Princess Mononoke - Mania.com



Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A+

0 Comments | Add

 

Rate & Share:

 

Related Links:

 

Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 2 - Japan
  • Released By: Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan
  • MSRP: •4800
  • Running time: 133
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke

    June 21, 2002
Release Date: November 21, 2001


Princess Mononoke
© Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan


What They Say
Set during the Muromachi Period (1333-1568) of Japan, Mononoke Hime is a story about a mystic fight between the Animal Gods of the forest and humans. On the side of the Animal Gods is San (Mononoke Hime), a human girl raised by the wolf god Moro. On the side of the humans is Lady Eboshi, building a kingdom for oppressed people by cutting down the forest for her iron-making operation. In the middle of this fierce fighting for survival, Ashitaka, an Emishi boy, struggles to find a way for both sides to co-exist. But the fighting just becomes more and more bloody and all hope seems to be lost... (taken from Nausicaa.net).

The Review!
I don?t know what else can be said about this film that hasn?t been said before. Princess Mononoke is probably Hayao Miyazaki?s greatest work.

Audio:
The first disc has the original Japanese language in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes, and the English dub in 5.1. All mixes are clear with no distortions or drop-outs. I have had the Japanese laserdisc (with digital stereo) since 1998, so hearing the film in 5.1 was like hearing a new film. The soundtrack is comes out really beautifully in this mix. The English dub with screenplay by Neil Gainman (The Sandman) is quite good. Not the best dub I?ve heard, but quite adequate. I noted that sometimes dialogue is now heard where there was only silence in the original version. Why do American studios hate silence in films? Don?t they realise it?s there for a purpose?

Disc two (storyboard comparison) has only the same Japanese 2.0 mix on the first disc. The third disc (International Film Version) has 2.0 mixes in Japanese, English, French, Cantonese, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. I sampled all of them and they sounded good. It would seem that all the foreign language versions of this film use Neil Gainman?s screenplay as a basis. I like the French dub the best. In fact I think the French dub is a lot better than the English one.

Video:
Unlike Miramax?s film-like transfer for the US and UK releases, the Japanese transfer looks very sharp and clear, almost like digital coloured animation. Perhaps some if not all of the film was a direct digital transfer for the computers at Studio Ghibli (a lot of film uses subtle digital effects). I can see no edge enhancement at all which other people have talked about. To me the video looks stunning and I could see not film artifacts or dirt on the print at all.

Packaging:
A lot of people hate the packaging of this disc. I don?t think it?s that bad. The three discs come in a white double Amaray (which isn?t really two normal Amarays stuck together as people have stated before, it?s more like an Alpha double keepcase). On the front cover we have San riding one of the wolves through the frorest with kodomas watching them. The picture is framed the same way as previous Ghibli releases. On the back we have a lone kodoma in the forrest, the same artwork as the back of the Japanese laserdisc. The first disc has a close up of picture of San riding into battle. The second disc has a picture of Ashitaka riding his stead Yakulu in the forrest. It?s the same picture that appears on the front of the Japanese laserdisc. The third disc has a shot of San and one of the wolves siting on a boulder. We also have a 4 page insert that explains how to use the menus and a list of the staff and cast of the original Japanese version and a list of the cast of the US ver!
sion. There?s also a one page advert for a weird Ghibli clock you stick a DVD onto (don?t ask), and the DVD releases of The Emperor?s New Groove and a selection of Ghibli titles.

Menus:
Pretty much standard for Japanese DVDs, the menus are rather static but get the job done. Each menu and sub-menu has a Miyazaki watercolor on it.

Extras:
With a three disc set, you?d think there would be tons of extras. There are a few, but for the most part I felt they weren?t really satisfying

First up the English subtitles. Surprise surprise, real English subtitles (I?m sure the Totoro ?dubtitles? were a mistake). These aren?t the same ones as the English subtitled film print that has been touring Australian independent cinemas since mid 2001. These are apparently identical to the US release. I like the film print subs more, but these are quite good and get the meaning across well. The English subs only appear on the first disc. We also have two sets of Japanese subtitles, the first lot is word for word what the Japanese actors say (Japanese closed captions), the second set is a translation of the English dub.

Like almost all of the other Ghibli DVDs, this set contains a storyboard to film comparison as a separate disc. It's basically the film again with an angle option to view the storyboards. Very nice. Only the Japanese audio track appears on this disc. There are no additional subs or any of the dubs.

On the third disc we get the ?International Version? of the film. I thought this version would have the English opening and closings, but no, the print is identical to those on the other two discs. On the audio side we get dolby 2.0 versions of the English, French, Cantonese, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese dubs, plus the original Japanese version and Japanese subtitles (a translation of the English dub).

The best thing on the third disc though is the trailers. I love trailers. The first 17 minutes of trailers and TV spots (13 in total) are the same ones on the Japanese laserdisc. This includes one English (hard)subbed Theatrical Trailer (a ?clean? version is also included), and an English dubbed/titled one which was made for the Cannes Film Festival (I think). Some of these trailers are in 5.1 and all are in non-anamorphic widescreen (except some of the TV spots of course). We also have the Miramax?s English trailer (in 4:3) and the French Trailer (widescreen). Rounding out the trailers to a total of over 30 minutes are trailers and TV spots for the re-release of the film with the English Dub and Japanese subtitles in Japanese cinemas. These mostly use Miramax?s trailer as a basis which highlights the big name Hollywood cast. The best trailer is saved for last though. It shows footage of Miyazaki visiting Disney Studios in the US with a voice over asking him (obviously a Japan!
ese person speaking English phonetically) ?Don?t you think this movie is too violent for children??. I though that was very amusing.

While I like most of the extras, for three discs I was expecting a lot more like some behind the scenes footage or a short making of. I suppose if you want that you?ll have to shell out another •4700 for the ?How Princess Mononoke Was Born? DVD set. Pity that one has no English subs.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The film begins when a young man named Ashitaka is forced to kill an injured giant boar that has become a 'demon', and saves his village from being destroyed in the process. However for his trouble the boar has cursed him. A scar covers his arm that will eventually rot away his flesh and bone and eventually kill him. Due to tradition, Ashitaka is banished from the village, but the elders tell him there maybe a cure to the curse and tell him to travel west to find out what caused to boar to become a demon.

Travelling on his way through the feudal landscape of medieval Japan, he meets with a monk named Jiko, who wants to capture the head of the Spirit Of The Forest, an animal 'god' that gives life and takes it away. Jiko explains to him the state of affairs of the region he has wandered into. Later Ashitaka accidentally comes across a group of 'gods' called the Moro clan. Giant wolves that rule the forrest and that can talk in human language. Their leader Moro has a human daughter San, the Princess Mononoke, a young woman who hates humans as much as the forrest animals do, even though she is a human.

The animal gods are united against one enemy; Lady Eboshi and her Iron Town, a village that needs to cut down the forrest in order to get the raw materials to make iron. After saving two members of the Iron Town after an attack by the Moro clan, Ashitaka discovers that it was Lady Eboshi who caused the boar to be come a demon by shooting the creature. Ashitaka soon finds himself caught between Eboshi who wants to care for her people in Iron Town, and the Princess Mononoke and the Moro clan who want to save the forrest from destruction. Ashitaka wants both camps to come a compromise, but finds that it may be impossible to do so. Both sides begin to consider him a traitor to their cause even though he is trying to stop them from destroying each other.

Definitely Hayao Miyazaki's most mature and ambitious film to date, Mononoke plays like an epic Akira Kurosawa samurai film with fantasy elements and ancient Japanese legends and myths mixed in. The story is extremely complex but underneath it's a story about man versus nature and the consequences of when man destroys the environment around him. Miyazaki yet again creates a wonderfully crafted screenplay with sympathetic characters, strong female leads, and ordinary people who are neither evil nor angels. They just do what they need to survive in this harsh world and protect their loved ones from what they consider a threat.

Some have likened Princess Mononoke to Miyazaki's 1984 film Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind. While both films have a strong environmental message, in Mononoke there is no clear answer to the opposing sides' problems in the film. While everything is rather neatly and simply resolved in Nausicaš, in Mononoke it's not. This is also a more violent film than previous Studio Ghibli titles. If you want to show a Ghibli film to children under 10, this is not the one to pick. While the violence is not gratuitous, it?s definitely not for young kids either.

While it?s mostly a very serious film, there are some comic moments such as the small forrest sprits the kodomas. Miyazaki?s pacing of the film is really well done too. He gives enough information about the characters without over explaining things. You don?t realise that over two hours have passed by the time the end credits roll. Mononoke is also the first full length Ghibli film to use digital effects. Most are very subtle and unnoticeable upon first viewing, just like digital effects should be in a film. One of best elements in this film would be Joe Hisaishi?s soundtrack. It?s absolutely stunning. His score always fits in perfectly with whatever is happening on screen. Of particular note is the extraordinary vocal performance by Yoshikazu Mera who sings the theme song. He (yes, it?s a male singing) has a most unusual and beautiful voice.

The Princess Mononoke is a masterpiece of storytelling and animation. It is such a shame it did not repeat it?s Japanese success in the West. Even worse is the fact that most of the English speaking world will see this title on video rather than on a cinema screen where it should be.

For me I think the Japanese DVD is a better buy the US version, and definitely better than the UK version. The extras on this disc are much better than the dull featurette about the US cast on the UK and US discs. The only problem I can see is that most people won?t be able to justify the extra cost for extras that won?t be totally satisfying to most DVD fans.

Features
Japanese Language (Dolby Digital 5.1),Japanese Language (Dolby Digital 2.0),English Language (Dolby Digital 5.1),English Language (Dolby Digital 2.0),French Language (Dolby Digital 2.0),Cantonese Language (Dolby Digital 2.0),German Language (Dolby Digital 2.0),Italian Language (Dolby Digital 2.0),Spanish Language (Dolby Digital 2.0),Portuguese Language (Dolby Digital 2.0),English Subtitles,Japanese Subtitles,Japanese Subtitles Translation of English Dub),Original Japanese Teaser Trailers,Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots,Re-release (English Dub with Japanese Subtitles) Japanese Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots,US Theatrical Trailer,French Theatrical Trailer,Storyboard to Film comparison

Review Equipment
Toshiba SD-2019Y DVD Player (PAL/NTSC, Region Free), 60cm Panasonic TC-59R62 TV set (PAL/NTSC)

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES



Be the first to add a comment to this article!


ADD A COMMENT

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Please click here to login.

POPULAR TOPICS