Clancy Brown,Alyson Stoner,J.K. Simmons,Olivia d'Abo
In the Tama Hills region near Tokyo, several groups of tanuki find their living arrangements under threat as humans begin tearing down the forested areas for residential developments.As food and living areas dwindle, some of the tanuki take sides and attempt to battle each other for dominance, before an elder named Oroku calls for a truce.The tanuki then gather at an old temple in the forest, and make it their main headquarters. A group of elders then devise a five-year plan, with several goals. One of them is to revive the lost art of transformation, another is to study the humans who are invading their habitat, and the third is to invite the "transformation masters" that are said to live on Shikoku and Sado islands, to help them better their skills and hopefully find a way to stop the current developments. However, none of the elder tanuki in the group volunteer for the third goal, so it is put on hold until the younger tanuki are of age to fulfill it.To learn more about the humans, the tanuki acquire a television set, and place it in the temple. However, the television soon ends up distracting them and causing some to become even more lazy than usual.Training is then conducted by Oroku and Tsurugame. Of the numerous young tanuki, one named Shokichi takes to his training quite well. While some tanuki excel at transformation, there are some who are unable to master the art, or unable to fully transform into a proper human.Once winter ends and a new spring begins, the tanuki work hard to fend off their urges to mate, as an increase in their population size will lead to problems. This also gives the female tanuki a chance to excel at transformation studies. It is also noted that both male and female genders can properly transform into their same gender in human form, but a male-to-female and vice-versa transformation yields improper results.Tsurugame also clues in the male tanuki that their testicular "pouches" can also be utilized in transformative skills.A number of Tanuki are also sent out into the nearby city disguised as humans, followed by instructors. The amount of energy to make these transformations can wear out a tanuki, and they must rely on energy drinks at times to keep up their strength. To fully pass the test, each of the trainees must obtain a job and earn at least 1,000 yen (aka $10 US) through physical labor.Things get intense when a tanuki named Gonta finds out his birthplace has been destroyed in the recent construction. Though the elders are against taking such drastic actions, Gonta, Shokichi, and a number of other tanuki fight back against the humans at the construction site. This eventually leads to the destruction of numerous vehicles, and the deaths of a number of human workers. The tanuki are at first overjoyed at the havoc they have caused, but then grow concerned when the television news claims that a need for more residential housing, will not slow the housing development plans.However, out of the recent events, the news media then airs a segment on how some superstitious humans feel that the recent accidents may be due to angered spirits who had religious shrines and shelters moved out of the area for the development. The tanuki use this, and take on the forms of religious idols and other spirits, frightening a number of humans who are in the area, and causing the news media to report on these strange happenings. Even with all the talk of these sightings however, construction still continues.Following these events, the elders hold a contest to decide which two tanuki will be sent off to find "the transformation masters," as part of their third goal of their five-year plan. The final decisions send one tanuki named Tamasaburo to Shikoku island, and one named Bunta to Sado Island.One day, Shokichi and Oroku come across a tanuki from the Kanga Prefecture. He explains that a number of trucks are dumping dirt into their rivers, and he stowed away on one of the trucks to figure out where the dirt was coming from. The knowledge that the current construction is affecting animals in other parts of the country, gives Shokichi and the elders more incentive to try and halt what is happening in their area.Winter comes, and with it the construction is put on hold. However, the ruckus the tanuki caused is soon forgotten by the news media.When SprIng comes, unlike the previous year, a number of young tanuki are unable to stop themselves from giving into the urge to mate. This urge even affects Shokichi, who soon has four cubs with a female tanuki named Hanako.As the seasons move into Summer and Autumn, the Tama Hills tanuki face severe problems. The birth of so many cubs and a lack of good weather has led to a severe food shortage, causing some tanuki to take on human form and scavenge through the nearby city for leftovers. However, it is hardly enough to sustain their rising population. The need for food soon sends some tanuki out into the night to scavenge from the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, some end up getting hit by cars, or caught in animal traps.The current situation brings back Gonta's push to declare war on the humans, but his plan will not be considered by the elders.Hope comes when Tamasaburo returns from Shikoku Island with three "transformation masters": Gyobu, Hage, and Kincho. The three masters then work with the tanuki, planning to put on a massive spectacle that they feel will cause the humans to stop the development in the area for good.After intense training through the masters, "Operation Spectre" sends the Tanuki through the nearby New Tama development, enchanting some, and frightening others as all manner of spirits and strange things are seen! Some humans even attempt to videotape the events, but find that their cameras have recorded nothing! The event makes the local news, and the tanuki celebrate seeing the numerous humans, unable to comprehend what they have witnessed.Unfortunately, due to his exertions in channeling energy for the spectacle, master Gyobu perishes.The day after "Operation Spectre," the tanuki's spirits dip heavily when the President of a new theme park called Wonderland, takes credit for what happened, claiming it was all a publicity stunt for their park. This causes the tanuki to become depressed and incensed that their hard work seems to have added up to nothing.Soon after, master Kincho encounters a fox named Ryutaro, who has deduced that what happened was the tanuki's doing. Ryutaro has been in contact with the Wonderland President, and knowing the man has no idea how the spectacle was achieved, wants to make a deal with the tanuki, via Kincho.Taking the master to a suite in Tokyo (filled with fox girls transformed into humans), Ryutaro proposes that the tanuki come to work at the new theme park, and promises Kincho that they will be well-paid and cared for. Kincho however, is concerned for the tanuki that are unable to transform, and Ryutaro states that they will need to be left to fend for themselves, claiming that when he and numerous foxes adapted to the human world, they were forced to do the same with their own un-transformative kin.Back at the temple, the aftermath of the operation has disillusioned the Tama Hills elders, who struggle with what to do next. Gonta once again wishes to fight against the humans, while Shokichi wants to do another "Operation: Spectre," only bigger than the last one. Tsurugame is also gravely upset that all their hard work was not acknowledged, and wants to expose the group to the media to draw attention to their plight, but Oroku feels the humans will just think it's another "prank."Shortly after the meeting, Kincho returns to the group with Ryutaro's proposal, which causes further fracturing within the group's leadership, as noone want to go along with his plan to work at Wonderland. Unknown to the others, Tsurugame sends a letter to a local television news show, signing it "from the Tama Hills tanuki."It is also found out that master Hage has gone senile, and has begun to recruit the non-transforming tanuki into a new religion of his own.Shortly after the meeting, Tamasaburo has a talk with master Kincho, declaring he wants to be the master's successor. They then devise a plan to get back at Ryutaro and the Wonderland President.Using their powers, they conjure up a giant cat statue structure for Ryutaro, the Wonderland President, and one of his men to deliver a down-payment on their services. Once inside, the three are ejected, and the tanuki make off with the money, giving the President a story no one will believe (his money was taken by shape-changing tanuki), and funds that the tanuki can use in future endeavors.Things continue to escalate as Gonta and a number of other tanuki have taken to terrifying the local populace, soon leading to a stand-off between Gonta's forces and the local police. In the end, the attack fails. In a last desperate move Gonta and his army transform into a tsurube-otoshi and block traffic. They get run over by a truck and suffer heavy casualties.Around this same time, the news station that received Tsurugame's letter has come to the forest, hoping to speak with the tanuki. After some coaxing, Tsurugame and Oroku appear, with the elder finally able to verbally state aloud that they were responsible for the recent spectral activity in the housing development. Oroku also makes a plea for their habitat, before she, Tsurugame, and several other tanuki transform on-camera, and disappear into the night.Following these events, master Hage and his "cult" of non-transforming tanuki decide to leave. Transforming his pouch into a great ship, they set sail down the nearby river, with the faint knowledge that when the old tanuki expires, the ship will disappear, and they will all drown.It is soon afterwards that Bunta returns from his quest to Sado Island, but claims that the master he was searching for was killed long ago. Seeing how much the landscape has changed in the years since he was gone, the tanuki is angered and upset at what has become of his home.It is at this point that the Tama Hills tanuki finally accept defeat, realizing they cannot stop what is happening. They then decide to channel their powers into one last spectral illusion, and on a bright early morning, turn the local cityscape, into what the world as it once looked many centuries ago.Following their final transformative event, the tanuki abandon the temple, which is soon torn down. However, the reveal through the local news did garner attention to the animal's plight. Humans began trying to find ways that the animals could co-exist with humans, and additional parks were built into the local development...but by then, the damage had been done.Just as Ryutaro and the foxes had done, those tanuki that could transform began to live amongst the humans. While some were able to adapt, some chose to do like their non-transformative brethren, and just live their lives as ordinary tanuki, surviving from day-to-day. Some tanuki, such as Seizaemon, went into real estate and sold off parts of the land.One evening, Shokichi is returning to his wife and children, when he sees some tanuki sprint through a hole in a wall. Going through it, he finds a golf course, and a number of non-transformative tanuki having a party. He recognizes his friend Ponkichi, and the two have a happy reunion, dancing amidst the small bit of greenery as Tokyo's massive urban sprawl surrounds what was once heavily-forested lands.