Pompo: The Cinéphile

Tonight I saw Pompo: The Cinéphile, a Japanese animated film based on the ongoing shōjo manga of the same name by Shogo Sugitani. The film adaptation is by studio CLAP and was written and directed by Takayuki Hirao. Previously he led the series God Eater, but the only other thing he has done that I’m familiar with was the anime film Paradox Spiral the fifth instalment in The Garden of Sinners, which is widely deemed the best film in that series.
Objectively, I say this film is a bit of a mess. But what I will admit, though, is that I have a soft spot for this one. I’m someone who has seen and supported both successful and failed crowdfunding campaigns that were in the pursuit of filmmaking. I have a very high appreciation for cinema, film history and filmmaking. I have edited videos for my YouTube channel, and I have worked behind the scenes on some web productions. And I also have creative goals that I would like to achieve.
So the fact is this film does feature many things I have observed and experienced, at least on a smaller level. And it can portray these things very well. But a lot of times, it’s unfortunately goofy. The setting, for example, is a fictional version of Hollywood called Nyallywood. “Nya” for those who do not watch anime is the Japanese onomatopoeia for cats. And there’s no reason for this other than “lol, this is an anime”. Joelle Davidovich “Pompo” Pomponett herself is a candy-coloured-haired child who is a film producer and screen-writer. And a lot of and not all of the main cast are anime-centric, and it’s weirdly contrasted to otherwise grounded characters.
I also found Gene Fini, who is the actual main character of the film (Pompo was more of a tritagonist), to be a bit frustrating to watch at times. He has understandable anxiety, but for someone whose dream is to become a director, he almost always shoots his shot if not because he eventually gets babied into these opportunities that he gets offered. He even blurts out that he would never ever even dream of directing a film. Sure I’ve met intermediate and aspiring directors who are humble, but they would never say something like this; they are in a constant state of hunger for the opportunity to prove their creativity!
Despite my frustrations with the main characters, Pompo, Gene and Nathalie Woodward, the premise is a fun idea. The characters are B-grade filmmakers, and they decide to break away from that by making a “serious” film to win a Nyaccedmy Award. And the film brings up things that I agree with, such as how films need to go back to being 90 minutes in runtime which this film follows by example. And how, unfortunately, many films are limited to what capitalism allows for. Saying that I was not too fond of the bank investment scene. The characters handled that meeting with hostility and unprofessionalism, and there are no consequences for it. Sure I want the characters to succeed, but this was beyond unrealistic. They should have just presented their figures and used reasonable arguments. Also, I don’t particularly appreciate how the bankers give themselves a self-congratulatory scene where they’re framed as saving the film. Because if you think about it, the crowd funders of the film are what helped its figures, and so it could have been a higher note if they had done a scene with those guys in the same vein as Natsuki being wagered worldwide in the movie Summer Wars instead. Bit of a missed opportunity there.
Even though I say I have this soft spot for this film because of how it hits close to home very effectively when it does, the thing is, I can think of so many alternative recommendations that would be a better use of time. The anime series Shirobako is about anime production, which was way better at being grounded with its characters. There’s also BoJack Horseman and The Disaster Artist. And if someone specifically wanted to watch something about someone who makes B-grade films and wants to make “for real” movies, Chris Stuckmann’s short film Notes From Melanie is a lot more earnest. I’m not saying Pompo is terrible and that you shouldn’t watch it; just if you wanted to watch something about the trials and tribulations of myth-making and you have watched all of them and still want more, then Pompo might be worth your time.



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Pop-culturalist historian. You can also find me on YouTube as jasonnebulaar where I’ll be uploading hopefully regularly.