Review
My Neighbors the Yamadas/Pom Poko
Emru Townsend · From fps #4 · September 1, 2005 | A point that often gets lost when discussing Disney's ventures into anime distribution is that they didn't make their 1996 deal with Hayao Miyazaki—they made it with Tokuma Shoten, which, at the time, counted the Ghibli studio as a subsidiary. But Miyazaki is the superstar, both at home and abroad, so many think of the man and the studio as interchangeable. Even the anime specialty magazine Newtype USA got it wrong, referring to Ghibli as "the house that Miyazaki built" in a press release earlier this year.

My Neighbors the Yamadas
Directed by Isao Takahata
Studio Ghibli/Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 2005
Originally released theatrically in 1999
104 minutes

Pom Poko
Directed by Isao Takahata
Studio Ghibli/Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 2005
Originally released theatrically in 1994
119 minutes

Shop for My Neighbors the Yamadas DVDs and more:
Amazon.ca
Amazon.com

Shop for Pom Poko DVDs and more:
Amazon.ca
Amazon.com
Let's set the record straight: Miyazaki co-founded Ghibli with longtime collaborator Isao Takahata—"longtime" meaning that when they first worked on a project together, men had yet to walk on the moon. Takahata has been less prolific than Miyazaki as a director, directing only four animated films since the studio's beginnings. Each one of them is more overtly Japanese than Miyazaki's, less fantastic, and more grounded in the modern era—but they make for fine additions to the Ghibli filmography. At the same time, those qualities make them the antithesis of Western animated films, so it's understandable why Disney, in releasing the two most recent of his animated features, has done so with less of a splash than the Miyazaki films.

Of the two, Pom Poko is the one I least expected to ever see on these shores. It's the most Japanese of the two, right down to the original title. That would be Heisei Gassen Tanuki Ponpoko, roughly translated as "Ponpoko, the Tanuki War of the Heisei Era"—a play on the Japan's emperor-centric calendar system, with a dash of onomatopoeia ("ponpoko" is the sound of beating hands against flesh, such as the tummy or—well, you'll find out) and a nod to the film's main characters: tanuki.

Want to read the rest of this review?

You'll find it and many other articles in the September 2005 issue of fps, available as a free download.
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