Title: Pom Poko (平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ)
Released: 1994

Director: Isao Takahata
Class Superlative: Most Exhibitionistic

In a Land of Pure Imagination

Urbanization has been eating away at the natural habitat of the tanuki, or Japanese racoon dogs. As their living situation grows increasingly dire, the tanuki defend their home against further destruction, with the help of their magical shape-shifting abilities.

Adorable Child Awesome Grownups Alert

Tanuki ages are weird. They can live to be a thousand years old, and the ones I thought were children had babies right away. So instead, let’s look at the characters on the other end of the spectrum, whose ages are easier to discern.

There’s Oroku, the wise old woman who always has style for miles. 

Seizaemon the guru helps to teach the younger generations how to shape-shift, um, creativity. (More on this later.)

Finally, this group of tanuki consults a trio of elders from another community for help.

Lovable Anthropomorphic Sidekicks

Um. They’re ALL anthropomorphic. (And they’re visually depicted in three styles. Their form is reflective of the kind of situations the tanuki are in — realistic, cartoony, and anthropomorphic, for everything else in between.)

And they all do lovable things like playing belly drums.

Not to mention their shapeshifting ability!

Wait, WTF?

Now you’re just trolling me, movie. So the tanuki’s testicles are pretty integral to their folklore; there’s even a nursery rhyme about them. And Pom Poko gives those bad boys plenty of screen time.

They’re also super versatile. As carpets: 

And as parachutes: 

Also, the tanuki’s clothing choices are really arbitrary — like how Mickey Mouse only wears pants, and Donald Duck only wears shirts. I don’t really know why some lady tanuki wear tops and some don’t. Then again, the tanuki obviously have no problems with their bodies. 

Famous Voices

I actually watched a subbed version — none of that sanitized ‘pouch’ nonsense in the Disney dub. (Although I’m sure Disney didn’t do the subtitles I watched, since someone gets called an asshole.)

As for the aforementioned dub, its cast features: 

Class Superlative: Most Exhibitionistic

This movie is part folklore, part nature doc, and part plea for nature conservation. But the part in which the tanuki are so very anatomically correct overshadows everything else. It definitely requires a rewatch, now that I’ve gotten the big distraction out of my system.

Exploring the Studio Ghibli Vault

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.