal was announced, fans who had seen this wonderful movie were forced to wonder "How is Disney ever gonna release this one?" This tale of tanukis at war is a delight to watch, but to the non-Japanese viewer, parts are confounding, bizarre and well a little hard to handle unprepared (that "unique ability" male tanuki have sure makes audiences uncomfortable.) All that aside, this tale of human development vs. Nature packs in humor and heart, with a somewhat haunting message about a conflict with no easy answer.

It is very easy to sympathize with the tanuki in their struggles, it's their way of life and existence that is being threatened. But lest we root for them too much, the movie cleverly juxtaposes harmless scare tactics with violent ones, and to add to the uncomfortableness factor, which we humans are causing this war with our need for more housing, more development, more space.

Still, there is a lot of joy in this piece, and hope. Any scene with tanuki transformations is priceless, particularly the "training school" portion. The ghost parade is a wonder to behold, even is you aren't familiar with Japanese mythology and legend. And the ending, though somber in its realism, is still infused with a never dying hope we should all be so lucky to have. The scenes of violence, and "Japaneseness" of this film may make it inappropriate for younger viewers, but older children and adults can most definitely enjoy this Studio Ghibli masterpiece. Even if I have no idea how to market it!

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