Pom Poko is anything but a conventional children's story. It has much deeper origins in Japanese folklore than anything else, and it has the strongest ties to more established Japanese animation than many of the other Studio Ghibli works, at least in my opinion. It doesn't feel like anything else. The whole thing is basically a tale being told by a narrator but almost seems as if it's going for a nature documentary feel (not a traditional one, mind you). The film tells the story of a clan of tanuki, raccoons who are being made to flee from their homes in the forest due to urban development. Being the magical creatures that they are, they can transform into nearly anything they want, including humans. They use their powers to try and prevent any further progress on the humans' part from happening, frightening the humans until they go away. Soon enough, they realize that their methods aren't that successful and that they must come up with a way of not only surviving but attempting to save as much of their homeland as possible. The themes of Pom Poko rest solely on the horrors of urban expansion, and its effects on all creatures, large and small. Yet on the other hand, it doesn't rely on conventional storytelling. It's pretty loose and wild with its characters and its story, going in lots of different directions aesthetically. The anthropomorphic raccoons (or raccoon dogs as they are more commonly known) not only talk, watch TV, and change into different shapes and beings, but they also appear in different forms, depending on the situation. When they're seen by the humans, they look like raccoons normally look. When they're doing very silly things, they look much more manga-ish in form. But when they're amongst each other, they appear as raccoons akin to Disney creations to certain degree (the non-inclusion of testicles, of course). It's the kind of thing that US animated filmmakers wouldn't dare do in fear of confusing their audience. But, this film treats its audience's intelligence, young and old, with some respect, even when things are really flying off the handle story-wise. But, when all is said and done, it's still a simple tale being told. It's very easy to follow, funny, and heart-warming to some degree. It's also the kind of film an animal lover would take very seriously, if you catch my drift. I still don't see it as one of Studio Ghibli's top works, all things considered, but it's undeniably a great film, and it's certainly unlike anything they ever produced. And yet somehow, it's undoubtedly a film that they WOULD produce: beautiful, enchanting, eccentric, and thoughtful.