Pom Poko

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Pom Poko
Theatrical release poster
Japanese name
Revised HepburnHeisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko
Directed byIsao Takahata
Written byIsao Takahata
Produced byToshio Suzuki
CinematographyAtsushi Okui
Edited byTakeshi Seyama
Music byShang Shang Typhoon
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • July 16, 1994 (1994-07-16)
Running time
119 minutes
Box office¥4.47 billion (Japan)[1]

Pom Poko (Japanese: 平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ, Hepburn: Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko, lit.'Heisei-era Raccoon Dog War Ponpoko') is a 1994 Japanese animated fantasy film written and directed by Isao Takahata, animated by Studio Ghibli for Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network and Hakuhodo, and distributed by Toho.

An environmental allegory, the story features tanuki, or Japanese raccoon dogs (incorrectly referred to as "raccoons" in the English dialog). In Japanese folklore, tanuki are considered to be magical creatures, capable of shape-shifting into people or other objects. They are a highly sociable, mischievous species, too fun-loving and fond of tasty treats to be a real threat – unlike kitsune (foxes) and other shape-shifters.

The phrase "Pom Poko" in the title refers to the sound of tanuki drumming their bellies, from a 1919 poem by Ujō Noguchi which became a popular children's song when it was set to music in 1925.[2]

Prominent scrotums are an integral part of tanuki folklore, and they are shown and referred to throughout the film, and also used frequently in their shape-shifting. This remains unchanged in the DVD release, though the English dub (but not the subtitles) refers to them as "raccoon pouches".

Shigeru Sugiura and Hisashi Inoue and Shigeru Mizuki were credited as additional crews, as designs of tanuki and various yokai and parts of the plot were based on their works.[3][4][5] A character based on Mizuki also appeared as the commentator in the film.


The story begins in late 1960s Japan. A group of tanuki are threatened by a gigantic suburban development project called New Tama, in the Tama Hills on the outskirts of Tokyo. The development is cutting into their forest habitat and dividing their land. The story resumes in early 1990s Japan, during the early years of the Heisei era. With limited living space and food decreasing every year, the tanuki begin fighting among themselves for the diminishing resources, but at the urging of the matriarch Oroku, they decide to unify to stop the development.

Several tanuki lead the resistance, including the aggressive chief Gonta, the old guru Seizaemon, the wise-woman Oroku, and the young and resourceful Shoukichi. Using their illusion skills (which they must re-learn after having forgotten them), they stage a number of diversions including industrial sabotage. These attacks injure and even kill people, frightening construction workers into quitting, but more workers immediately replace them. In desperation, the tanuki send out messengers to seek help from various legendary elders from other regions.

After several years, one of the messengers returns bringing a trio of elders from the distant island of Shikoku, where development is not a problem and the tanuki are still worshipped. In an effort at re-establishing respect for the supernatural, the group stages a massive ghost parade to make the humans think the town is haunted. The strain of the massive illusion kills one of the elders and his spirit is lifted up in a raigō, and the effort seems wasted when the owner of a nearby theme park takes credit for the parade, claiming it was a publicity stunt.

With this setback, the unity of the tanuki finally fails and they break up into smaller groups, each following a different strategy. One group led by Gonta takes the route of eco-terrorism, holding off workers until they are wiped out in a pitched battle with the police, and finally, fused into the form of a tsurube-otoshi, killed blocking the path of an oncoming dekotora. Another group desperately attempts to gain media attention through television appearances to plead their case against the habitat's destruction. One of the elders becomes senile and starts a Buddhist dancing cult among the tanuki who are unable to transform, eventually sailing away with them in a ship that takes them to their deaths, while the other elder investigates joining the human world as the last of the transforming kitsune (foxes) have already done.

When all else fails, in a last act of defiance, the remaining tanuki stage a grand illusion, temporarily transforming the urbanized land back into its pristine state to remind everyone of what has been lost.[6] Finally, with their strength exhausted, the tanuki most trained in illusion follow the example of the kitsune: they blend into human society one by one, abandoning those who cannot transform. While the media appeal comes too late to stop the construction, the public responds sympathetically to the tanuki, pushing the developers to set aside some areas as parks. However, the parks are too small to accommodate all the non-transforming tanuki. Some try to survive there, dodging traffic to rummage through human scraps for food, while others disperse farther out to the countryside to compete with the tanuki who are already there.

One day, Shoukichi, who also joined the human world, is coming home from work when he sees a non-transformed tanuki leaping into a gap in a wall. Shoukichi crawls into the gap and follows the path, which leads to a grassy clearing where some of his former companions are gathering. He joyfully transforms back into a tanuki to join them. Shoukichi's friend, Ponkichi, addresses the viewer, asking humans to be more considerate of tanuki and other animals less endowed with transformation skills, and not to destroy their living space; as the view pulls out and away, their surroundings are revealed as a golf course within a suburban sprawl.

Voice cast[edit]

Character name Japanese voice actor English voice actor
Shoukichi (正吉) Makoto Nonomura Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Gonta (権太) Shigeru Izumiya Clancy Brown
Oroku (おろく婆, Oroku-baba) Nijiko Kiyokawa Tress MacNeille
Tsurukame Oshō (鶴亀 和尚) Kosan Yanagiya Andre Stojka
Seizaemon (青左衛門) Norihei Miki J. K. Simmons
Ponkichi (ぽん吉) Hayashiya Shōzō IX David Oliver Cohen
Tamasaburo (玉三郎) Akira Kamiya Wally Kurth
Bunta (文太) Takehiro Murata Kevin Michael Richardson
Sasuke (佐助) Megumi Hayashibara Marc Donato
Ryutaro (竜太郎) Akira Fukuzawa John DiMaggio
Okiyo (おキヨ) Yuriko Ishida Jillian Bowen
Kinchō Daimyōjin VI Beichō Katsura Brian George
Yashimano Hage
Inugami Gyōbu Gannosuke Ashiya Jess Harnell
Otama (お玉) Yorie Yamashita Russi Taylor
Hayashi () Osamu Katō Brian Posehn
Koharu (小春) Yumi Kuroda Olivia d'Abo
Narrator (語り, Katari) Kokontei Shinchō Maurice LaMarche
Reporter (アナウンサー, Anaunsā) Makiko Ishikawa
Masanobu Iwakuma
Toshimi Ashizawa
Minako Nagai
Masahiro Hosaka
Katsuhiro Masukata
Mark Moseley
News Anchor (キャスター, Kyasutā) Sawako Agawa
Naruhito Iguchi

Additional voices in the English dub include Newell Alexander, Jeff Bennett, Mitch Carter, Holly Dorff, Zac Gardner, Sherry Hursey, Jordan Orr, Philece Sampler, Alyson Stoner, Erica Beck, Reeve Carney, David Cowgill, Ike Eisenmann, Richard Steven Horvitz, Hope Levy, Mary Mouser, Peter Renaday, Audrey Wasilewski, and Adam Wylie.


The film was released in Japan on July 16, 1994. It was released on DVD on August 16, 2005 in North America by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment along with My Neighbors the Yamadas. Optimum Releasing released the film on DVD in the United Kingdom, a year later. Disney released a Blu-ray disc on February 3, 2015. GKIDS re-issued the film on Blu-ray and DVD on February 6, 2018 under a new deal with Studio Ghibli.[7]


Box office[edit]

Pom Poko was the number one Japanese film on the domestic market in 1994, earning ¥2.63 billion in distribution income,[8] and grossing ¥4.47 billion in total box office revenue.[1] It became the 2nd highest-grossing animated film after The Lion King.

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 86% based on 14 reviews.[9] It was chosen as the Japanese submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for that year. It won Best Animation Film at the 49th Mainichi Film Awards.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "超意外な結果!?ジブリ映画の興行収入ランキング". シネマズ Plus (Cinemas Plus) (in Japanese). June 25, 2016. Archived from the original on July 9, 2019. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  2. ^ Munroe Hotes, Catherine (November 13, 2010). "Belly Drum Dance at Shojoji Temple (證城寺の狸囃子, c.1933)". Nishikata Film Review. Archived from the original on August 19, 2016. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
  3. ^ "平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ (1994)". Allcinema.net. Retrieved February 25, 2024.
  4. ^ "Ghibli's TV Ad, Isao Takahata's Puppet Work Posted". Anime News Network. Retrieved February 25, 2024.
  5. ^ "2009-08-News - Ghibliwiki". Nausicaa.Net. Retrieved February 25, 2024.
  6. ^ Clements, Jonathan; McCarthy, Helen (2006). The Anime Encyclopedia. California: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-933330-10-4.
  7. ^ Carolyn Giardina (July 17, 2017). "Gkids, Studio Ghibli Ink Home Entertainment Deal". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  8. ^ "Kako haikyū shūnyū jōi sakuhin 1994-nen" (in Japanese). Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Archived from the original on August 2, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  9. ^ "Pom Poko (Heisei tanuki gassen pompoko; The racoon war)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 23, 2019.

External links[edit]