Newest Reviews
American Fiction
Poor Things
Legend of the Bat
Party Line
Night Fright
Pacha, Le
Assemble Insert
Venus Tear Diamond, The
Beauty's Evil Roses, The
Free Guy
Huck and Tom's Mississippi Adventure
Rejuvenator, The
Who Fears the Devil?
Guignolo, Le
Batman, The
Land of Many Perfumes
Cat vs. Rat
Tom & Jerry: The Movie
Naked Violence
Joyeuses Pacques
Strangeness, The
How I Became a Superhero
Golden Nun
Incident at Phantom Hill
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
Maigret Sets a Trap
Hell's Wind Staff, The
Topo Gigio and the Missile War
Battant, Le
Penguin Highway
Cazadore de Demonios
Imperial Swordsman
Newest Articles
3 From Arrow Player: Sweet Sugar, Girls Nite Out and Manhattan Baby
Little Cat Feat: Stephen King's Cat's Eye on 4K UHD
La Violence: Dobermann at 25
Serious Comedy: The Wrong Arm of the Law on Blu-ray
DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery and More on Blu-ray
Monster Fun: Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror on Blu-ray
State of the 70s: Play for Today Volume 3 on Blu-ray
The Movie Damned: Cursed Films II on Shudder
The Dead of Night: In Cold Blood on Blu-ray
Suave and Sophisticated: The Persuaders! Take 50 on Blu-ray
Your Rules are Really Beginning to Annoy Me: Escape from L.A. on 4K UHD
A Woman's Viewfinder: The Camera is Ours on DVD
Chaplin's Silent Pursuit: Modern Times on Blu-ray
The Ecstasy of Cosmic Boredom: Dark Star on Arrow
A Frosty Reception: South and The Great White Silence on Blu-ray
You'll Never Guess Which is Sammo: Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon on Blu-ray
Two Christopher Miles Shorts: The Six-Sided Triangle/Rhythm 'n' Greens on Blu-ray
Not So Permissive: The Lovers! on Blu-ray
Uncomfortable Truths: Three Shorts by Andrea Arnold on MUBI
The Call of Nostalgia: Ghostbusters Afterlife on Blu-ray
Moon Night - Space 1999: Super Space Theater on Blu-ray
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
  Princess Raccoon Man cannot fall in love with Raccoon
Year: 2005
Director: Seijun Suzuki
Stars: Ziyi Zhang, Jo Odagiri, Hiroko Yakashimaru, Mikijiro Hira, Taro Yamamoto, Gentaro Takahashi, Saori Yuki, Miwako Ichikawa, Hibari Misora, Eisuke Sasai, Papaiya Suzuki, Taro Nanshu, Federico Aletta
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Romance, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Japan’s cult movie wizard Seijun Suzuki proves he can still surprise with this pop musical fairytale. Tanuki are shape-shifting raccoon spirits from Japanese folklore, who often assume human form. Perhaps their most celebrated cinematic incarnation was Studio Ghibli’s satirical anime Pom Poko (1994), although Tanuki-Goten (“Princess Raccoon”) is an oft-filmed romantic legend. Where Suzuki’s version differs is in revelling in its theatrical artifice with gloriously surreal sets and extravagant animated backdrops, and a wide-ranging musical melange that encompasses not just a lovely orchestral score and traditional Enka ballads, but pop, rap, calypso, Broadway melodies, ballet and kick ass rock. Think Moulin Rouge (2001) meets Kwaidan (1964).

At creepy castle Garasa, vain feudal lord Azuki Momoyama (Mikijiro Hira) goes ape when his rapping, Christianity-practicing Witch (Saori Yuki) reveals he is no longer “the most beautiful person in the world.” That title now belongs to his handsome son, Prince Amechiyo (Jo Odagiri). Putting a gender spin on Snow White, Azuki commands his faithful ninja to murder Amechiyo. Ambushed in the "Crackle Snap forest", the prince is saved by the timely arrival of Princess Raccoon (Ziyi Zhang), who - in an enchanting visual coup - emerges through a painted waterfall. Back at Raccoon Palace, the party-loving, calypso-singing Tanuki are ready to cook Amechiyo, since mortal flesh is a cure for all ills in the spirit world, until they discover he and their princess are deeply in love. But since evil Azuki won’t rest until they are both dead, the lovers’ last hope for happiness lies in a quest for the mystical Frog of Paradise.

Princess Raccoon can initially seem bewildering, especially for anyone not au fait with J-pop culture, folklore or cinema Suzuki. Not for nothing did this legendary iconoclast draw comparisons with Vincente Minnelli, Frank Tashlin and Jean-Luc Godard during his 1960s heyday, regularly reworking rote gangster scenarios into rainbow-hued riots of subversive wit and post-modernist fantasy.

A Suzuki action-thriller was as likely to feature singing hit men, kitsch costumed showgirls, a villain dressed like Zorro, a detective with magic ruby slippers and strange, dreamlike narratives as grimacing tough guys doling out ultra-violence, and when he pushed the boat out too far with the nightmarish Branded to Kill (1967), Nikkatsu Studios gave him the chop. Following a disastrous comeback with Story of Grief and Sorrow (1977), which concerns a female pro-golfer stalked by an obsessive fan, and his award-winning masterworks Zigeunerweisen (1980) and Mirage Theatre (1981), Suzuki’s output has been sporadic but no less innovative.

Here he takes to the musical genre like an old hand, wielding vast studio resources as his private paint box. As in Moulin Rouge, a very slight story plays second fiddle to the surreal dance routines and jaw-dropping visuals. Those expecting a logical, linear film experience will be left floundering. One needs to surrender to Suzuki’s grandiose absurdity: living calligraphy, a magical rowboat ride down ink drawn waves, animated folk paintings, theatrical sets that mix ballet, Broadway and Noh theatre and sometimes morph into location footage and back again, and cartoon sight gags with an all-singing, all-dancing cast of gods, heroes and monsters who frequently break the fourth wall. Is it mere artifice for its own sake? Far from it.

Although some of his satirical attacks upon Christianity (a wicked witch invokes the Holy Virgin for black magic rituals?) and European colonialism (note the wine-quaffing fops attending Azuki’s court) get a little esoteric, Suzuki is hugely ambitious in weaving extravagant layers of symbolism that suggest links between pagan ritual and pop culture, human foibles and a universe in constant flux with heroes that shape-shift from bouncing balls to computer generated bats. A subversive wit permeates proceedings as when a magical duel ends in stalemate until resolved with a game of paper, rock and scissors.

As the porcelain doll at the centre of this abundant toy box of delights, Ziyi Zhang captures the manic, playful spirit of the Tanuki. Speaking both Mandarin and snippets of Japanese, she sings like an angel, performs a nifty tap dance or two in her zori sandals, and even rides a flying cloud zapping death rays at bad guys. Now that’s range. Plus she looks incredibly sexy in her white gauze dress and array of candy-coloured kimonos, which is always worth mentioning.

Making a welcome return to the big screen is Hiroko Yakushimaru, the biggest teen idol of the 1980s in blockbusters like Detective Story (1983) and Legend of Eight Samurai (1984), who plays Tanuki handmaiden Lady Hagi. In her role as the princess’ guardian, she entraps the witch in a spray of multicoloured ribbons and sings a serious catchy Enka ballad about how “mankind is horrible epidemic” - alongside an adorable trio of little Tanuki girls. Perhaps the most surprising cameo comes from legendary Enka balladeer Hibari Misora (who passed away in 1989). Appearing as an astonishingly lifelike CG creation performing her spine-tingling hit song “Like a River Run.”

Overlong and with a silly subplot about a ninja trapped by villagers who mistake him for a Tanuki, this remains full of moments to marvel at and warm the heart. Plus it has a transcendental climax with a shows-stopping calypso chorus line. What more do you want from a musical?

Click here for the trailer

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 3937 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film


Seijun Suzuki  (1923 - 2017)

A true rebel in the system, Seijun Suzuki marked out his distinctive style by taking a pop art approach to the gangster cliches he was ordered to make for the Nikkatsu studio, such as Youth of the Beast, Gate of Flesh, Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill, but he eventually fell out with them over his wild visuals and spent a decade in the wilderness of television and the independents before he was rediscovered in the late seventies. He was making films into his eighties, with Pistol Opera and Princess Racoon winning acclaim in the 21st century.

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Enoch Sneed
  Louise Hackett
Darren Jones
Mark Le Surf-hall
Andrew Pragasam
Mary Sibley
Graeme Clark
  Desbris M


Last Updated: