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Pom Poko

(Heisei tanuki gassen pompoko) 平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ
Japan 1994. Director: Isao Takahata
Voices: Shinchô Kokontei, Makoto Nonomura, Takehiro Murata, Shigeru Izumiya, Nijiko Kiyokawa

In this brilliant and often overlooked Studio Ghibli masterpiece directed by Isao Takahata, the forests are filled with groups of magical, mischievous tanuki — the raccoon dogs capable, according to Japanese folklore, of shape-shifting into practically any form. Pom Poko’s deceptively cuddly tanuki spend their days playing idly in the hillsides and squabbling over food. When the construction of a huge new Tokyo suburb clears a nearby forest and threatens their home and way of life, the tanuki rally to defend themselves. They embark on a guerrilla campaign to spook the construction workers into believing the site is haunted. It all culminates in a spectacular night-time spirit parade, with thousands of ghosts, dragons, and other magical creatures descending on the city — an abundance of fantastical characters that would not be matched on screen by Studio Ghibli until Spirited Away. “A rollicking mix of daffy cartoon hijinks and melancholy realism ... It’s also a eulogy to Japan’s rich folk culture, and a delightful celebration of the arts of play and transformation, animated or otherwise” (Nick Bradshaw, Time Out). Colour, 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. 119 mins.