The story in Pom Poko is quite unique, in that it uses a fairly straight forward and simple plot to address very important and realistic concepts such as respect for nature, respect for others, and working toward mutual compromise. The themes are approached in such a way that the messages resonate with younger and older audiences alike. To summarize the plot, the expansion of Tokyo is causing humans to cut down forests for development land. One of the forests being expanded into is inhabited by a clan of tanuki (racoons) with posses the ability to transform. In order to protect their home, the tanuki use their transformation abilities to scare off the humans and make them believe that the forest is haunted. When the humans start to realize that there are no spirits haunting the forest, they move ahead with cutting down the trees for the expansion. The tanuki have to move to move to extreme measures in order to protect their home, which ultimately involves fighting for survival.
Its very clear from the plot summary that the story is very simple and does not leverage complex elements to keep the viewers attention. By using such a simple and straight forward story line, there is greater room to elaborate on the themes, without worry of the messages getting lost in translation.
One of the factors that drew me into this film was the character design. By personifying the tanuki and giving them more anthropomorphic properties, they became more relatable, making the film feel less like a kids movie about talking racoons. The use of colour was vibrant, while still maintaining the texturing of an older film, making a lot less overwhelming than some of the new computer generated anime on the market today.
While I am always listening to Joe Hisaishi and Studio Ghibli soundtracks on a daily basis, I have to say that the soundtrack for this film is not sticking in my mind the same as others classics like Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, or Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke). The soundtrack is still quite enjoyable, just not as memorable as others.
Overall, I highly recommend checking out Pom Poko along with many of the other Studio Ghibli titles. While the film appears on the surface to cater to a younger audience, adult anime fans will also find meaning in much of the story and content. If you are like me and regularly into anime with heavier action and drama, this is a good light hearted change of pace.