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Exclusive review: Inu-Yasha:
Rumiko Takahashi's (Ranma 1/2, Maison Ikkoku, Mermaid Tales) new hit TV series in Japan
  Rating: PG-13
  U.S. Distribution Rights: Disney
  Genres: Action, Fantasy

Mononoke Hime (Movie)
Alternate Title: Princess Mononoke

Description:    Based on Japanese folk tales, the story begins as a God of the Forest (which are represented as animals) has been driven from its land. Mortally wounded and going mad, he is transformed and went raging across the countryside until he was stopped by Ashitaka. Ashitaka begins a quest to find out what had driven the God out, carrying a curse put on him by the dying God. It is on this quest to solve the mystery that he meets San, the "Princess" raised by the Wolf-Gods of the Forest.

Overall Grade: 93.33% (A)

  Reviewer #1: Kane Tung
  Episodes reviewed: Subtitled & English-Dubbed
Grade: 90% (A-)
   Miyazaki/Ghibli does it again! Although this movie didn't win me over as some of my personal favorite Ghibli features, I have to say this is arguably Ghibli's and Miyazaki's best production ever.

What I like about the movie is the complexity of the balance of everything. Here, there is good and there is evil, but it's never at any one place for long. The whole Nature vs. Man theme isn't cliched like most other movies. Here, man sows the seed of destruction, true— but it's not for greed or one man's evil vision of world domination. Rather for more unselfish reasons.

Then there is the relationship between San (Princess Mononoke) and Ashitaka. Miyazaki brilliantly follows the course of their relationship as it grows believably from hate and resentment to respect and finally to... well, I can't tell you, but it may not be quite the happy -- or sad -- ending that you'd expect. The animation is perfect (so much so that you can't really tell where they used Computer Graphics), and the action is exciting. This isn't a >yawn< "talking and posturing" movie, but it has its share of thought-provocation.

They say Miramax's release of Princess Mononoke will be a benchmark for anime. With a movie this good, I believe it.

  Reviewer #2: Sun Yang
  Episodes reviewed: Dubbed & English-Subtitled
Grade: 95% (A)
   That was my third time watching it! (In big screen!) ^_^;

Everytime I watch this magical and wonderful movie, I get all happy and sad at the same time. Why sad? Well. Because of the low gross in box office in US, which clearly reflects how people over here simply neglect the wonder of anime realm (okay, exclude Pokemon craze). Another one is about... hmm. What should I say... Billy Bob Thornton is NOT really good in this film. I didn't watch Swing Blade so I can't really comment on his day-time job, but MAN he stunk in this adaptation version......... >_< If you don't agree with me, too bad for you (It must means that you are in love with him or something!). I myself and EVERYONE who have seen the dubbed version said the same damn thing about his role, which sucked.

I can also comment on Claire Danes as San, a.k.a. Princess Mononoke. I really, really didn't like her for the first several (good twenty or so?) lines she speaks. Maybe because it was too low-key voice for San (whom I was familiar with Japanese version to, which was a bit higher pitched than Ms. Danes), but even after watching the dubbed version for the second time, I still didn't quite like her for the first half of the movie. After that, when she really started to get some kicks for the character, then it got much better and I got used to her voice. I mean, I personally like Claire Danes lots, and I think she is a really good actress, and she demonstrated for us in the TV show My So-Called Life .... But unfortunately she just didn't get it for good first half of the film.... But she is still not Billy Bob Thornton. >_< (And she was good in later half. He was just plain bad.)

What was most surprising to me was -actually there are three(!) things that were surprising, one was the voice of Ashitaka. WOW. It was fantastic. His voice sounded little too quiet(?!) for Ashitaka at first, but it was almost as good as the original Japanese version. He had the perfect voice for calm, noble, and charming Ashitaka. The other one is about Minnie Driver as Lady Eboshi. I mean, when I first heard that she was gonna do a character in this movie, I was very, VERY skeptical about this. WHY O WHY do we need Lady, or anyone in this movie in that matter, speaking in English accent when the movie is set in ancient JAPAN?! Gee I wonder if that is just stereo-typing a smart and charming characters to be British, just like they did with Sailor Moon dubbed version and so many other dubbed anime stuffs.....? But after seeing her performance as Lady Eboshi, my worry had been proved wrong. She was TERRIFIC. She was like, the best, of the bestest character portrayed by English speaking actors and actresses alike.

The last but not the least fact that surprised me was Neil Geiman, the very gifted writer who did the English adaptation of this movie. I will be very blunt and honest. I had no bloody idea who he was before this movie. -_-; WELL. When I first heard that Studio Ghibli made contract with Miramax back in '97 (which back then was reported just as Disney), and then after seeing Princess Mononoke in original Japanese, I was very afraid to watch the dubbed version of it. Because I know ?. for the fact that you lose lots, and lots and lots of subtle nuances and indications of the certain characters because of the language differences. Neil did a fascinating work of art here, and I was really happy with it. ^_^ My thanks to Neil Geiman, one of the greatest writer/comic writer.

Oh I should mention this too. It was the most violent Studio Ghibli film I have ever seen. I loved it though ... Because I remember screaming "Finally!!!! Blood!!!!" while I was watching Laputa: Castle in the sky (If you have seen this movie, there is just scratch on the cheek and it bleeds very little.... But watching all the Studio Ghibli stuffs and also loving the violence in anime, I just was going insane for some blood....)

  Reviewer #3: Clyde Adams III
  Episodes reviewed: Movie; Subtitled and Dubbed
Grade: 95% (A)
   Princess Mononoke is an overwhelming movie, full of beauty and power -- the most successful movie of any kind produced in Japan.

Like all Miyazaki's films, it displays broad vistas and lofty skies, meant for the big screen. Plants and landscapes, a raindrop hitting the grass, the huge, moss-covered trees in the heart of the forest, all are depicted in loving detail. Horrifying monsters covered with writhing worms, cute little humanoid tree spirits (kodama) with heads that shake and rattle like seed pods, the awesome, titanic Nightwalker with its transparent, flowing body, all are beautifully, unforgettably rendered images.

Princess Mononoke is set in feudal, 15th century Japan. A standard story of this period would feature the Emperor, the nobility, their brave and honorable samurai, and the rice farmers who support them. This movie features these characters in bit parts at best, and portrays samurai as predatory and cruel. This movie spotlights forgotten characters and forces: the indigenous peoples crushed by the imperial power, the forces of nature, and the misfits and outcasts of society.

The rich, ancient world of the forest gods is dying. Their immediate enemy is Lady Eboshi, who has built a viable community populated by outcasts and based on iron refining. Eboshi must cut down trees in the gods' forest for building and fuel and to get at the iron ore. On the gods' side is San, the princess of the title, a human girl adopted by the wolf goddess. Into this conflict walks Prince Ashitaka, cursed by a dying god and exiled from his own dying world. Ashitaka respects Eboshi, sympathizes with the gods, and loves San. He tries to avert disaster.

The theme of Princess Mononoke is stated clearly in the original Japanese trailers, and repeated at key points through the film: Will to Live. Life can be tragic, difficult, and very painful, but it's still worthwhile. Survive, live, and love.

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