Princess Mononoke Reviews

 

 

 

 

Princess Mononoke Delivers
by Vicki Tracy

Princess Mononoke The Premiere
On October 20, 1999, my cousin and I attended the English-dubbed Princess Mononoke premiere at the Mann Festival Theater in Westwood of Los Angeles. This version of Princess Mononoke was the second anime I had seen by Hayao Miyazaki. The other was Warriors of the Wind (English version) known as Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind in Japan.  I couldn't wait to once again see Miyazaki's talents on display, both in artistry and storyline. Little did I know, however, what a treat was in store for me.

As I waited in a long line to enter the theater, along with many other excited movie-goers, I saw many members of the press (newspaper and TV reporters) interviewing those waiting to enter. Most of the artists, production team members, Miramax personnel, and the voice talents were at the premiere, along with all their family and friends to share in the showing of Princess Mononoke in the US.   By the time we got into the theater, the only open seating available was in the second row. I knew I was in for a close encounter with the brilliant scenes of the movie about to play out before me.   But the show waited for one more important member, Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) the voice of Moro, the Wolf God, to find her seat. As she entered, the audience welcomed her with applause. Then it began...

Princess Mononoke The Story
Princess Mononoke launches with a narrative combined with a lot of action sequences. It introduces you to the small hidden village where the hero, Ashitaka, peacefully lives.  You learn that their tribe was exiled many generations ago by the Emperor and are doomed to be forever forgotten. Seen and known by no one is their fate. They are never allowed to leave their village and anyone who does is doomed to never return.  Ashitaka is their prince and protects those around him at any cost. He rides around on his loyal steed, a red two-horned deer beast, Yakul. But this morning is unlike any other. There is fear in the air a strange rustling sound of a large creature is headed their way, to change Ashitaka's life forever...

Thus begins Ashitaka's legendary journey.  Along his journey he meets three major characters. Two are against the Beast Gods. One wants the richness of the land for her people to prosper, and the other is on a secret mission to get the head of the Great Forest God. The third is Princess Mononoke, who is the only human to stand alone with the beasts and protect the forest. Taking no sides in the great battle, Ashitaka tries to bring peace between the two worlds.  He stands as the only link between the two worlds as the birth of a new age begins. Ashitaka, a true hero of man and beast.

Princess Mononoke The Characters
Ashitaka:
  Ashitaka, voiced by Billy Crudup, is the main character the story centers around. A true man and hero, he lives for the good of all man and beasts, helping those in need and protecting those who are weak.  He loves and respects all life and tries to keep the circle of nature in balance.  Forced on a quest to save his own life, he tries to keep the balance between two very different worlds.

Jigo Boh:  I suppose if there was going to be a character in the movie that could pass for a "villain," it would be Jigo Boh. One the of first characters Ashitaka meets is Jigo, an old monk voiced by Billy Bob Thornton. He helps our young hero out of a bind, but his bidding for the Emporer's quest creates tension later on.

Lady Eboshi:  Lady Eboshi, voiced by Minnie Driver, is a leader who cares for humans who are less fortunate, also giving them jobs.  Lady Eboshi sincerely loves her people and will care for them at any cost. She wants them to prosper and be great.  Lady Eboshi is a type of villain only in that one of her goals is to rid the forest of the gods. She cares deeply for her people but doesn't care for her environment or for nature.

Toki:  While Ashitaka is in Irontown, he meets Toki, voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith. Toki is a loudmouth brothel working woman who was hired by Lady Eboshi to work the iron industry.    Married to one of the soldiers that Ashitaka rescued, she can't help but take a liking to him.

San (Princess Mononoke):  San, voiced by Claire Danes, was raised by the Wolf God, Moro, since infancy.  San is Princess Mononoke, a girl with a wolf's heart.  She hates humans and refuses to ever forgive them and her goal is to kill Lady Eboshi at any cost.  When she meets with Ashitaka, however, a struggle inside her begins between her true human feelings and her beloved beast world.

Princess Mononoke The Critique
Princess Mononoke is very anime, and I must review it as an anime vs. our regular Disney American-type animations.  What I like most about Miyazaki animes is that the storylines are easy for Americans to follow at least for me they are. Animes are filled with strong and passionate lessons, symbolism, and Japanese religious and cultural beliefs.  This is what makes anime so appealing to many people.  It brings to their films a depth of dimension that no American animation has ever done. The anime artists are passionate about what they believe in and this very strongly comes through in their animation and stories.

Princess Mononoke is a violent film, but not like some of the animes that are out there.  Though very graphic, there is not a lot of blood and gore, which pleased me.  I don't like to be grossed out. :)  The reason for the PG-13 rating is because of the violence in the battle scenes, including heads (in full view) being decapitated by arrows like a cork being popped off a wine bottle. There are also scenes with arm limbs flying off bodies. Without these, and a few other elements, the film could have received a PG rating and possibly may have appealed to a larger American audience.

The message in this movie is strongly environmental man against nature, along with a strong lesson that we all need to live together in peace. Another strong message in this movie is the consequence of what hatred will do to you if you let it fester within your heart.  

Overall, I give this anime an "A".  For the most part everything is tied together very nicely at the end.  I'm not sure if I like the way they made the beast gods talk, however.  It was basically through telepathy, but with small mouth growling movements.  I would have like to have seen more body language with the telepathy. This would have made it flowed smoother with the voices. They seemed to me to be disconnected. It didn't seem that the  voices of the gods were truly their voices.  Perhaps this is hard to achieve when dubbing in English voices over the original Japanese voices. 

Princess Mononoke was my cousin's first exposure to an anime movie and she enjoyed it immensely.  There wasn't really any breathtaking scenes like you might see in a Disney animation, but the artistry is very well done, very beautiful, and it's what you'd come to expect from anime.

My congratulations to all the animators, voice talents, and to Hayao Miyazaki for such an excellent job!  I'll definitely be viewing it several more times in the coming weeks.

Vicki Tracy, Editor
Animation Artist Magazine - "The Spirit of Animation"
http://www.animationartist.com

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Note to parents: The official MPAA reason for the PG-13 rating of Princess Mononoke is "for images of violence and gore." The movie is very intense and the decapitation of human heads and body parts (arms) is disturbing. You should see the movie in advance or use very cautious discretion before deciding whether to take kids to see it.

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