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Princess Mononoke

Review by: Steve Diabo (Kaneda)

Well, for the past few months I've been hearing about the upcoming release of Princess Mononoke.  What made the news so special was the big-time name-dropping -- names like Gillian Anderson, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, Jada Pinkett Smith and Claire Danes, as the English seiyuu.  Many scoffed, saying that big names don't necessarily mean a great dub job.  True, but in the case of Princess Mononoke...  I won't lie to you.  Judging by preservation of dialog, grammar, run-on sentences (or the lack thereof) and emotion, this is clearly, without doubt, the best dubbing I have ever heard.  If you know anything about the anime scene in North America, you know that a good dub job is a rare thing, and if all dubs came out like this...  Well, if all dubs came out like this, it'd rock, to say the least.

The film has a whole slew of good plot, and as you ride along, you learn a lot about the setting in which the film takes place.  The story revolves around a warrior named Ashitaka, who, when trying to save his village from a demonic beast, killed it, releasing a curse on himself.  It left a twisted scar on his forearm, that, as the village's wise woman told him, would slowly spread, destroy his soul, then kill him.  The wise woman also told him of the great Forest Spirit -- the only chance Ashitaka had of removing the mark and freeing him of the curse.  So, off he goes on a journey to find this legendary forest spirit. Along the way he makes new friends and enemies.  The story's infused with action, drama, and food for thought.

The art and animation is a feast for the eyes.  Written, drawn and directed by the legendary Miyazaki Hayao (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro), PM features some of the most beautiful landscapes, coolest camera positions, and marvelously portrayed characters.  The animation suffers from slight lack of fluid motion, but it's anime, whaddya want. By definition, this is how theatrical anime is done.

But my worship of PM doesn't just stop there.  The soundtrack.  Ambrosial.  Am-fricking-brosial.  The musical score is a high point to this film, making PM not only something you can go and see, but go and experience.  In a modern theater with digital sound, the orchestral tunes nearly brought me to tears, regardless of whether it was a particularly moving or touching part of the film or not.  If I can get the soundtrack on CD somewhere, I'm going to.

In closing, Princess Mononoke is hailed as the Japan's most popular film of all time.  I, for one, can sure as heck see why.  This movie is a feast for the senses, and a tour de force that'll leave you wanting to see it again.  I know I am.

Review Info File
Mononoke Hime (The Princess of Monsters) [J] / Princess Mononoke [E]
Format: In Theaters
Production:  Studio Ghibli
Rating:  A+
Drawn, Written and directed by the legendary Miyazaki Hayao. American release produced by Miramax.

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