Reviewed by: Ben Berntsen
|Featuring:||voices of Yoji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yuko Tanaka, Kaori Kobayashi, Masahiko Nishimura|
Disney’s tight grip on the Animation industry seems to be coming to an end. “Prince of Egypt” was the first “Disney killer,” followed by “The Iron Giant,” and now “Princess Mononoke” (a.k.a. “Mononoke Hime”). I’ve been following these “animation wars” with great interest, and after seeing this film I think I’ve found the winner.
“Princess Mononoke” takes place in ancient Japan. The movie opens to see the hero, Ashitaka, saving his village from a “demon”. After defeating it, he discovers a gruesome scar on his arm. He is told by the Village Elders that the scar is a curse, and will grow and infest his whole body, and to keep it from spreading to anyone else, Ashitaka is banished from the village. Thus, he sets off to find a cure for his curse. Before long he arrives at an Iron-mining town, ruled by a nature-abusing woman. From this point on, the plot gets so thick it’d be hard to write about it, and ultimately climaxes with a war between Man and Nature.
The animation is all done in the Japanese style of “Anime”, so it has quite a different flavor than Americans are probably used to seeing. The animation is “sharp” if that’s the right word, but it surpasses Disney in every way. In this movie, things like fog, rain and forest looks so real you could reach out and touch them, and the characters are incredibly well-animated—far better than anything I’ve seen in North America. This is also the first animated film I’ve seen that makes brilliant use of cinematography, and you’ll be amazed at the brilliance of the scenery in this film.
Content wise, let me say this straight off: the film is not for children. There is more action-related violence in this film than in all the Disney films combined, often resulting in many dismembered limbs and sometimes beheadings. On top of that the plot is very advanced, and it’ll fly right over kid’s heads, so it’s really not worth it to let them see the film at all. Sex wise, the Iron-mining town is filled with former prostitutes who are now honest workers, and there are one or two mild phrases related to that. Language-wise there are very few foul words, and twice God’s name is taken in vain. On the other hand, the main character is an excellent role model, as he never swears, never has sex, and is blatantly opposed to killing (he fights only when innocent lives are at stake).
There is some New Age concepts in the film (gods and demons, etc), but it’s not as bad as you might think. Immature Christians may be confused by this film, but others shouldn’t have any problems.
To date, “Princess Mononoke” is the best animated film made. I would recommend it to anyone 13 or older. The film’s message (that we make use of nature without destroying it) is good, but as with ANY movie, make sure to bring your shield along.