I knew little of this film going in, only that 1SO told me to watch it and that it had something to do with some kind of animals. And yeah, both of those things hold true now that I have watched the film. But if I am to say that the film made any sort of lasting impact on me I would probably be lying. The central conflict basically involves some ecobable about animals not realizing that their land is being destroyed because they are too busy fighting one another. There's an historical parallel or two that can be drawn here as well. So the raccoons attempt to band together and work on an age old transformation technique in order to sabotage the humans' operations. They turn in to people and scare others away, they pretend to be bridges (not Jeff, sadly) and then disappear to crash cars, they stretch out their scrotum to blind drivers, and a few other things. Really imaginative stuff. But the central conflict never hooked me and the addition of a narrator only made the film that much more irritating.
The film also deals with consumerism and classicism in some regard as well, but very few of these secondary themes, I suppose motif is a more appropriate term, are focused enough to have gotten me invested in the ideas the film was asking me to consider. Thankfully there is an interesting portion of the story where the raccoon encounter a fox, another creature capable of transforming, where an interesting proposal is made in order to ensure that the species continues to survive. I don't want to spoil anything for those who have not seen the film, but this part of the plot is incredibly well handled and had me wishing that it was introduced earlier on so that I could have had something more interesting to latch on to; instead, I watched a bunch of raccoons changing form and some news stories about how people were dying. But since I knew none of these people, they are all essentially faceless figures, I could not care less about their demise. I mean they are killing the trees. The trees!
Hey, one great thing about the film, or at least one good thing, is the blending of art styles. Just like the raccoons are able to transform, so too do the way they actually look. They start out in great detail looking like feral monsters - a look I wish remained constant throughout the entire film - before becoming more rounded and carefree creatures. Then during celebrations they kind of devolved into childlike drawings. It's a small touch that makes their transformations more believable and clues the viewer in to their mood, which is fun. And the rest of the direction is pretty good as well, but without that story investment Pom Poko fell very flat, much to my dismay.
Tenchi the Movie
I knew little of this film going in, only that Tenchi Muyo, Universe, and in Tokyo were pretty fantastic programs that a young FLY watched on Toonami - and that he plans to revisit in the future after seeing this film - and that, like most anime films that are offshoots of the television series it probably would be a self contained adventure outside of whatever main arc was occurring on the show. The nostalgia, she came rushing back hard. The dialogue on display here is mostly witty and fast paced, the conflicts between Princess Ayeka and Ryoko are just a joy and a pleasure to watch. Actually, most of the way the characters act are simply fantastic to witness.
But then you throw in the plot and you really start to lose me. The time travel aspect, basically sending Tenchi and the women back in time to make sure that his mother is safe and ends up with his father, is interesting enough, but it tends to lack much tension because I knew the show continued after this, or I assume it did since I had/have no idea when this takes place in relation to the three shows, but also because the film hits a portion in the middle where it really meanders. For me the benefit of this is that we get to see these characters behaving in entertaining ways, the dialogue is able to shine, and all in all the time is fun, but I can see this aspect annoying individuals who do not enjoy this type of humor and those who are more interested in the larger plot at hand. Actually, a few more larger ideas at the center of this film could have gone a long way as well.
Thankfully the film looks really great and the characters are just so much of a joy to be around, unlike the animals in Pom Poko. I do, however, have a number of foundational problems with this film. As I said before, since it is a part of a series it mostly needs to be separate from the actual shows, and the time travel aspect allows it to do that while still filling in gaps that may be present in the series. The film is still, as a whole, inconsequential to the complete series, but at least it admits that they basically are just taking these characters, having fun, and hoping to give fans an enjoyable ride. Still kind of a bummer. Also, since it's a film based on a show it expects that the viewer come in with a certain amount of background knowledge. Now as I was watching the pre-middle school FLY memories were slowly sauntering back to my mind hole, but even I was unsure at times where certain characters acted the way they did around others, why all these girls were living with Tenchi, and what the Hell royal family they kept talking about (not really this one, I know Jurai very well, but you get the idea). But hey, there's a cool final battle, so that's enough right? No. The end is fantastically beautiful though, nice and reserved enough to counter the over the top action that goes on just a while before. This aspect reminds me of the memories I have of the end of Universe. But still, if you're not coming in with a certain knowledge of these characters I have to imagine you are going to be lost to some extent, and your enjoyment of the film will be hurt. Hell, mine was and I had been exposed to these people before.
Verdict: My excitement for this match up was ill placed. Tenchi is the film I enjoyed more, though it's not a very good movie. Pom Poko is pretty mediocre as well. Neither one should probably move on, or if one does than they both should. But alas, I must decide. I just think the nature of Pom Poko, it being conceived as a stand alone project and existing as a singular tale where we get a small story, with an attempt at deeper themes, and more well developed characters (in this single film, because the characters in Tenchi as a whole are probably better developed), has to be more approachable and enjoyable for the majority of people who will have one of these films in the next round. So yeah, it kills me to put Tenchi down, especially since I now plan on going back and re-watching all of the series and spin offs, but it just asks for too much background knowledge. Pom Poko moves on, barely, but it moves on. These films should be much better than they both are.