Reviewed By: Rielf
Anime is no longer an obscure cult phenomenon. Cartoons are NOT just for children. And we otaku couldn't be happier.
Princess Mononoke comes to us from the makers of "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Nausiccaa of the Valley of Wind", Studio Ghibli. Famous for it's sweeping, epic style, and careful attention to detail, Studio Ghibli is headed by Hayao Miyazaki; a man who can survive comparions with the likes of George Lucas and Akira Kurosawa.
Mononoke is in some ways a typical Studio Ghibli film, with strong male and female characters, some lightheartedness with an undercurrent of deeper meaning. Mononoke addresses such issues as hatred and war, love, and above all, life. As in every other Ghibli film I have seen, there is also the theme of ecological awareness, and nature vs. progress.
The art in Princess Mononoke is gorgeous. Simple, yet elegant. The detail and beauty that Miyazaki gives his work is breathtaking, from something as simple as rain hitting stones to a battle raging through a blazing inferno. In what is uncommon today, Miyazaki personally checks each key animation frame.
The story opens in feudal Japan, during the Muromachi period, a 'period of warring states' where the centralized government weakened and feudalism reigned. Humans had not yet tamed the land, and huge, magnificent forests covered most of Japan. In these ancient forests dwelt gods and demons, enormous animals who protected the forest from invading humans who would slash and burn their homes. In this world, a young man cursed by the hatred of a fallen god, and a young woman - more animal than human - must come together to find peace, and above all, life, beyond the hatred and war that consumed their time.
In my opinion, Princess Mononoke is superbly dubbed. However, I have seen a lot of REALLY bad dubs in my time, so that may bias my judgement. The English dialog was done by Neil Gaiman and Jack Fletcher, and although the translation is a little hokey at times (I've seen a little of the original subtitled version) the transition from East to West was smoothly handled. Luckily for us, Studio Ghibli made sure that everything in the original movie stayed IN (learning from the North American release of Nausiccaa, which was heavily cut) by retaining some control in the transition process. Claire Danes voices San, the Princess of Ghouls and Spirits (lit. trans. of Mononoke), while Billy Crudup is a wonderfully believable Prince Ashitaka. Minnie Driver does an excellent job as the aristocratic Lady Eboshi (though the accent didn't quite fit somehow...) and Billy Bob Thornton was annoying and perfect as the schemer you love to hate: Jigo. Personally, I liked Gillian Anderson's growl as Moro, the great wolf-goddess, but many of my friends did not agree.
Princess Mononoke debuted as the first serious Japanimation film to be shown mainstream in theaters in the US. The film was sponsored by Disney whose claim to fame is animation. The stage was set by such Disney films as The Lion King and Mulan, with their more mature, dark tones. Unlike more well-known Americanized anime like Sailor Moon and Dragonball, Mononoke is animation for an analytical, advanced mind. Everything comes together so well in the theatre: the music, sound effects, stunning visuals, moving themes, and sheer humanity that Miyazaki is so talented at presenting. Princess Mononoke is without a doubt one of the best movies I have ever seen. I've begged and cajoled my way into town three times to see it in theatres (no small feat for a college frosh in the boonies), and I'm ready to do it again.
Scores for Princess Mononoke
Rielf -- -- "It was soooo awesome!"
Shinya177 -- -- "Must go see...more decapitations..."
Slacker -- <-- "Superb, I love it. Studio Ghibli lives!!"
Ashitaka - Yoji Matsuda
San - Yuriko Ishida
Lady Eboshi - Yuko Tanaka
Jiko Bou - Kaoru Kobayashi
Koroku - Masahiko Nishimura
Gonza - Tsunehiko Kamijoe
Toki - Sumi Shimamoto
Ashitaka - Billy Crudup
San - Claire Danes
Lady Eboshi - Minnie Driver
Jigo - Billy Bob Thornton
Koroku - John DeMita
Gonza - John Di Maggio
Toki - Jada Pinkett
Director - Hayao Miyazaki
Writer - Hayao Miyazaki
English Writing - Neil Gaiman
Producer - Toshio Suzuki
Executive Producer - Yasuyoshi Tokuma