Pom Poko (UK - BD RB)
Marcus morphs into a Ghibli racoon and follows a clan recording his BD findings
Pom Pokotells the comedic yet highly environmentally conscious tale of a group of raccoons as they battle, trick, tanking and outright abuse humans to try and prevent a giant urban construction from destroying their land.
Based on Japanese folklore and also taking a good look at the world of humans and societies treatment of its land and wildlife, Pom Poko is a surprisingly hard Ghibli title to connect to at times. Ghibli usually thrives in this area but rather than through the characters, the film is told largely via voice over and often times it feels as if the narration is telling us the story. Because of that, the film constantly feels like it's always just starting, or just ending, depending on where the narration falls in the mini-tales and the film never quite feels like its in a flow.
However, none of this stops the film from being amusing. The racoons are all fun in goof ball ways. Their shape shifting antics range between cute and outright creepy - the no-face bike lady trick on the security guard is a thing of nightmares if taken out of the film and watched alone.
Pom Poko has a good message and a laid back approach. It has elements of feeling akin to a Wes Anderson film with its dry narration and kooky segments of madness (something like The Royal Tenenbaums) and moments of feeling like an almost legitimate wildlife film focusing on a mad set of racoons but it still has that Ghibli charm, even if the approach is a little more difficult to get into due to the sort of cold disjointed set up.
Everything looks HD upgraded here immediately but colours are a tad muted due to 90s animation style so it certainly doesn't look as dazzling as a modern Ghibli title in that respect. Edges are nice and sharp, the hand drawn animation gets to shine in all its glory and the depth of the image has never looked so good on home release. There's a distinct texture to the wider open areas of the image that shows off the water painting style in all its glory. It's not on the level of detail more modern titles like Ponyo delivers but its still good enough to show off the charming artistry of the Ghibli style.
Pom Poko looks much like the other Ghibli Blu-ray titles from the era. In fact its fits snuggly alongside the quality of My Neighbour Totoro (the grey animals might help that comparison) and its older non computer assisted animation style. There's some good colours but nothing that leaps out at you all that much, there's some grain but its minimal and the image can look noticeably sharp but really only at a standard that doesn't quite show off but does enough to get noticed. All in all this is another solid Ghibli presentation of an older title and the HD upgrade is felt, especially when compared to the regular Film4 broadcasts which look lousy.
The narration that informs us of the racoon's situation is strong and central and has a richness that warms the slow build into the film. The dialogue matches that and comes backed with nice level of ambience such as bird chirps and weather filling it out to a more natural sound. The stereo track sometimes reaches out beyond its means and adds a deeper sound and evens manages to feel quite layered in some of the racoon crowd scenes. The track doesn't feel all that wide and the strength is clearly in the centre but it fits the smallish nature of the environmental tale well none the less.
As per normal with Ghibli titles the film is accompanied with its storyboards but beyond that its a slim disc. There’s a selection of Pom Poko’s Original Japanese Trailers and then it’s just the usual run of Ghibli Trailers.
Pom Poko is cute and has a message to say but it’s easy to drift in and out of it at times and its laid back approach makes it quite a different style to Ghibli’s more popular films. The disc looks great, sounds good but the lack of features is a shame.
Next up on the Ghibli Blu-ray line up is Princess Mononoke and The Cat Returns (two family favorites in my household) so let the countdown begin to getting hold of those...
Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 15th April 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: PCM 2.0 English, PCM 2.0 Japanese
Extras: Storyboards, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Isao Takahata
Cast: Kokontei Shinchou , Maurice LaMarche, Shigeru Izumiya , Clancy Brown
Genre: Animation and Comedy
Length: 119 minutes
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