Pom Poko (synopsis)

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Spoiler Warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The film opens with a group of Tanukis investigating an abandoned house. They feel that they have made a real find with a large house to live in. Unfortunately, they find out the hard way why the house is abandoned. A construction vehicle's shovel arm suddenly rips through the roof and the tanukis scramble away.

Now that their living area has been decreased, the tanuki begin to fight over the diminished resources. Two opposing forces of tanuki line up and charge towards each other, transforming into their bipedal form in the middle of the rush. When they meet, the tanukis transform into various Japanese samurai armored soldiers. A hilarious fight ensues, only to be halted by the female elder tanuki, who proclaims that fighting will get them nowhere and that their real problem is the construction that man has begun. They all climb up a power tower and see the beginnings of a "New Town," a bed town created as a suburban area for the ever-expanding Tokyo.

They hold a meeting with the "town" elder, Tsurukame Oshou. He suggests that they use "Tanuki transforming science" to oppose man's encroachment into their territory and that they try to improve their own culture to equal man's so they can have their own space. They also discuss seeking the help of the great tanuki sages from Shikoku.

There is a "boot camp" where the tanuki practice their transforming skill with varying degrees of success. (Part human, part tanuki creatures walk around, creating a hilarious scene.) Some of the tanuki are successful, and they begin to go on reconnaissance missions into the world of man. Unfortunately, their transformation requires a lot of concentration and energy, so they drink lots of Japanese "power-medicine" drinks (think “Red Bull”), especially to keep the "raccoon's mask" from forming around their eyes. After awhile, they realize that they are having a problem of keeping up with the drink expense, so a different course of action is called for.

The tanukis begin to "hijack" the supply trucks coming into the construction area. They create false bridges, jump on the windshield etc., and manage to kill a few drivers. The village elder calls for a funeral observation period to show respect for the lives that they took. Even though there have been accidents, the humans press on.

The tanukis have a meeting to discuss their further strategy. One stout tanuki, Gonta, calls for the elimination of mankind. He suggests total war to exterminate their foe the humans. However, Shoukichi asks if they can leave some humans around, because he couldn't stand to live without their cuisine — tempura, hamburgers etc. Gonta has to agree, because he especially loves rat tempura and wouldn't want to do without it.

Their next strategy is to scare the humans away. The tanuki use their special power to transform into ghost-like figures (faceless humans, ghost twins, etc.). They succeed in scaring the construction workers off and the tanuki celebrate. But the next day, a new construction crew arrives to resume work.

After awhile, the three sages of Shikoku show up. They arrive in the shape of gaudily dressed punk-like old men. (They make quite a scene at the train station.) All of the tanukis gather around for a "pep talk". The three sages turn out to be very powerful in the tanuki arts, and train the whole tanuki crowd for a mass "attack" against the humans.

The next scene is rather superbly done. It is a "ghost parade" down the main street of the New Town. The imagery matches those of Japanese paintings of ghosts (very oriental-looking ghosts). The tanukis are trying to drive out all of the humans by making the town have a reputation of being haunted. (This is the scene that sneaks in quick shots of Totoro, Kiki, and Porco's plane.) However, the people turn up to watch the ghost show. Their curiosity was greater than their fear. This event is being orchestrated by the sage from Matsuyama, Inugami Gyoubu. He overexerts himself, however (he is, after all, 800 years old), and has a heart attack. The Buddha Amida Nyorai (From pure land Buddhism) comes down from the heavens and retrieves the soul of the fallen sage. (Was it part of the hallucination, or was it real?) The parade suddenly comes to an end.

The next day, the TV programs are speculating on the haunting of the new town. Eventually, the president of an amusement park company comes forth to say that the parade was a result of his company's special effects, and the event was a preview of the effects to be seen from the new theme park. The tanukis feel that their hard work has been for naught.

Later, Rokudai Mekinchou, the sage from Tokushima, has an interview with a kitsune--Ryoutarou--and discovers that the amusement park plan was really his idea. The kitsune, too, have suffered the loss of their ancestral homes by men, and so decided to join human society instead of trying to hang on to their decreasing land. In order to live among men, they need money, thus the theme park of which Ryoutarou is a business partner. Mekinchou sees a problem with this, as not all tanuki are able to transform into men.

Not willing to split up, the tanuki hatch a plot to get money. In a bizarre surrealistic scene, Ryoutarou invites the president of the amusement park company to a giant cat doll "fun house." Once inside, the tanuki separate the president from his money, and dump him on the ground as the cat-house floats into the air, sucking all of the money into itself. Ryoutarou is left along with his president, and so the kitsune have been double-crossed, as well.

Despite all of their efforts, the new town has steadily grown and diminished their land. In an emotional scene, the tanuki stage one last event. They all join forces and together transform the "damaged" land to its previous mountainous state. However, this is only temporary, as the land soon returns to its city-cultivated state. The tanukis finally concede defeat.

The narrator tells how the tanukis took the kitsune's advice and attempted to blend in with the society of man. Shoukichi becomes a salaryman, and feels sorry for mankind as he experiences the rush-hour train jam. He is worried about the tanukis that couldn't transform, and were thus left fending for themselves in the diminished wild lands. However, coming home from work, Shoukichi finds some tanuki running through tunnels in the road. He follows them, and comes out into a golf course, where the tanuki are having a party. Overjoyed to see his friends alive and well, he tears off his clothes, and charges into the fray as his old tanuki self. They may have been set back, but by no means have they been eliminated.