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.
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