Here are a pair of high-resolution photos (click for full view, as always) of Isao Takahata's 1994 Studio Ghibli film, Heisei Gassan Tanuki Pom Poko. These both come from the spectacular visual high point of the movie, the Tanuki "Spooking War." This sequence is a visual marvel, wildly surreal, packed to the rafters with icons and figures from Japanese mythology and folklore.
Pom Poko is a virtual encyclopedia of Japanese culture, a lost culture that is now completely alien to modern eyes. Never before has any movie so skillfully portrayed the alienness of Japan's rich heritage. An American counterpart to the Spooking War would involve a parade of the Founding Fathers, of Paul Revere on his Midnight Raid, of Lewis and Clark, of Harriet Tubmand and Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.
The Tragedy in the Spooking War is not that one of the old Tanuki masters dies, or that the parade of ghostly images dissipates. The tragedy is that the people have been brought face to face with the ghosts of their cultural past, and they cannot recognize them. By the next morning, the entire event is cynically passed off as a hoax.
Takahata's hope lies in the faces of the children. They are the ones watching, wide-eyes, captured by the mystery and awe of these ghosts. The hope is that they, in time, will reawaken to their own past, before all of Japan is completely consumed by Western materialism, in concrete and steel clear to the horizon.
Were you smart enough to figure that out? Or were you too busy pointing and giggling at the pee-pee parts?