Princess Mononoke

A review by Chris

The world of Japanese animation is slowly being revealed to me, and I must say that I have been wrong about it. Yes, I AM talking about "anime," something that is shunned by many, even those of us within these very virtual pages. I myself have shunned it in the past because it always seemed to be just a dizzy montage of hyper-karate fighting scenarios, lots of WAY TOO BIG eyes, bad dialogue, flinging blades, strange hairdos... you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about.

But that's only one kind of anime - and certainly not the best kind. If you want to see what it can REALLY be like, check out Princess Mononoke*.

Princess Mononoke is a marvelous spectacle, a vision of what animation could be like if Disney hadn't forever linked the art form to singing animals and children's stories for we Americans, and other Westerners, I suppose. Donít get me wrong - Disney movies are wonderful, I love them. But it's great to finally have some truly imaginative movies to see again.

Is it just that I'm getting older, and that I'm no longer affected by fantasy movies the same way? Or is it that they simply don't make them with the same imagination that they used to? Of course the answer is probably a little of the first - but it's a LOT more of the second. DON'T tell me the Matrix was great fantasy. DON'T tell me Pokemon is great imagination.


Princess Mononoke is a revelation of imagination. The story is mythic, complete with giant forest gods, wars between intelligent, speaking animals and humans, and warriors on quests. While it's an incredible fantasy, it's also not for kids. These are not pretty wars - people tend to lose limbs and heads when going against our hero. And the film features the image of an animal-demon that gave me nightmares. But the tone of the story is so straightforward and earnest, that it will almost take you aback. This movie is made even more accessible to audiences that donít care for subtitles by the inclusion of celeb voices in the American dub, including Gillian Anderson, Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, and almost bizarrely, Billy Bob Thornton.


If you wonder where the real imagination went in fantasy movies, it apparently went to Japan.


* I had trouble with the title too. And, most alarmingly, the box office lady did not laugh when I jokingly asked for a ticket to see Princess Mononucleosis. I attributed this more to her OWN lack of understanding of the actual pronunciation, than any potential offense she may have taken at my jest. Or perhaps it was the fact that she did not care about me, my joke, the movie, the theatre, this life, or anything. But I suppose I should save that for a rant about McClurg theatres.





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