Melek Ortabasi


Takahata Isao’s animated film Heisei tanuki gassen pompoko (Tanuki Battle of the Heisei Era, 1994) is a unique demonstration of the affinity between the supernatural aspects of folklore and animation itself. Featuring anthropomorphized animals that possess the uncanny powers attributed to them by folklore, Pompoko mobilizes the medium to display the animals’ shape-shifting skills in their war against the humans who threaten their habitat. Pompoko’s visual extrapolation of folk belief allows these animals to become more than a nostalgic reification of stable Japanese identity. By forcing drastic encounters between the realistic and the fantastic, Takahata’s film questions whether the human anxieties embodied in fox and raccoon dog folklore are really a thing of the past. I argue that Pompoko, through the medium of anime, shows how folklore can become an effective ideological tool for questioning what it actually means to be a (post)modern Japanese.