Princess Mononoke Reviews





Review of Princess Mononoke
by Andrea Koupal

Having seen the Japanese Mononoke Hime video, and being a fan of Miyazaki's other animated films such as Nausicaa of the Valley of Winds and Porco Rosso, I pretty much knew what to expect when I went to see the English Princess Mononoke.  It's a fantastic, sweeping animated epic with daring scope and originality.  My friend, who had never seen Mononoke Hime, described Princess Mononoke as "monumental" when we finished viewing.

There is really no other movie out there quite like Princess Mononoke , unless you are familiar with Miyazaki's other movies (especially Nausicaa). Princess Mononoke is a blending of seemingly polar opposites.  Fantasy becomes reality. There are scenes of intricate, refreshing natural beauty, and scenes that are like phantasmic nightmares.  There is the hatred of the beast gods towards civilization, and Lady Eboshi's contempt for the gods (her attitude is, if they get in her way, shoot them!). And there are the feelings of acceptance and love Ashitaka has for San.  There are scenes of the horrors of war and death, but also scenes of hope and rebirth.

Much has been said about the environmental symbolism of Princess Mononoke. The dilemma of civilization and deforestation is complex, and Miyazaki does not present us with all the answers.  The theme of the movie might be simply:  "Live".  The characters demonstrate a great will to live, even in the face of great obstacles and hardships.  Even in the world of Mononoke, which is filled with wars and prejudices just like our own, the characters know that beautiful things still exist that are worth living for.

I didn't have a problem with the English voices, for the most part.  Most of them were exceptionally well done, especially considering the difficulty of synching mouth movements and having a limited time to say their lines. I did feel that Billy Bob Thornton (as Jigo the monk) was a bit flat.  The Japanese voice actor for this character had a sneakier undercurrent that was more fitting. They also translated the lyrics to the Princess Mononoke theme into English.  This song is heard in the background when San and Ashitaka are together in the wolf den and it is supposed to represent Ashitaka's unspoken feelings for San.  However in English it sounds a bit, well, corny, even though the singer's voice was as beautiful as the original Japanese.  But to someone unfamiliar with the original, it probably isn't even noticable.

In all, Mononoke Hime was a landmark in animation, and this English translation does the movie justice.  The story is so huge and the characters so detailed, some viewers may not be able to absorb everything with just one showing.  If animated feature films in America are ever to present mature stories and issues, Princess Mononoke is surely a step in the right direction.

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