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Princess Mononoke

Author Elaine Needelman
Air Date 10/22/1999

Princess Mononoke Transcript

Today, Elaine Needelman has a review for us of an enormously popular animated film from Japan that promises to draw American audiences into its magical spell.

Next week, on October 29th, the Japanese film, “Princes Mononoke” is finally being released in the United States after taking the Japanese box-office by storm for the past two years. The only film that has grossed more in Japan is Titanic. The director Hayao Miyazaki is know in America for his two wonderful children’s films that are currently available on video: “My Friend Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” They’re touching every audience base for the American version of “Princess Mononoke” by dubbing it into English with a cast that includes Clare Danes, Gillian Anderson, Minnie Driver, Puff Daddy, and Billy Bob Thornton.

“Princess Mononoke” is a beautifully drawn, complex, animated film about the war between the animal spirits of the forest and the humans who have defied and destroyed them. It has everything you could want in an epic adventure — a dangerous quest for a magical cure, heart-pounding action, compelling effects, and the romance between Prince Ashitaka and Princess Mononoke, whose is able to communicate with directly with the forces of nature — in fact, her name means “The spirit of things.”

Miyazaki roots “Princess Mononoke” firmly in the culture of 14th century Japan but he also gives the film a core of universal themes. It’s an ecological fable concerned with the struggle for balance between human demands and nature. But Miyazaki doesn’t take any easy ways out of the dilemma; even Lady Eboshi, whose ironworks are wrecking the environment, is not a stereotypical villain. She represents progress and the relentless development of an industrial society with the resulting destruction of the natural world. The Princess is a teenage girl dressed in wolf pelts who fights savagely to protect her animal family, but she is also intrigued by the young man Ashitaka. It’s a story about the eternal battle between good and evil, the power of undying love, and the important tests and tasks of character.

Because it is an animated film, it’s easy to assume that “Princess Mononoke” is automatically appropriate for all children. But this is really an animated film for older children and adults, as its PG-13 rating reflects, because of its violence and truly gory battle sequences. Here too, though, Miyazaki, seeks to create a balance, alternating furious action scenes with images of fragile and delicate beauty, the ideas of social responsibility with the emotional heart of the romantic epic. It’s truly a film that’s been worth the wait.

Posted in Film