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A group of tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs) finds its country life threatened by the construction of a human New Town. At the instigation of the town elder, these tanuki use their powers of transformation to oppose the human encroachment. Unwilling to declare all-out war on humans (they would miss human food), they fake ghostly hauntings, though the supply of human construction workers appears inexhaustible. An 800-year-old super-tanuki orchestrates a ghostly parade down the main street, but the humans are more intrigued than scared-possibly because some of the "ghosts" include cameo appearances from the stars of Hayao Miyazaki's Porco Rosso, My Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki's Delivery Service. Any spooky effects are ruined when a local theme park takes credit for the parade, falsely claiming that it was a stunt to showcase its special effects technology. The horrified tanuki discover that the theme park is run by foxes, who have given up fighting humanity and instead live among them in disguise. After outwitting the foxes, the tanuki meet for one last trick, transforming the built-up landscape all too briefly into the virgin countryside it once was. Admitting defeat, they scatter among the human race, though sometimes they meet in secret to briefly walk once more in tanuki form.
Familiar characters from Japanese Folk Tales, the mischievous tanuki are used here to tell a touching variant of Studio Ghibli's oft-repeated ecological message-supposedly inspired by the 1960s real-life construction of a suburb in Tama Hills, west of Tokyo. Lamenting the destruction of a way of life in much the same way as Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke, it also recalls the happy pastorals of Totoro. Tanuki were certainly "in" at this point in the 1990s-the unrelated Pokonyan was a big hit at the same time. An English-subtitled print was shown in very limited release in American theaters in advance preparation for a failed attempt to gain the film an Oscar nomination. However, unlike the universal Totoro, Pompoko's appeal is, to some extent, ethnocentric. Gags come at the expense of Japanese history and folklore, and some of the humor is a little too earthy for the sanitized Disney market. The end result is often a foreign-language variant on Watership Down (1978), with time out for wacky satire, tear-jerking whimsy, and an unforgettable scene in which a tanuki distracts a driver by flattening his testicles against the windshield. Ghibli's usual standard-setting art direction and design are much in evidence. "Pompoko," by the way, is the sound you get when you tap gently on a tummy stretched full of food. The Tama Hills development also featured in Until the Undersea City and Whisper of the Heart.
Formed in 1966 as Nippon Broadcasting System Inc., a record label subsidiary of the radio station NBS, the company's name was changed to Pony in 1970 and, following a merger with the record company Canyon, to Pony Canyon in 1987. The company was an early innovator in the field of computer games, but its chief involvement in the anime world is as the music producer on many titles, contributing to such unlikely bedfellows as Aim for the Ace, Emma, and Mad Bull 34. As Pony Canyon Enterprises, it has also become more directly involved in anime production on titles including Green Green.