It’s a little-known fact that Studio Ghibli, best known for Spirited Away (2001) and Princess Mononoke (1997), is responsible for what is probably the only pro-raccoon propaganda film in history.
Pompoko (1994), or Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pompoko (which means something like “the Pompoko raccoon war” in Japanese), teaches children that raccoons are not sneaky varmints out to steal your cat food, but eco-warriors. Imagine The Monkey Wrench Gang meets Wind in the Willows against a backdrop of Japanese urban sprawl.
In Pompoko, adorable raccoon terrorists guzzle energy drinks and devour McDonald’s hamburgers to fuel murderous attacks on truck drivers in an attempt to stall Tokyo-area suburban development. Then they tie bandanas around their heads, expand their testicles to enormous sizes and fling themselves through hails of human gunfire to crush and kill their enemies. However, their favorite trick is to use their trippy transformation magic to convince people they’re vengeful spirits and goblins. The whole enterprise is narrated in mock-documentary style.
Is it any surprise that Disney, which has the U.S. rights to all Studio Ghibli features, quietly slipped this subversive gem straight to DVD? But thank goodness it did, because once I picked my jaw up off the floor and stopped trying to understand some of the more obscure cultural satire, I was in love. As animation for children, everything seems wrong with Pompoko, and that’s how you know it’s so, so right. —Jeremy Russell