Princess Mononoke (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, February 16, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2000
Although you won't find me as one of the elite members of the Disney Fan Club, props are to be given where props are due. When it was announced that Disney would pick up Mononoke Hime, Hayao Miyazaki's beautifully animated and told tale of nature versus industrialism and release it through their Miramax label, anime fans such as myself were filled with a small sense of dread. Would it remain faithful to Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's original vision or would Disney go out of its way to make the movie too "accessible" to the American audience and shut otaku out? Surprisingly, it's release in American theatres had a decent dub job thanks to its cast of great voice actors and remained captivating with no noticeable change in the drama or story line. Bottom line: Disney did a great job preserving this modern classic the best it could to get it mainstream but not water it down either. Almost a year and a half after its art house run, Hime (known here by its American moniker Princess Mononoke) has made it to our beloved digital disc format, and is one of the best anime DVDs ever released despite a few chinks in its armor.
When a demon boar rampages through his village, Ashitaka and his trusty steed Yakul take off to combat this life-sucking beast. While Ashitaka slays the demon, he is scarred in battle and houses the evil spirit of the monster he's killed. Fearing circumstances of the events, Ashitaka is exiled from the village. He leaves with Yakul to find the source of evil; a piece of iron that sent the beast to its untimely fate. Along his journey to the west, he meets with Jiko, who tells him of the changes occurring with life in the world. This bit of information foreshadows the clash between the forces of nature, led by San, a wolf princess and her protectors, and industrialization, which is being led by the very distinguished Lady Eboshi.
To go into further detail would be to divulge the entire plot; this would spoil the movie for you. Just know that Princess Mononoke is astounding. The drama is incredible; you're kept on the edge of your seat not knowing who is right or who is wrong, as both believe their intentions are good. The action keeps you on the edge of your seat, especially the last 30 minutes of the flick when everything hits Ground Zero. All of this is helped by some of the most stunning art and animation ever seen in an anime and a beautiful soundtrack. (I'm not one for buying movie soundtracks, but I definitely bought this one). And when the final message of the movie strikes you, you're left with a big Kool-Aid smile on your face. The plot, the action, the drama, the suspense, the message it sends, the art, the music; all of this make Princess Mononoke a modern classic. It's better than most of Hollywood's epics. If that doesn't seal the deal, then five words will. ARROW SLICING MAN'S ARMS OFF.
This movie was beautiful in the theaters. This movie is unbelievable on DVD. Beautiful colors, a superb anamorphic widescreen presentation, and no rough spots or grain to be found. As a regular DVD, this ranks with Fight Club and Terminator 2 as the most beautiful video presentation on DVD. As an anime DVD, there is no equal.
As I said, props are due where props are due. The sound is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (yes!), and French Dolby Digital 2.0. I'll admit that I skipped the French track and skipped to the two more important tracks. Both English and Japanese are rich, beautiful, and atmospheric. Everything sounds in place and correct from the explosions of the guns, to the sound of the arrows rushing to meet their unfortunate victim and even the neck snapping of the Kodomas. Your speakers will get a great workout on this disc and the soundtrack is just beautiful to listen to on DVD.
Now for the big issue: vocal tracks. The American track is surprisingly wonderful. The voice actors did a great job for the English side of things, though I will admit it's weird to hear Billy Bob Thornton's Texas twang in Jiko's voice. But for the true otaku out there, the Japanese track is the way to go. The voices fit perfectly and add a certain level of drama and intensity to the festivities and Ashitaka sounds like a true tough customer. So to all those who begged Disney to include Japanese vocal tracks, be sure you thank them, because it makes the viewing experience so much better.
Simple, basic, littered with well-deserved praise. Could've been better, but it's not terrible.
Simple and basic, the stills of the characters are beautiful. I love it.
It's been said that Mononoke is getting a nice DVD full of extras in Japan. That kinda sucks when you look at this disc's extras. You get a decent American trailer and a featurette, which, while a tad informative, is nothing more than the voice actors singing the movies praises. It's fluff and nothing else. So why is it a C- when it should be lower? Just seeing this epic on DVD with amazing video and audio is extra enough for me. That and this movie is getting better attention than even most of Disney's in house animated flicks and other anime discs out there. I'm not gonna gripe.
Yeah, yeah, the extras stink, but this doesn't change the fact that this is one of the best DVDs released, anime or otherwise. It demands space on any movie fan's shelf. Great job, Disney and Ghibli! Now where the heck are Laputa, Nausicaa, Kiki's Delivery Service, and My Neighbor Totoro DVDs?
Philips Magnavox TP2785C 27" Television, Philips Magnavox DVD 825 DVD/CD/VCD Player
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A+
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: C-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Running time: 134
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Princess Mononoke