“Princess Mononoke” stars Yoji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yuko Tanaka, and Kaoru Kobayashi. Released in Japan on July 12, 1997, and in the United States on October 29, 1999, the film is about a cursed prince who gets caught in a struggle between the gods of a forest and the humans.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and Ponyo. This year marks the 20th anniversary of one of Studio Ghibli’s animated masterpieces, and to celebrate, I got a chance to see it for the first time on the big screen, courtesy of Fathom Events. I’ve been following some of Studio Ghibli’s works throughout my life, with Castle in the Sky, Totoro, Kiki, and Spirited Away being the ones I remembered the most. Normally, I would watch the English version of the film, but for this review, I’m going to be looking at the original Japanese dub.
The way this film is crafted is different than any other film that Studio Ghibli has made, mostly because of its tone and setting. If you have a small child who likes to watch the English dubs of the Studio Ghibli films, I suggest you prevent them from watching this until they’re at least 13 or 14. But that doesn’t answer my personal question: does this film still hold up after 20 years of release? My brain says...absolutely. The original Japanese cast did a great job at bringing these strong characters to life, such as Matsuda as Ashitaka and Ishida as San. My only gripe with it was the casting of Akihiro Miwa as Moro, San’s adopted mother. He sounded a bit too deep to be playing a mother like Moro, but that’s just me. There were two major highlights that made this film what it is: the story and its amazing animation. The first half is pretty much Ashitaka’s quest to remove a deadly curse that’s been put on him, but the rest of the film is where things got more interesting to me. Combining its environmental message with its majestic and action-packed visuals, Hayao Miyazaki managed to create an awe-inspiring epic adventure that kept me engaged for more than two hours without forcing the message itself down in our throats.
Overall, with its beautiful and engaging animation, Miyazaki’s unique storytelling, and strong characters, “Princess Mononoke” is a brilliant animated feature that still holds up to this day. The Japanese dub and the English dub were both great to me for different reasons, but the overall film was a splendid experience for me to watch in the theater. I wish I could explain more about this film, but I got to get some rest for work in the morning. If you’re a fan of Miyazaki’s other works, I would highly recommend it to you.