While searching online for pictures of yokai in regard to a recent post, I kept coming across images like this:
The film was completely unfamiliar to me, so I followed the links and found that I was, in fact, aware of the film, Pom Poko, but I had never realized what it was actually about:
Well, actually they’re tanukis. The movie just incorrectly (and rather annoyingly) refers to them in both the subtitles and dub as raccoons. Now, I understand why they’ve done this: American families, more likely than not, have no idea what a tanuki is. I do, but that’s only because I had to swerve several times while driving in Miyagi-ken to avoid hitting them.
They aren’t raccoons. They’re a separate species called raccoon-dogs and are more closely related to the canine half of their namesake.
Why am I so up in arms about the fact that the American version of Pom Poko doesn’t take the time out to explain that they’re tanukis? Because the entire movie revolves around the simple fact that tanukis are considered magical creatures in Japan (much like foxes and (older) cats). Tanukis, not raccoons. All over Japan you can find statues of these creatures with their one, rather large, distinguishing feature:
Their huge testicles. This is actually where the tanukis store most of their power. Their testicles can even grow to enormous sizes, big enough for them to play like drums or sit on. And, they are said to be extremely good luck. See, there’s a reason why a Google search for ‘yokai’ kept turning up this movie: Tanukis are considered yokai of a sort.
So, when I first saw the cover for Pom Poko, I actually assumed they were raccoons specifically because A.) they were advertised as such and B.) none of the creatures featured on the cover had visible testicles.
But within the first few minutes of the movie, BAM! There they were and believe me: tanuki testicles played a HUGE (literally at times) part in the story.
All I could think of was 'how?' How did this movie get distributed in America? And by Disney, no less? They play with their balls, they sing about their balls, they fight with their balls. They even form ships out of their balls!
For my first viewing, I watched it with the original Japanese audio. The words ‘balls’ and ‘testicles’ abounded in the English subtitles. I'm certain there's a drinking game somewhere that involves downing a shot every time either pops up. Makes me mighty curious what the Disney dubbing did about all that…