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I saw Mononoke Hime on its USA release back in late December 1999 under its
U.S. title Princess Mononoke. I had read quite a bit about this film and
its director but was still totally overwhelmed by the beauty and brutality
of this movie. The complexity of this movie is something never seen in the
United States in an animated movie and even exceeds that of most live action
movies as well. It combines love and hate, war and romance, nobility and
deception in ways rarely seen in movies today. Lines of good and evil are
anything but clear cut and in the end is hope but no guarantees, no
promises. This is truly an adult movie but my children, ages 12 to 15 all
loved it and talked about it for days later. Even my wife who holds a
strong prejudice against Japanese animation enjoyed this movie.
Go and see this movie. You won't be disappointed.
Princess Mononoke is, without a doubt, one of the best films I have ever
witnessed. There has never been an animated film even close to this -- I
kept thinking after I left the theater, how can Disney even have the guts
make another film after seeing this? Even live action movies pale in
comparison to Princess Mononoke. There has never been a film to pay such
close attention to details. Watch for the magnificent and subtle flying
insects throughout the film, especially in the ancient forest, where
bioluminescent dragonflies glide gently around the screen. There are
thousands of subtleties such as this. You'd have to see it a dozen times to
appreciate this film fully. Aside from it being the most beautiful film
ever seen, it also has an enormously powerful script. The characters are
some of the the most well rounded in all film. Ashitaka especially, the
character of the film, is so nuanced that he has become in my mind one of
the great characters in film, up there with Charles Foster Kane and Jake
LaMotta. I would compare him to Freder, the main character of Fritz Lang's
Metropolis. His role in the film is a mediator between the forces of humans
and the gods of nature. Both sides comment several times that Ashitaka must
be on the other side, when he is trying desperately to convince everyone
that there are no sides. Peace is the way. There is a little to be desired
in the American voice talent. Claire Daines was certainly a wrong choice
San (Princess Mononoke), and Billy Bob Thornton just could not hide his
southern accent, which made the character of Jigo seem more comical than he
was probably supposed to be. Gillian Anderson's voice clashed with her
character, the wolf god Moro, a bit. It hardly affected my passion. The
was so spectacular and beautiful that James Earl Jones could have voiced
and it would have detracted little. Definitely, though, I'm praying that
they release the DVD with subtitle options. Anyway, Princess Mononoke is
best film of 1999, the best film of the 1990's, and, in my personal top ten
list, no lower than #5, but closer to #2. 12 hours later and my heart is
still beating with the power of Princess Mononoke! America: SEE
This seems to be Miyazake's most personal work, clearly a serious design.
It is set in an imaginary time which blends the time of the ancient gods
(Shinto style, gods of place and nature) with the settlement of humans
the coming of metalworking and war. The world is not in balance, and a
distant conflict between industry and nature has wounded one of the gods
the forest, which is then killed by a sentry boy as it rampages into
farmland he guards. The evil controlling it transfers to him, beginning
slow takeover, and he must journey to the origin of the conflict to find
way to cure himself and incidentally, as he will learn, to try to restore
balance. But this is not a simplistic tale, he finds there are other
characters in play, and there is good and evil in everyone, and no easy
balance. The Princess (Hime) of the story is a mysterious human who has
been raised by wolves (which are themselves powerful forest gods, a
reminiscent of the Amerindian Coyote myth), who becomes both his ally and
his enemy. The story is not easy to understand. It has many Japanese
mythic elements but even then, it is a work of Miyazake's unique
imagination, and is not intended to be simple or to have a clean
The animation is spectacular, and unusual, with new elements even for Miyazake and marks a new departure for style which you can see continued in his next film, Sen to Chihiro - more nature, more wild, more jamming on elements from Japanese myth and folklore. And, continuing the trend to be more personal, concerned with ethics and character, and less sci-fi. There are at least half a dozen well developed characters threaded through the story, and their animation is wonderful in displaying subtle character.
The original Japanese soundtrack has some amazing singing and draws upon some of the best talent available for voices - in Japan, Miyazake is universally known and this was a masterpiece carefully crafted. Japanese television documented a lot of the production. The English translation drew on some good talent but they seem not to have "gotten it" quite so intensely as the Japanese crew.
If you haven't seen Miyazake, give it a try (but maybe look at Sen to Chihiro first, or even Laputa or Kiki's Delivery Service, for easier and lighter introduction to his work). Some say he is the Japanese Disney, but I don't like that. His work has a depth and sophistication that goes beyond Disney cute. There is no other animation like it. This is truly an adult work: children might like some of the visuals, but I doubt that many kids below teen age will have any idea what it is all about, and even adults will get more out of this each time you see it again.
The first time I saw Princess Mononoke I was completely moved and
surprised. Since it was a Studio Ghibli film dubbed by Disney I liked
the fact that it wasn't a "they all lived naively ever after" film.
There were no complete "good" or "bad" guys. Even Lady Eboshi the most
antagonist character in the movie had a reasonable motive for trying to
get rid of the animal gods and cutting down the forest. Although it her
actions were environmentally damaging and wrong in general, she did it
to help her people survive which is what all the species on Earth
strive for. Another wonderful aspect of the plot is that it sends a
message - Protect the Earth and all will survive in peace - a message
either discreetly or strongly portrayed in many of Miyazaki's films.
Perhaps the portrayal of this message (and the tiny hint of San and
Ashitaka's romance and Moro's views on nature) was what made the film
so touching to me.
Like many Miyazaki movies, the animation (as always) is wonderful and nicely detailed which is also another quality that genuine Disney films lack (thank goodness for Studio Ghibli). The music was beautiful and well suited to the movie.
The only predicament to the movie is that it is a bit downbeat and does not contain much happy laughter (oh well, I can watch My Neighbor Totoro - also a good movie - for happy laughter.).
10/10 - And my favourite movie of all time.
Fantastic film! It makes me speechlessly. Good dialogs, beautiful soundtrack,incredible animation effects (take a look at the rain, at the movement of the grass, hear the sounds of the steps) and interesting characters,who are everything but ordinary. Ashitaka is captivating (what a strength, what a heart, what a soul!); San (the Princess Mononoke herself) is intriguing; and Lady Eboshi is ambiguous -is she the villain? I don't think so. After all, who can blame her? Don't let the over exploration of themes related to ecology discourage you. Go ahead and watch Mononoke. It's a totally new way of treating the conflict between men and nature, which is far from its ending. Definitely, a jewel among the predictable animations of Disney and Pixar's also predictable jokes. There are no jokes here. TAKE A LOOK AT IT!
I saw this film in Japan, in Japanese with no sub-titles, I don't speak a
word of the language and I was still enthralled! It is Miyazaki most
visually intense (surpassing, at long last, Nausicaa) and is alive with
color and movement the like not yet seen in anime.
The story is complex, and after talking with Japanese friends, it is clear that much of it went over my head (particularly that relating to specific Japanese myths), but the important elements came through. Miyazaki's long infatuation with technology verses nature and man's relation to God (or gods) weave throughout the film as does his trend for strong women characters.
Even with the language barrier, the film is of such intense emotion that it caries you through to the end. The change in dynamic between the crashing fight scenes and the quiet scenes of healing by the lake is so broad and so well paced that I can't remember a film where my emotional state was so expertly varied.
If you have a chance to see this film, in any language, I recommend you do.
I have seen many many animated features, but none compare to the talent that
is shown in this anime. After seeing this for the first time, I could see
why so many animators (especially disney animators) consider Mr. Miazaki a
GOD! His animation style has the best "flowing motion" I have ever seen.
The American dubbing team, whoever they are did an excellent job picking voices, they got top notch actors to do the job right (unlike most animes today). They even took on the hair-pulling task of RE-ANIMATING the mouth movements to match!
This is by far one of the best films I have ever seen.
A few years ago I would have tossed this film into a collection of movies I like to call the rubbish pile. Recently, however, I have forced myself, with great difficulty, to open my mind and look at the entire picture. Instead of focusing on one or two aspects of the movie I do not like and formulating a biased opinion based on my hasty and clouded notions, I can now decipher both the good and bad points of a given flick. Upon watching Princess Mononoke, I must say I first thought it would be very difficult to look past the animation style and see it for what it was- a dynamic film directed be the highly acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki. After about ten minutes of dwelling on the follies (and there are, in my opinion, many) of the "anime" style of art, I became enthralled with the quickly unfolding plot and the subsequently dire fate bestowed upon Ashitaka, the protagonist of the film. After Ashitaka leaves his village to search for a treatment to remedy his affliction, I no longer cared that this was an animated feature; I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. I no longer disliked that every character had abnormally large eyes (though not over-sized to the point of utter absurdity) or that the English overdubbing was a little choppy. In fact, I even began to enjoy the accomplished yet subtle computer generated effects interspersed throughout. By the last half hour I was hooked to the screen, eagerly awaiting the conclusion I wanted so badly to end the bitter conflict of the plot. By the end, I realized that this movie carried a powerful moral with it: man's continuous tampering with nature brings about as much savagery as it does progress, as much suffering as it does good, and that a sound compromise must be struck between nature and civilization. I do not harbor any negative feelings towards those who rated this movie poorly, as I used to be one of those people. All I have to say to them is this: look at a both the visual and symbolic attributes of a movie before rating it harshly. If, after observing all these features and idiosyncrasies, you still wholeheartedly hate the film, then by all means give it a one. After all, what would the world be like if we were all did not criticize or question our surroundings?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In its theatrical Japanese release of 1997, PRINCESS MONONOKE was the
hugest box office grossing movie of all time in the land of the Rising
Sun until it was overtaken by James Cameron's TITANIC, and, four years
later, director Hayao Miyazaki's own SPIRITED AWAY. No wonder. This
movie, like an earlier project of Miyazaki's, NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF
THE WIND, explores man's relationship with nature, hatred causing
destruction, and, more importantly, real characters (in other words, no
real "hero" or "villain") trying to get by in a world continually torn
This is not a movie for young children, as there are disturbing shots of decapitations, amputations, and occasional blood spurts. Sometimes these elements of violence turn squeamish viewers away from Anime (especially when they're done gratuitously), but Hayao Miyazaki presents it not to sicken people but to show it for the horror that it is (plus, in this film, the violence is not overdone). Take, for example, the scene where the protagonist, Prince Ashitaka of the Emishi Tribe, possessed by a curse he received from killing a Demon God (in trying to protect his village), tries to stop samurai attacking innocent people, and in doing so shoots the arms off of one man, and, later, takes off a man's head with two arrows. The sight is horrifying to see, but the deed also increases Ashitaka's demon mark on his arm, which is slowly preparing to take his life. This is a truly horrible depiction about the dangers of violence.
Also worth noting is Princess Mononoke herself, a human girl named San raised by the Animal Gods, and her struggle against Lady Eboshi of Iron Town, who is destroying the forest merely for her people's own good (the folks are outcasts, including lepers and prostitutes). San distrusts and despises all humans, and is especially determined to destroy them all (particularly Eboshi)... or die trying. When she's rescued by Ashitaka, however, a conflict within her begins to surface: are *all* humans evil, or is there at least one who is trustworthy? If there is any character who could be considered a villain, it would be the monk, Jigo, who wants the head of the Spirit of the Forest 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". This pretty much sums up the conflicts between all our characters here.
PRINCESS MONONOKE may not have enjoyed similar box office success here in America, but at least a lot of work and care went into the translation. As with Disney's other English language tracks for Miyazaki's films, this one is very, very well done. Acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman worked on the script, rewording it only to a) fit the mouth flaps, and b) make it understandable to a non-Japanese audience who would probably not comprehend a lot of the cultural nuances found in this film. Added to which, the voice cast includes a commendable list of stars; Billy Crudup is perfect as Ashitaka, eliciting just the right amount of warmth, kindness, compassion, wisdom, and courage, while Claire Danes delivers passionately angry, conflicted turmoil to San. (Folks said she was miscast, but I beg to differ; her character is *required* to be outraged and aggressive, and Danes does have a strong voice to carry such emotions.) The rest of the cast includes Billy Bob Thornton as Jigo (a grossly underrated performance; his Southern drawl adds to the character), Minnie Driver (elegant choice!) as Lady Eboshi, Gillian Anderson as the Wolf-Goddess Moro, and Jada Pinkett-Smith as the friendly (if no-nonsense style) worker Toki. The translation flows smoothly to those who are not familiar with Japanese folk tales, and the story succeeds in making its point, too.
This movie may not be for everybody, as it is the kind of film that may disturb young children, but older audiences will find themselves absorbed in the artwork, which showcases gorgeous, unmatched imagination, from the finely detailed forests to the cute little Tree Spirits who appear and disappear at will to the Forest Spirit itself -- a huge deer who makes plants grow with each step he takes. And at night he becomes a ghostly specter known as the Nightwalker, traveling higher than the trees. Such images warrant the purchase of this film. Better yet, its message is not too preachy, and rarely do animated movies (save those from Japan) showcase characters portrayed as, well, human beings.
Im a Big fan of Miyazaki... This movie is Definitely in his top 3...
Princess Mononoke's story is very in depth and it grabs your attention. Time after time. You may have to watch it a couple times to catch everything but you will fall in love with the characters and story every time you sit down to watch it
As for the art... Its Visually stunning yet again. Everything is depicted so well in Miyazaki's artwork from the humans to the Forest gods and everything in between
this definitely worth watching.
And if you like it you should definitely check out some of his others like Castle In The Sky, Howls Moving Castle and Spirited Away
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