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It is difficult for me to select a favorite Miyazaki movie because I happen to be fond of all of them, but if I were to choose, PRINCESS MONONOKE would definitely be one lucky candidate (although CASTLE IN THE SKY, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, WHISPER OF THE HEART, and KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE all tie in this category for me). This aesthetically breathtaking, multi-layered epic about the legendary clash between man and beast set in a forest-covered world became Japan's hugest box office grossing movie ever upon its 1997 release (that is, until it was overtaken by James Cameron's TITANIC as well as Hayao Miyazaki's own SPIRITED AWAY). Taking the whole movie into account, it's really not hard to understand why. Not just a depiction of what happens when hatred gets out of hand and/or when nature is threatened, this is a lavishly animated spectacle as well as a compelling exercise of portraying its characters neither as perfect heroes or deplorable villains, but flawed, believable people displaying tangible emotions.
The film's action begins when the courageous and compassionate Emishi prince, Ashi-taka, is forced to protect his village from a rampaging demon--a terrifying mass of writhing bloodworms which could give youngsters nightmares for weeks. In killing the monster (who turns out to be a Boar God), Ashi-taka becomes infected with a deadly curse. In the hopes of finding a cure, Ashi-taka sets off toward the West astride his faithful elk, Yakul, and finds himself caught in the midst of a war. On one side is a proud clan of human commanded by the ruthless Lady Eboshi, who is clearing the forest mainly for the sake of her own people (a group of outcasts which consist of lepers and brothel girls).
On the other side are the Animal Gods of the forest who want to destroy the humans and protect their natural environment, led by the intimidating wolf matriarch Moro. Her human cub, Princess Mononoke herself, aka San, harbors a grudge against all humans and desires to kill them all (namely Eboshi)... or die trying. When Ashi-taka rescues her, however, she finds herself developing feelings for him that she's never felt before--are *all* humans truly evil, or is there at least one who can be trusted?
Families who have been spoiled by Disney movies may probably have a hard time determining who is "good" or who is "evil", but as mentioned, this is not Miyazaki's intention. His movie is meant to display the flaws of human beings and their inability to understand how their own inner demons and/or consummation of another world can bring about deadly consequences. The only character in the movie that comes close to being a villain is a squat monk known as Jigo, who wants the head of the mystical Forest Spirit to bring to the Emperor. Such a deed would destroy the entire forest (as we find out in the film's chilling climactic scenes) but even Jigo has his own motives, too. He is not so much evil as much as he is just "trying to get by".
It is tempting to draw comparisons between this film and NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (interestingly, Miyazaki made PRINCESS MONONOKE partially out of dissatisfaction for the way he concluded the previous movie); after all, both films involve two tribes at war, ecological messages about respecting nature, and of course compassionate protagonists who, rather than joining forces with any of the opposing sides, instead try to settle the conflict in their own way possible. Indeed, as much as Ashi-taka resents Eboshi's killing of the animals, he cannot bring himself to kill her. Likewise, while he respects the Animal Gods' motives, he does not help them in their struggle against humanity. His goal is to bring peace to both sides and allow them to live together in harmony. I think this makes him all the more compelling as a character, and he, like Miyazaki's heroine Nausicaa, serves as a good role model for people who want to "see with eyes unclouded."
Where NAUSICAA and PRINCESS MONONOKE differ from each other, though, is what group of viewers they're aimed at. Grown-ups and children can enjoy the former, but in the case of the latter, I believe that Miyazaki has a more mature audience in mind. Indeed, out of Miyazaki's films, this is probably his most "adult" film to date (until his more recent THE WIND RISES), for it contains more violence than most of his other work. For example, in one scene, Ashi-taka, possessed by the curse on his arm, tries to stop samurai from attacking innocent people, and in doing so slashes off one man's arms, and later, another's head with two arrows. Horrifying and disturbing as the sight is (as well as some occasional blood spurts), such moments are included only to show its devastating effects. Some Japanese animated features tend to go overboard in depicting such gory sequences (e.g. NINJA SCROLL, WICKED CITY, and even AKIRA). In the case of PRINCESS MONONOKE, however, the violence never overpowers the meaning of the story, and is actually done in a way that is neither gratuitous nor shock value-style. Even so, this is a movie that is arguably best appreciated by older viewers rather than youngsters.
For those who love to watch Studio Ghibli productions for their state-of-the-art production values, PRINCESS MONONOKE will do little to disappoint you in this area. Every frame is painted with rich visuals and exquisite detail I have rarely seen matched in other animated films. Not only are the forests lush and magical but the creatures who inhabit it are difficult to forget, especially the cute little Tree Spirits who appear and disappear at will as well as the Great Forest Spirit himself — a tall, human-faced deer whose every steps make plants grow. At night he becomes the Nightwalker, a ghostly specter that towers over the trees. This is one of the many spectacular moments of wonder that, if anything, warrant the purchase of this movie — in addition, of course, to the compelling, multi-faceted characters and equally sweeping storyline.
PRINCESS MONONOKE was picked up for distribution by Disney (or rather, their former subsidiary Miramax) in 1997 (it premiered two years later). While everyone loves to fault them for the many mistakes they made in handling this movie (such as giving it only a non-existent marketing campaign), I'm sure there are those who will argue that their English tracks for Miyazaki's movies are some of the best around, and this is no exception. Acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman was brought in to pen the English script for MONONOKE, which remains an impressive feat even to this day. Not only is Gaiman's adaptation faithful to Miyazaki's original screenplay (changing around only a few things here and there for comprehension purposes for audiences unfamiliar with its Japanese customs), but also just about every word of dialogue seems to avoid the somewhat clunky, odd-sounding lines that some dubs can sometimes suffer from. He obviously was aiming for a natural, poetic sounding translation that does Miyazaki justice, and his work pays off.
The English vocal cast chosen consists of various famous stars; these include Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver, Gillian Anderson, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Billy Bob Thornton, and Claire Danes. Some have argued that bringing in such big-names can ultimately distract from the experience of a movie (and tend to unfairly pass judgment on such dubs as a result), but in the case of any of the Disney-Ghibli dubs, I have to say that hearing these familiar voices along with others known for cartoon voice work and/or Anime dubovers brings a multi-cultural feel to these movies, making them a lot of fun to listen to. Crudup is fantastic as Ashi-taka, eliciting charisma and warmth; Driver's Lady Eboshi is elegantly ruthless yet caring; Anderson supplies chilly sternness and matriarchal benevolence as Moro; and Pinkett-Smith is bubbly, tough, and friendly as the no-nonsense brothel girl Toki. Danes does a mostly decent job handling San's scenes of rage and awkwardness around Ashi-taka, although she does occasionally miss several lines. Not enough to bring her down, though. Oddly, I even found myself liking Thornton's Jigo, even if other viewers didn't. His Southern drawl actually conveys that his character is something of a foreign traveler, and he really does bring out Jigo's sneakiness yet never makes him a villain. Rounding out the cast are several other voice artists such as John DeMita (as Toki's hilarious husband Kohroku), John DiMaggio (as Eboshi's grizzly second-in-command Gonza), and especially Keith David, who brings theatricality and powerful resonance to the part of the ancient Boar God Okkoto. Added to which the lip synchronization is impeccable; you'd swear that Japanese was not this picture's origin of language.
In short, I earn PRINCESS MONONOKE my highest recommendation and urge any fan of animation (as well as non-fans) to check it out. As a visual tour-de-force and a tale about the complexities of humanity, few films match it.
This review is for the Special edition DVD and Book box set.
I bought this special edition of Princess Mononoke when it was first released in the UK in 2001. It was £25 from Woolworths (I miss that store!) and I didn't mind paying that much for a DVD at the time because it was coupled with a book in a well presented package and I thought it would be a good investment anyway because this special edition already seemed to be a rarity. Having said that I have seen a couple available on Amazon among other places from third-party sources. I had never seen any movies before this from Studio Ghibli and all that prompted me to hunt this down was an excellent review I saw in Empire magazine, and being a fan of Japanese animation that's all it took for me to go and buy it.
At the time, Princess Mononoke was the most successful Japanese film ever, as proudly boasted by the sticker on the front of the box. It's a solid presentation box which is still stuck fast after all these years of ownership - compare this to other dvd boxsets/box sleeves I have where the glue has weakened to nothing and they're now effectively just bits of card folded around the contents. It has a grey background with the 'kodama' tree spirits scattered across it, and around the spine and edges you get selected screenshots from the film itself. So the packaging has been well thought out which is always a plus.
Inside the box I'll first talk about the book. Entitled "Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation", it is written by Helen McCarthy who has written several other books on anime such as "The Anime Movie Guide" and "The Anime Encyclopedia" with Jonathan Clements. The book covers everything up to and including Princess Mononoke, so it is a perfect book to read if, like me when I first bought this, you are new to Miyazaki films. Beyond that there are hints to what his following project was going to be, which turned into the Oscar-winning Spirited Away.
The book is 240 pages long and measure approximately 7" x 5" so it's a sturdy little book with lots to read and stills from the films and production images throughout. There is also an 8 page colour section showing images from the Ghibli films up to and including Princess Mononoke.
1. Hayao Miyazaki - Life and Work.
In this chapter:
Early years, Into Animation, A Basic Guide: Animation Technique, Movies and Manga, Under Pressure, Future Perfect?
Chapters 2 - 8 cover for each film: Origins, Art and Technique, The Characters, The Story, Commentary.
2. Castle of Cagliostro - The Princess and the Thief.
3. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind - Princess Messiah.
4. Castle in the Sky - Flight to Adventure.
5. My Neighbor Totoro - The Beauty of Simplicity.
6. Kiki's Delivery Service - The Quest for Confidence.
7. Porco Rosso - The Princess and the Pig.
8. Princess Mononoke - The Nature of Love.
9. The Miyazaki Machine - More Than Just Movies.
In this chapter:
Merchandise, On your Mark, Other Projects.
Following the main chapters, we then have: Filmography with Selected Manga, Notes, Bibliography.
It's a hugely insightful read as you get to learn about the people behind the movies as well as each individual project and the challanges they faced as they went through the process of producing them.
In a standard DVD case you get a scene selection booklet with nice imagery and a single DVD disc.
DVD Menu - Scene Selection, Set Up, Bonus Material, Play.
The scene selection option is nice and straight forward, nothing fancy, just showing relevant still images next to the numbered scenes in the film.
The set up option offers you a choice of Japanese or English audio, and also English subtitles with the extra option of captions for the hearing impaired.
The bonus material is a little light on the ground compared to what we are used to with the capabilites of DVDs. You get a "featurette" and a theatrical trailer. The featurette is just over 5 minutes in duration and mainly covers the actors who provide the voices for the English dub of the film, so you get to hear from people like Claire Danes and Billy Bob Thornton about why they wanted to be involved with the film and what they like about it, as well as seeing some glimpses behind the scenes of the production and the voices being recorded plus a little insight into how that is done. When I say "glimpses" and "a little insight" that's exactly what you get - a 5 minute featurette really isn't satisfying, but it's better to have it on the DVD than not at all! And I'm not aware of any DVD version of the film that has any better extras on offer than this.
Finally, onto the film itself. The full running time is 128 Minutes, so around 2 hours for the main feature.
I always watch Japanese movies/tv series in Japanese with English subtitles. I just find it more enjoyable as you don't seem to get the same level of depth in the voice acting with English dubs. I also tend to find a lot more humour in the Japanese audio from the voice actors, so it's always interesting to compare between the different audios to see which you prefer. The English dub on Princess Mononoke is actually very good so admittedly I have also watched it many times in English too, but it is not a general habit of mine, so that's another plus for this film. It has a great cast of well-known people from live action film, so it's interesting to hear them voice animated characters for a change.
I won't reveal many details about the film as I hate the way spoilers are commonplace these days in everything. A whole potentially great movie experience can be spoilt with one sentence.
The main theme of the film is how humanity is destroying the natural environment in a number of ways but mainly by greed. There are forest gods who try to defend their territory and it is an ongoing war. Our main character Ashitaka becomes mixed up in all of this after he personally becomes affected by the results of this war, and he becomes the constant thread through all of the different people and groups we meet.
If you've never seen a film like this before, you will be struck by the level of care and detail. This is not a cartoon. It's more sophisticated. In modern mainstream Western cinema it's all about getting to the next scene as quickly as possible, but here you get to see details of the natural world we're in, such as one shot of a rock on which dark spots start to appear as it begins to rain. Simply things like this are effective for being absorbed by the film and it is clever things like this, pausing for a moment to see these details, that pull you into this magical world.
There are nice touches of humour throughout and an abundance of creatures and characters with their own individual personalities and agendas. Ashitaka spends time with both sides of the struggle and does his best to mediate and do the right thing by everyone. It's a difficult path for him to tread, trying to be everyone's friend even when they're trying to kill him. And this all leads up to an amazing and epic climax.
This is definitely the most adult of Miyazaki's films, where you see actual death and destruction, so I would recommend you view this first before allowing children to watch it. I think for children, literally any other Miyazaki film is a better choice as this one does have a more serious tone. For me, this is my favourite as it tackles these darker issues and doesn't give into cardboard cutout characters like we're used to. It is set in such a captivating world that the two hours breeze by and I'm left wanting to know what happened in that world after the credits roll.
Studio Ghibli films are truly beautiful and imaginative animations created by Hayou Miyazaki, and in my opinion this is truly one of the best. Released in 1997, this film looks asthough it could have been made yesterday and is simply breath-taking.
Set in medieval Japan, the story is based around the struggle between man kind and nature. Ashitaka, a prince from a dying tribe defends his village from an angry demon which turns out to be a boar god consumed by hate. The boar god touches Ashitaka and curses him, when the boar dies a small ball of iron is found in his body. Ashitaka travels far to find out what killed the boar and attempt to lift the curse on his life. I wont give anymore away just incase you havent seen it....
This is definitely one of my favourite Studio Ghibli films, if not animated films of all time. The artwork and imagery is breathtaking and so beautifully details, the music and score transport you into another world. The film really makes you care about the characters and what happens to them, and you can relate to the story of which mankind is killing the world and destroying nature. As with all Studio Ghibli films and other Japanese animations I would recommend that you watch them in Japanese with subtitles, although this one has been dubbed better than most of them, it is still better to watch it in its original Japanese form.
This is not particularly a film for children however as there is quite a bit of violence in it which can be quite graphic at times - however it is not meaningless un-neccessary violence and reflects the constant and very real battle between mankind and nature.
Over-all this is a beautiful film and anyone who loves animation needs to watch this!
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the stalwarts of Japanese cinema, hugely popular out east, and enjoys relatively wide popularity in the West. It was this film that first began to attract attention for him in the West, along with Nausicaa, Valley of the Wind, another superb animated film, before his reputation was secured by Spirited Away. This film was released in 1997, but doesn't feel old at all. It is fairly widely available, definitely so on Amazon etc.
Ashitaka, a prince from a dying people is the 'hero' if it can truly be said that there is a hero in such a piece. He defends his isolated village from a raging boar, corrupted by hatred, suffering a curse in the process. He then must advance on an adventure to rid himself of this curse, rise to meet his destiny, and find out where this boar came from.
After a superbly well done fight against some rampaging samurai, perhaps a little gruesome for some (although in an animated film, blood and gore are either toned up or toned down: in this case, they're toned down.), he meets a sinister monk who directs him towards Iron Town. On the way, he saves some men from Iron Town, left behind by Lady Eboshi, a powerful, ambiguous soul who runs Iron Town. After helping them home, through the forest; an unprecedented journey, he is met at the town with some cynicism, but eventually welcomed in by Lady Eboshi.
As the plot unravels, Ashitaka meets San, a mysterious wolf-girl, who lives in the forest, with whom he forms a difficult, unrequited bond. The coming together of forces in Iron Town with the enraged demons of the forest, with the backdrop of the supernatural culminates in a touching and beautiful ending.
The film has some beautiful environmental sentiments; somewhat a recurring theme in Miyazaki's work, which is certainly something that I believe should be watched by young children. It is harmonious and beautiful; scenes such as the metamorphosis of the Nightwalker are stunning. There is a magic in the film, captured by the imaginative drawings, which are truly beautiful to watch, and the soundtrack certainly contributes to these, adding a peaceful but almost melancholic tone.
I also believe that there are some challenging discourses at work in the film. The idea of an industrial polluter, corrupting Japanese society from the West certainly ring out, and I think Miyazaki is skilful and sensitive in his slight social commentary. Given that this is set in a very traditional, Medieval Japanese era, the invasion of industrialisation, profit and greed echo some of the concerns that a Japanese audience may share at the loss of some of their cultural heritage. For someone who doesn't know a huge amount about Japanese culture, this was very eye opening and challenged some of the perceptions I had about Western consumerism and globalisation; something well worth watching in such an entertaining facility.
Like some of Miyazaki's other films, there is an ambiguity about the protagonist and of the virtues of those who might be perceived of as 'good' or 'bad'. Lady Eboshi for example is both an industrialist, bent on destroying much of the forest in order to access more ore, but also a kindhearted employer, who employs girls from surrounding brothels, taking them out of hardship into a fairer, safer environment. There is some degree to which the audience roots for her because of this, but at the same time, the demons, the Gods of the forest are also deserving of some sympathy, after all, they are having their home, their sacred lands torn up. Yet they are aggressive, blinded by hatred, driven mad by rage, hardly something we want to root for. That is why the ending is so spectacular, be it a tad corny.
This is a wonderful film, and a superb place to learn a little about Japan, as well as a greatly entertaining venture. It is not overly moralising, but challenges some of our perceptions of what is right, what is good, how we act as a society and how are actions affect others. I am glad that the film has been awarded an PG so that it can be viewed by children, however I implore adults not to reject it because it is animated.
Princess Mononoke is my first foray into the celebrated world of Studio Ghibli, Japanese anime film company that seems to bring out quality hit after quality hit. I've long been an admirer of the recognisable style of Japanese animation, and was a firm fan of styles seen in things such as Pokemon and Digimon. Indeed, some similarities between these and Princess Mononoke made themselves known quite early on in the film, and you get a very smooth and enjoyable flow from the film.
Prince Ashitaka is a heroic figure in hie home village. When it is attacked by a giant boar with rage issues, he saves them all by slaying it, but in doing so becomes infected with a seemingly demonic curse. He sets off to find the boar's origins in order to cure the disease which will overcome him, and encounters a battle going on between Gods and humans at an iron mining town many miles away. Lady Eboshi, in charge of the mining population, presents her side of things, before he meets San, a wild girl who has been adopted by wolves and who sides with the Gods. The battle escalates and Ashitaka must try and find a way for everyone to live in harmony to prevent any further killing.
The way the Gods are depicted here are in a way that makes them mortal. There is magic involved, and this is the sort of thing that first of all infects the boar, and then makes one God turn into the Night Walker, seemingly the target of Eboshi and her warriors who seek to destroy him and then rule the world. What makes all of this interesting is the fact that Eboshi isn't portrayed as so much of a villain as someone who genuinely believes that this is the right way to go about things. In fact, Hayao Miyazaki makes sure that his creation is full of characters who appear neither like villains or heroes, everyone having positive traits as well as faults that are noticeable.
It's this sense of realism that is rare in film. Villains are nearly always shown as much, with heroes being praised incessantly. It's good here to show that when it's a battle of wills, beliefs and opinions, there aren't necessarily heroes and villains but more right and wrong ways of going about what you're trying to achieve. The animation is done very cleverly, with the beautifully drawn backdrops and countrysides masked by the occasional bloodshed and sometimes graphic visuals, pushing me to wonder whether the PG rating this carries with it is enough. There are certainly a few scenes I found more suitable to an older audience, and perhaps a 12 rating would have been more suitable.
Still, this shouldn't detract from the skill levels involved here, both in terms of creation and storytelling, as well as in terms of the production and finishing touches. The flowing and recognisable animation helps with the slightly fantasy feel that it has about it, with a wonderful air of characters that the story is based around. Ashitaka is shown as a strong figure, with San a stubborn 'environmentalist' type and Eboshi a dominant female character. Others come and go, with a certain sense of significance, and just when you think you've got a character sussed, they swing back round and surprise you with an action or two.
Also present is the subtle message the film carries with it. There's very much two sides of an argument about how to treat nature here, with the Night Walker being very much a part of nature, and Eboshi wishing to kill him for personal gain and money and riches and power in the world. What this does is make you think about the environmental images presented, especially as San's passionate anger against what Eboshi is doing makes you think that this is what it's all about. I wouldn't say the film is all about this, as the message itself is quite subtle, and this is more about the characters involved, so it's not worth dwelling on but provides a nice solid element to the film.
Overall, i was really impressed with this. As I saw it on TV, I was only able to take what was presented to me, and I watched the version with English voices dubbed over the top of the animation. I must admit I do prefer to listen to the original language, in this case Japanese, as long as the subtitles are decent, but here I had no choices. The voices used were familiar ones, such as Gillian Anderson, Billy Bob Thornton and Billy Crudup, and this did help somewhat, and after a while I didn't really notice it wasn't the language it was originally filmed in. If you're new to Studio Ghibli, this'll certainly whet your appetite for more, it certainly has done this for me and I highly look foward to watching some more. Recommended.
I have never really watched a Manga movie before, so I thought after reading the reviews on IMDB this would be an excellent movie to watch. I was right, this movie has an excellent storyline an excellent plot, and excellent graphics for the animation (everything is so detailed the scenery looks stunning). I guess with this movie, as it is designed for an adult audience they can be so detailed because of the grit and gore that can happen in the foreground of such a picturesque and beautifully detailed background.
Just within the first 30 minutes the plot is set, the main characters have all been introduced in their separate lives before they meet and the potential of the movie is shown, after all there is a scene when walking through the forest and you can see all of the insects just flying around, the small flowers and berries on the bushes all making it seem so much more realistic.
This movie takes its time to evolve, but every minute is interesting, every minute gives more details on this story, and you actually wont know who is the side you should be rooting for. Each of them show true emotion of good and evil within their strategy. This movie will make you feel very conflicted, it has such an excellent use of emotion, I can't believe how amazing it truly is, I have never felt so conflicted about who is good or who is evil in a movie before.
Story (May contain spoilers)
Ashitaka is a Prince in a small village of the last remnants of a tribe that escaped a massacre. They are now living an idyllic life in the country, until one day this worm monster appears ready to destroy their village. Ashitaka defends the village by killing the monster but unfortunately gets cursed in the process. His people have no alternative but to banish him, with the hope he can find a cure to lift the curse.
Ashitakas quest now begins as he journeys to find where the worm monster had received a huge iron ball inside him that made him turn into such evil.
He eventually finds the mining town where iron is being made and so are rifles. The leader here, Lady Eboshi, explains what has happened, that they had to drive this spirit which turned to evil away from the mountain so they could mine it, and that she wants to kill the Spirit of the Forest, to turn the whole land into the richest mine, so she can rule the world. Clearly she is showing signs of evil and grandeur. However she also has he workers rescued from brothels, so the women no longer have to sell themselves, and her gun workers are lepers which society had cast out to die, she gave them a home and food and bandaged their wounds. So this Lady Eboshi, I can not decide if she is good or bad, or even just misguided.
Now the story starts to evolve in a huge battle between many sides. The Forest wanting peace and to live harmoniously, the animals wanting to risk everything to destroy the humans, Lady Eboshi wanting the forest destroyed, the Emperor wanting the head of the forest spirit for immortality, and Ashitaka wanting his curse lifted.
The question is, who will win, who will win their epic battle, and will they truly win? This move has such an excellent use of emotion that the bad guy is not truly bad and the good guy is not truly good.
Will man ever truly live with nature?
The voices that have been chosen for this are good. Obviously I was only listening to the English version where they do have some big names playing the voices, Gillian Anderson, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver. To me all of these voices worked well to represent and suit the character. Especially to add more into the conflict of emotions, of such gentle and soft voices being used for those I feel were mostly evil while trying to be good.. and gruff harsh voices for those I feel were good but doing it in an evil way.
This movie has an excellent fantasy and emotional soundtrack. As I have said this is a very emotional movie and the soundtrack really helps to enforce that, while also adding to the conflict. Truly perfect.
This movie is 2hours 13 minutes of pure excellence. I really have never seen an animated movie this good, a movie that really makes you think so deeply and that reaches you so many ways. A movie that conveys the human condition of emotion so excellently.
This movie should be watched by everyone it is fantastic. If you do miss out on watching this movie, you really are missing out on something. Even if you are not into animated/manga movies, this is one that shows you the potential of that genre over real life movies!!!
Now why are you still reading this review? Go out and get this movie!!!
When a giant boar, a Nago - turned into a horrible demon creature attacks his village, Ashitaka battles it, and manages to save his village. However, he is wounded on his arm and the wise woman tells the prince that his arm has been cursed by Nago and the scar will soon cover the rest of his body, consuming and eventually killing him. Ashitaka decides to travel to where the boar came from the find a cure for the curse, and travels west on Yakul, his pet elk. During his travels he discovers the amazing strength of his cursed arm, after saving another village from attack by samurais. In another town, he meets a monk called Jigo who tells him of the Deer God in a forest west, who might be able to help him.
Close to this forest is the industrial Iron Town, which has a bad habit of destorying the forests around it to make charcoal for its huge iron forges. The beasts, gods, of the forest try to defend their land by attacking the townsmen. When Ashitaka helps one of the wounded and brings him back to the town, through a forest of magical creatures, including diminutive spirits called kodoma. There he sees the Deer God - the god of life and death who at night turns into the Night-walker. At the town, Ashitaka is warmly welcomed and he learns that Nago was shot by the leader of the town, Lady Eboshi, and drove it to madness. Later that night, the town is attacked by San, a girl adopted by the wolves, and who hates the humans and what they are doing to the forests. Ashitaka is wounded, but later healed by the Deer God (who does not take away his curse though)
As the film progresses, it intensifies, turning into an all-out battle between the gods and the humans, who consider the Deer God a threat more than anything else. For a Ghibli film, I have to say it's probably the most epic of the lot, clocking in at an impressive two hours fifteen minutes and featuring many fights, a fair bit of decapitation and death. It's probably the most violent PG film I've seen. Hell, if it wasn't an animated film I'd have to say it would have had to be a 15. I love the way the film gets its message across though. To say it has a "green" message might be pushing it a bit, but it's not to say that it's without agenda, but I don't think it's so much a film about being green and all that so much as it is a film about spiritualism and beliefs. The Iron Town kind of work as full industrialists, believing only in what they produce while the wolf princess San represents the other side.
The animation is beautiful, too, I have to say. It flows really well and the fights (especially the sword and knife ones) are really well done and move about really quickly, but in a fully natural way. Then again, you knid of grow to expect nothing less from one of the finest animation studios in the world. The voice acting is pretty good in both dubs, but I think there were some odd choices in the English, even though it was an excellent dub. But I'm a pedantic purist anyway and I watched most of the film in original Japanese, which is excellent.
All in all, I have to say that Princess Mononoke is a great film, much darker than any of the other Ghibli films I've seen lately. It's breathtaking, has excellent story and animation, and really keeps you watching even throughout it's somewhat long runtime.
My second venture into the works of Hiyao Miyazaki comes in the form of Princess Mononoke. After being blown away by Spirited Away my expectations were high. The film is the third highest grossing anime film of all time only behind two other Miyazaki works Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle which is a great testament to the visionary filmmaker.
Princess Mononoke follows the story of Ashitaka, the last remaining Emishi prince. When his village comes under attack by the great demon boar, Nago, the demon touches Ashitaka wounding him. Ashitaka is told by the village wise woman that the wound is cursed and will eventually spread to the rest of his body and kill him. Ashitaka then resolves to head to the land in which the beast came from in a bid to find a cure for his curse. So Ashitaka heads for the great land of the west in search of the great Forest Spirit.
The story itself has a massive scope, the sheer size of Ashitaka's journey could easily be compared to Sam and Frodo's journey to Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings, although the film doesn't reach the size and scope of The Lord of the Rings, it can still easily be described as an epic.
The characters within the film are all great, and unlike Spirited Away they are all well developed and play a pivotal role in the advancement of the plot. The characters are all well rounded and very interesting. Ashitaka is a very brave person, which becomes obvious right from the start when he battles with the demon boar. Later in the film he meets a variety of other characters the first being Jigo, who advises to him to head to the great forest of the west, but Jigo has plans of his own concerning the great forest.
He also meets Lady Eboshi, the leader of Irontown, she is an evil woman who builds fire wielding weapons to battle with the creatures of the forest. Eventually, Ashitaka comes upon San known by the people of Irontown as the wolf girl, she is probably my favourite character, and she is also very brave and will do anything to protect the forest and her wolf family. Among these human characters there is also a variety of animals that play a huge role in the story, from the wolf god Moro to the Boar god Okkoto and you can't forget Ashitaka's valiant red elk Yakul.
Some of the forest creatures understand the human language and in turn can speak in the human language; it is a necessary touch and as the creatures are god's you would expect this. However, for me it was the most unconvincing parts of the film. Still it allows the story to flow and is probably the only aspect of the film that I wasn't entirely convinced by.
The film itself looks great the animation is a little less than perfect. It is a style of animation I had rarely encountered before Spirited Away but I love it. The creatures all look great and the landscapes look beautiful and breathtaking. Again similarly to Spirited Away, anything involving the smaller creatures looks great, here it is the small forest creatures called Kodama that particularly impressed me.
The voice work in the English version is predictably good, with some big names involved as you would expect. Billy Crudup and Claire Danes voice our two main characters Ashitaka and San and they both do a great job at capturing the emotions of the character. Billy Bob Thornton, Gillian Anderson and John DiMaggio also star and they all do a great job of portraying their characters.
The soundtrack is also amazing; it allows us further to access to the atmosphere that Miyazaki wanted to create, the hostility between the gods and the humans and the growing fondness between Ashitaka and San. It is a mystical and wonderful soundtrack and is definitely one of the biggest highlights throughout the film.
Princess Mononoke is a truly great achievement for Hiyao Miyazaki and probably just edges my only other previous experience, Sprited Away, as the better film. I will certainly be venturing further into the works of Miyazaki and indeed Studio Ghibli, and I would highly recommend anyone who has yet to see any of these brilliant creations does so very soon.
Prince Ashitaka of the Enishi tribe is a warrior who one day defends his village from a demon but his right arm is infected in the process when he is touched by it. The infection slowly spreads and will spread throughout his body and eventually kill him. The demon turned out to be a boar God that was consumed by hatred, so Ashitaka must leave his village forever and go on a quest to find out the cause of the boar God's hatred with the clue discovered in its body. So we follow Ashitaka on his quest and we meet Princess Mononoke (princess of spirits) whom turns out to be San, a girl raised by the wolf Gods. There we also discover the cause of the boar God's hatred as well as an ongoing dispute between humans and the animal Gods of the forest spirit. Will they settle their dispute and will Ashitaka lift the curse on his right arm?
Princess Mononoke is a Japanese animation (or 'anime' to myself and many others) from Studio Ghibli and directed by Hayao Miyazaki whom also directed many other popular Ghibli titles such as Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, to name a few. The animation style of Princess Mononoke is very similar to the other Miyazaki movies and doesn't have the classic anime character design whereby the girls have gigantic eyes. It's a more 'serious' animation style although still recognisable as something that originated from Japan by those familiar with the anime genre. It was originally released in Japan in 1997 but released in the UK in 1991. The Japanese name should be Mononoke Hime (Hime being the Japanese word for Princess, pronounced himay) but seems they used the English for Princess for the UK market.
We meet the hero (Ashitaka), the girl (San) and the would-be villain (Lady Eboshi). Ashitaka is the noble one and generally quite wooden (English dubbing doesn't help with this). San is the unusual love interest of Ashitaka and is probably my favourite character due to her unusual circumstance of having been raised by wolves and constantly in denial of being human. Lastly, Lady Eboshi is presented as the villain in the story but the more we learn about her, the more we are able to sympathise for her as it is revealed that she's done a lot of good and has her reasons for some of the evil deeds, which makes it more difficult to hate her. We do, however meet other characters scheming in the background.
Something very interesting with this fantasy story is the creatures that you see throughout the movie, which makes it very unique in comparison to western cartoons. We have giant boars, giant wolves with two tails, forest spirits, etc, which makes the tale more interesting to watch. There aren't as many weird creatures as later titles like Spirited Away but it is interesting to see recognisable animals instead of creatures that are completely made up.
I really like the animation style of Princess Mononoke. The scenery, characters and animals are all very detailed and in my opinion, better than a lot of what Disney has produced in the past. Although it has a PG rating, there is a lot of violence throughout so the rating surprises me a bit as I think a 12 rating would have been a bit more suitable. There's also a lot of blood both from humans and animals although it isn't too gory although there are scenes where people lose their arms and even a few heads come off. One earlier scene shows a man lose his arms and you see the inside of the arm where it is severed showing the flesh and the bone, which is a bit horrid although they didn't animate any blood nor much of a reaction from the man's who's arms are severed, which is sort of weird but make it s a bit more child-friendly. Younger children may find some scenes where they see animals die or animal corpses on the ground upsetting. There are also some human corpses but these are not graphic. There are also scenes where the demons have tentacle-like things (nothing perverted!), which is a bit gross.
As it is a Japanese animation, it will come in Japanese but it has been dubbed in English. The dubbing is very well done and the voices sound very natural unlike most English dubbed animes where the voices are annoying, sound forced or where the voice actresses just sound overly enthusiastic. Even so, I still think the voices suit the characters more with the Japanese audio but maybe with the exception of the female wolf, as it sounds like a man did the voice over in the Japanese version. Either way, either language is fine but if you don't mind reading subtitles or understand Japanese, then the Japanese audio option is also a good option. Gillian Anderson (X-Files) does the voice over for San in the English version. The music sounds like something from an orchestra and is consistent throughout the movie. It blends in with the scenes beautifully. It creates an eerie atmosphere in a lot of scenes and changes pace when appropriate. Fans of classical music will love it. Sound effects are also very well done.
It runs for just over two hours but the story is very engaging so once you sit down to watch it, it doesn't seem long at all. I originally bought it on sale at HMV many years back for £9.99 but is currently available for £6.47 at Play.com unless you want the special editions. On my regular edition DVD, it has a featurette and the theatrical trailer under the bonus materials. I can highly recommend Princess Mononoke. Anime and fantasy fans aside, I can recommend it to adults as well as children, as I think this type of movie can appeal to anyone willing to give it a chance. One can easily get engrossed in the story just as easily as any Disney animated movie but with a more mature story.
Thanks for reading!
When talking about Japanese animation a lot of people will immediately think of "poke Môn" or "yu-gi-oh". I think people need to be made aware of the many levels of anime as it has so much to offer. It is true that there are childish anime's such as the pre mentioned; these however have gained the most commercial success in the western world as it has a greater target audience to appeal to!
In Princess Mononoke we have what I believe to be the greatest animated movie of all time. It is not a movie for children. Whilst they may enjoy it most will not understand it. The director, Miyasaki, is one of legend in Japan. He has made some movies that are for children. They do however always deliver on more than one level. You may have seen his Oscar winning work "spirited away".
This story however revolves around a boy named Ashitaka, and his journey. It is set in a time long ago before modern technology, also in this time the forests still had gods looking over them. Early on he defends his village from a daemon and ends up with a curse upon his arm for the trouble! The daemon turns out to be a forest god who has been overcome with hatred and vengeance after being shot by a human. He must leave his village and follow the bullet back to the source. Later he finds himself in a town that makes iron. It seems technology is advancing and the gods are fading away and his mission becomes more important than healing himself.
It is odd for this movie to have a male as the lead character. Normally Miyasaki opts for a female protagonist. That is true to an extent in this movie as we do encounter "Princess Mononoke", she fights on the side of the gods and her and Ashitaka must deal with trying to help both humans to advance and the spirit of the forest survive! I find it interesting that powerful female characters dominate Miyasakis work a lot, the same can be seen in many Disney movies. I do not think there are any sexist intentions in this, more that they believe people can associate more with the beauty of women and find them less threatening. It may hold some psychological reason such as relating the women to ones own mother. I do not want to hazard to many guesses however as I do not really have a clue!
Now the music of Mononoke is brilliant. I have bough the soundtrack and it has a certain quality about it that makes you think of love and great emotion. It is mostly orchestrated and this possibly adds to the powerfulness of it! It compliments the beauty of the movie itself! The animation, if you have never experienced this type before, is the best you ill ever see. It breaks free of the new CGI animation and the landscapes and epic action scenes will amaze you. There is a lot of talking and deep moments but you are always entranced by what is happening. There are not many humorous moments to the film it deals with vary serious subjects. Everyone finds themselves asking different questions of the movie. Your opinions will shape how you see it. There are no set "bad guys". It is merely a struggle between two ways of life. You don't want either to suffer but feel it is an inevitability!
I did feel quite emotionally about some of the subjects in the film and in many ways it acts as a microcosm of the world we live in today told in a slightly magical way!
Love it and enjoy it. It is one to watch again and again every time coming to new realisations!
A couple of weeks ago UK cinemas saw the latest release from Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki in the form of Howls Moving Castle. With that in mind I thought I'd go back and review one of Miyazaki's earlier, and greatest, films - Princess Mononoke.
Anime, for those who aren't already aware, is a form of animation native to East Asian nations and particularly Japan. Contrary to the animation of western cultures most anime is not aimed primarily at children with storylines and scripts that are often far more complex and indepth, covering subjects that mainstream western animation wouldn't dream of.
Within the genre the films Hayao Miyazaki, the writer and director of Princess Mononoke, are among those that receive the highest levels of acclaim. In his native Japan, Miyazaki is given the same sort of respect that is held here for the cream of Hollywood directors and, thankfully, he is beginning to gain an increasing number of fans here in the UK. This is due, in the main, to the Oscar winning masterpiece that is Spirited Away. Whilst Spirited Away is well worthy of receiving the mainstream popularity that it did it's also a shame that Miyazaki's other work wasn't particularly well known until Spirited Aways 2003 release as all are classic films in their own right. Princess Mononoke certainly is.
The film is set in a Japan of many centuries past. A Japan in which the great forests, that once covered all the land, are dwindling fast due to human intervention. And this destruction is having dire consequences. It's angering the Gods and spirits that for many years have safeguarded these forests. Yep that's right Gods and spirits for we are dealing with a world of fantasy here.
Our story begins when a great demon threatens the village of the last of the Emishi tribe. Thankfully the hero of the tale, a young Emishi prince by the name of Ashitaka, is able to kill the demon before it is able to reek havoc upon the his village. It turns out the demon was once a giant boar but his body was poisoned by a small iron ball that angered and corrupted the boar bringing out the demon within.
Unfortunately for young Ashitaka his battle with the demon has left inflicted with a terrible infection in his arm which the village wise women believes will spread throughout his body causing terrible pain and ultimately death. He now has but one option. He must travel to the west from where the iron ball came and attempt to find a way of lifting the terrible curse.
And so Ashitaka performs the ritual of cutting his hair and rides from the Emishi, on his loyal Red Elk Yakul, never to return again.
Via rather violent, though not overly graphic, battles with Samurai (that might make you question the PG rating given to this film) Ashitaka comes upon two injured men. Leading them through the realm of the forest spirit Ashitaka brings the two men back to their home settlement of Iron Town. In this Iron producing town (original name there then) he meets the Lady Eboshi whom, he discovers, is engaged in a battle with the wolf God Moro, her two offspring and San, a human child adopted by the Wolves over the forest mountain in which the forest spirit roams and the great riches it conceals beneath in iron form. What ensues is a race for Ashitaka to attempt to save all, man, beast and spirit, which occurs in the form of some of the most enthralling and dramatic scenes ever seen in animation.
In all aspects this film has been very well directed and produced. The storyline and script are both highly intelligent and remarkably engaging from first to last. Princess Mononokes subject matter of the battle between man and the natural world could, in the wrong hands, have lead to a film that is a little heavy going and possibly not entirely enjoyable. However Miyazaki broaches this serious matter skilfully with gripping character interaction and touches of humour from the likes of lesser characters Jigo and ex-working girl Toki. Add to this the thrill of the Gods, Demons and Spirits and you have a film that will captivate all from the word go.
As for the animation of Princess Mononoke well, there simply aren't enough superlatives in the world to do it justice. Step aside Nemo and Mr Incredible you can keep your computer generated wizardry if this is what can be done with the human hand. From the very first cell Princess Mononoke is nothing short of a work of art....and a very fine one at that. The backdrops are vast and beautiful while the characters are always perfectly detailed and their movements precise and life-like. I could happily watch this film on mute without subtitles and simply admire the view - all 2 hours and 8 minutes of it!
The characterisation within Princess Mononoke is also quite superb and the casting for the English version has pulled in some very talented and well known hollywood names. Ashitaka (voiced excellently by Billy Crudup) is highly believable as a young man who truly desires to achieve his direction. Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver) is similarly brilliant exuding power whenever she graces the screen. The other major characters all play their part well too with Clair Danes as San being particularly well played and Gillian Anderson as Moro also deserving credit. However in truth it's some of the smaller performances that really make this film. Billy Bob Thornton is astounding and amusing as Jigo and some real laughs can be found in the forms of John Demitas Kohroku and his screen wife Toki, played by Jada Prinkett Smith. It's these characters and their performances that turn what would be a great film anyway into something that's really rather special.
If I do have one criticism of the casting it's that all the parts are played by Caucasian actors/actresses. Now whilst their performances are all of an extremely high standard I also feel the need to question why they can't get Japanese actors to play Japanese characters as it just seems to improve the authenticity. Now this is a minor quibble and if it really bugs you can always watch the Japanese spoken original with subtitles as provided on the DVD version of the film.
The Soundtrack of Princess Mononoke is near perfect for the film. It rises dramatically in moments of high drama without ever becoming over bearing. Elsewhere the classical score helps greatly in the setting of scenes and in creating all important atmosphere.
As for the extras included on this DVD well to be honest they're a little lack lustre. In addition to the normal inclusions of subtitles and scene selection there's a behind the scenes feature, original theatrical trailer and the aforementioned original Japanese version. The behind the scenes feature is worth watching once with contributions coming from, among others, some of the English language actors. But it's fairly short and nothing out of the ordinary. As for the trailer well it does exactly what is says on the tin. Pretty unnecessary really. However let these not put you off as it's obviously for the main feature which you'll buy this.
And what a main feature it is. It encompasses many emotions from anger and hatred through to minglings of both despair and hope. It's a wonderful story that's been animated to near perfection. I simply can't recommend this film enough. It's certainly one of my favourites and a must for anyone who's seen and enjoyed Miyazakis Spirited away. One word of warning though. Whilst this is a PG rated film there is a fair bit of cartoon violence that may make it unsuitable for the particularly young.
You should find Princess Mononoke readily available in most large high street DVD sellers. Currently no online retailers are selling it particularly cheap (I got it for onlt £5.99 a few months ago from MVC.co.uk I think) so I suggest you shop around or of course Ebay is likely to regularly have bargain copies (or go the whole hog and buy the Ghibli boxset from there which includes all of Studio Ghiblis great animated features and will prevent you owning this film twice as I now do!)
For fans of:
Miyazaki, Anime in general, fantasy films and just plain well made cinema.
Thanks. Phil :)
This is a review of Princess Mononoke movie done by Hayao Miyazaki (whom also did Kikis Delivery Service and the Oscar winning film Spirited Away). I had no idea of this film till about 5 days ago, when a friend recommended it to me, and I was thinking, hmm why not? So I bought it off Play.com for really cheap at the price of £5.99. Then a few days past and it finally came, thinking to myself that I could not wait to watch it. Later that day, I watched the film, and was astonished and really enjoyed it.
It starts off with a young male called Ashitaka (Billy Crudup) fighting a demon that is heading for his village, and before he defeats the demon he gets touched by the demon on this arm, which has infected him with demon power, and will slowly kill him in immense pain.
His story starts with heading south to find his destiny and see if he can find anything to life the curse and free him from the demon spirit that lies within him. On his travels he rides by this small village that is under attack by samurai, and the samurai start firing arrows at him as they think he is the enemy, so Ashitaka fires arrows back, but his demon arm takes over his arm and powers up the firing of the arrows and kills the samurai.
After that fight, Ashitaka ends up helping out these two soldiers and leads them to there home town called Iron town. After being there he meets the leader called Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver) who is trying to kill the forest spirit.
The tale ends up being a fight between the humans and the forest gods. There ends up being two people that can stop all this, one is Ashitaka and the other is San (Claire Danes). If they dont get along with each other, then the fate of the humans is at stake and only them two have the power to stop the evil that is about to stow upon them.
The story is set in the olden times, around medieval where rifles have recently been invented and a war between humans and gods.
Original Theatrical Trailer
Behind the Scenes Featurette
The director of this film is the famous and the great Hayao Miyazaki, whom has done the brilliant, spectacular film Spirited Away, but before he did that, he did this film in the year of 1997. How he directs this film is astonishing, where you get both stories of the humans and the forest gods, and how they fight against each other is very good.
I found the film very enjoyable, and found it very good, certainly worth watching more then once within a week. Everything about this film makes it as good as it gets and top notch. One of the best anime films I have seen.
The story of the film is brilliant, a tale that will be remembered for years to come, and will be loved by many.
The characters performances are very good, how the war affects them, and how everything that happens makes them do what they have to do.
The film is one big special effect really as it is animated, but what effects with the fighting, and the explosions and how the war and battles happen are amazing.
The soundtrack of the film is good; the mood is really set well when you hear the effects of the music and freaky orchestrated sounds can make the film seam quite tense when it is in a calm area. Tenses the moments a lot.
Princess Mononoke is really worth purchasing is you are a lover of anime, or like the workings of Hayao Miyazaki. I got this from Play.com for £5.99 which is a barging for this type of movie, as it is what I would call an epic anime. I give this film 5 star * * * * *, as I found it very enjoyable, the characters were very good and the style is good, and also it is very imaginative.
LENGTH: 128 minutes
RATED: PG (The Most Violent PG You Will Ever See)
DIRECTOR: Hayao Miyazaki
THIS FILM IS
Directed By Hayao Miyazaki
THIS FILM IS NOT
Thanks For Reading
I don't know what possessed me to buy Princess Mononoke, as I had never even seen a Japanese anime before let alone bought one. But, boasting some big name contributions and a very respectable price tag (£6.99 - better than half the price internet companies wanted for it), I decided to make a purchase. Even if I was enthusiastic about this films prospects, nothing had prepared me for how good it would eventually turn out to be. The highest-grossing anime film in Japanese history, Princess Mononoke is a truly epic animation - the plot centres around the young warrior Ashitaka (Billy Crudup) who upon trying to defend his village from a demon boer, is touched by the creature, inheriting it's curse. Ashitaka cannot stay in his village - he is effectively banished and told he must go and 'meet his destiny'. He then embarks on a long, tough journey to find the Forest Spirit and be relieved of his curse. After the opening ten minutes or so then, the impression is of this young man simply striving to achieve the one goal of being cured of a deadly and evil curse, but as things pan out they prove a lot more complex and intriguing than you would have imagened. Ashitaka unwittingly becomes entangled in a bitter rivallery between the humans of Iron Town, lead by Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver), and the wolves and boers of the forest, each filled with hatred and resentment toward the other. The twist here comes in the form of the wolf-child, San (Claire Danes), a girl who has been raised into the wolf race and seems to despise humans. The goal she relentlessly pursues is that of slaying Lady Eboshi, who critically injured the Wolf-God, Moro (Gillian Anderson). Eboshi and San duel, but when Ashitaka steps in and takes San away from the angry mob of Iron Town, they slowly form a curious friendship. For Ashitaka, it becomes a race against time to prevent the destruction of the forest and total annihilation of all it's inhabitants, includin
g the Forest Spirit, as the three races prepare for a final battle. Most striking about the film is it's astounding visuals and special effects. The fact that it has all been animated has by no means stunted it's potential - if anything it has meant that the most imagenative wishes of creator Hayao Miyazaki have been fulfilled, being converted in glorious fashion into the film without the financial cost you would assosiate with the likes of Lord of the Rings - Princess Mononoke is every bit as good in terms of the stunning backdrops that are featured throughout, and though it is in animated form, the depth, detail and sheer originality of many landscapes is magnificent. The characters are similarly brilliant. Ashitaka's quest is a painful and difficult one but adding to his problems is that as the mark of his curse grows bigger, he seems to react more and more to the anger and hatred of others - most evident in the sword-fight clash between Lady Eboshi and San. Each and every character has their own goal to fight for over the course of the film and refreshingly, there are no true goodies and nobody that could be classed as villainous in the story, as no matter how questionable their motivations, everyone is fighting for their own cause and for others like them. Minnie Driver's character Lady Eboshi is probably the best example - in Iron Town, the place she effectively rules, she is adored and apprieciated by the townsfolk. A light-hearted woman, her sinister goals of destroying the forest to retrieve the iron from beneath and killing the Forest Spirit for it's head are fuelled not by evil but the simple ideal of maintaining and expanding her town, and to keep the Samurai's off of her territory. There isn't a performance in the film that is not brimming with personality, though the well-cast secondary characters of the chirpy red-nosed Monk Jigo (Billy-Bob Thornton) and lively member of the Iron Town community To
ki (Jada Pinkett-Smith) steal the show. The story for the most part is a fairly serious and focused affair, but these two characters add the perfect amount of humour in short intermissions that fit in really well. I can't fault the soundtrack - it is supreme. Music switches between haunting, exciting and mysterious depending on the situation at the time. The orchestral efforts certainly weren't tagged on as an after-thought - they prove crucial to the atmosphere of the film and at times are truly wonderful. The certificate on Princess Mononoke is PG - this would suggest that it is suitable for all but the very young. Despite only appearing as cartoon-violence, some of the battle scenes are actually fairly graphic - several times throughout you will witness limbs and heads being severed with almost wild-abandon. Having watched it through a couple of times, it isn't too bad, but as there are some blood-soaked moments and occasional swearing, it probably isn't suitable for the younger audience. The film runs for 2 hours and 8 minutes, which is quite long as animated films go and because of the large array of colourful characters, developments and conflicts, you may have watch it through a couple of times to fully understand the nature of the story. It is thoroughly watchable and as my parents really enjoyed as well, I get the impression that you don't have to be a teenager to apprieciate the action. Princess Mononoke may be destined to have it's potential wasted in the wake of more popular adventures such as Lord of the Rings, but for anybody interested in the genre, it would be a crime to miss out on this classic, one that in my household at least, will be watched for many years to come. *The DVD is currently on special offer at www.play.com for £7.99*
Princess Mononoke has already made history as the top-grossing domestic feature ever released in Japan, where its combination of mythic themes, mystical forces, and ravishing visuals tapped deeply into cultural identity and contemporary, ecological anxieties. For international animation and anime fans, this epic, animated 1997 fantasy, represents an auspicious next step for its revered creator, Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service), an acknowledged anime pioneer, whose painterly style, vivid character design, and stylised approach to storytelling take ambitious, evolutionary steps here. Set in medieval Japan, Miyazaki's original story envisions a struggle between nature and man. The march of technology, embodied in the dark iron forges of the ambitious Tatara clan, threatens the natural forces explicit in the benevolent Great God of the Forest and the wide-eyed, spectral spirits he protects. When Ashitaka, a young warrior from a remote, and endangered, village clan, kills a ravenous, boar-like monster, he discovers the beast is in fact an infectious "demon god", transformed by human anger. Ashitaka's quest to solve the beast's fatal curse brings him into the midst of human political intrigues as well as the more crucial battle between man and nature. Miyazaki's convoluted fable is clearly not the stuff of kiddie matinees, nor is the often graphic violence depicted during the battles that ensue. If some younger viewers (or less attentive older ones) will wish for a diagram to sort out the players, Miyazaki's atmospheric world and its lush visual design are reasons enough to watch. For the English-language version, Miramax assembled an impressive vocal cast including Gillian Anderson, Billy Crudup (as Ashitaka), Claire Danes (as San), Minnie Driver (as Lady Eboshi), Billy Bob Thornton, and Jada Pinkett Smith. They bring added nuance to a very different kind of magic kingdom. -- Sam Sutherland, Amazon.com On the DVD: with an impressive widescreen aspect of 2.35:1 and a pleasant 5.1 Dolby digital sound, you cannot fault the transfer of this animation in any way. However, the special features leave a lot to be desired on what is a classic piece of modern anime. The "Behind the Scenes" feature holds no information on the making of Princess Mononoke in its original form--with no input from animator Hayao Miyazaki--and the trailer is taken from the American release of the movie (even though it calls itself an "original" theatrical trailer), complete with the annoyingly hyped-up voiceover that comes with US film trailers. The redeeming feature of this DVD is the ability to watch the anime in its original language with subtitles, a much more passionate and beautiful form--so much of the feeling and lyricism of the movie is lost with the transfer to English language and misplaced casting. After watching the original Japanese version of Princess Mononoke and reading the book you begin to wonder why the West has become such a solitary child of Disney. --Nikki Disney