Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Princess Mononoke is a film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and it is set in the Muromachi period of Japan. The story shows the struggle between supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans that try to consume the resources of the forest.
The film opens with Ashitaka, the last Emishi prince, saving his village by killing the demon form of Nago, the boar god. During the battle, Ashitaka receives a demon mark on his arm, and is cursed by the Boar God's hatred and pain. A ball of iron is found in Nago's corpse, and is connected to Nago's curse. Since Ashitaka is destined for death because of the curse, he leaves his village and goes out in search of a cure for his curse. As he leaves the village with his elk named Yakul, a girl named Kaya gives Ashitaka her crystal dagger (so he will not forget her).
During his travels, Ashitaka arrives in a forest with animal gods (such as Moro, the wolf god). The Forest Spirit also lives there; he takes the form of a deer by day, and a "night-walker" at night. A human settlement called Irontown is nearby; the people in the settlement clear the forest to get more iron ore. The actions of Irontown anger the animals, and cause battles between the animals and the human settlement. It was during one of these battles that Lady Eboshi, the head of Irontown, shot Nago.
Ashitaka travels between the forest and Irontown to try and make peace. During his first visit, Irontown is attacked by San (a human girl who has been adopted by wolves). Ashitaka intervenes to stop the fighting and takes San back into the forest; however, he is injured while doing this. With San's help, the forest spirit heals Ashitaka's wounds, but not his curse. Lady Eboshi, meanwhile, decides to hunt the head of the forest spirit. Ashitaka tries to intervene to save the forest spirit, but are his efforts for naught?
Princess Mononoke tells a compelling story. Not only is it a story about the environment, it is also a story about how no one is necessarily either good or evil. I appreciate how Miyazaki was able to tell this story without falling into the trap of, "the forest animals and the animal spirits are the 'good guys,' while Lady Eboshi and the citizens of Irontown are the 'bad guys.'" The animation in Princess Mononoke is breathtaking and perfectly conveys the feelings and emotions Miyazaki wants the viewer to experience while watching the film.
Overall, there were very few special features on the DVD. All you get are the English language theatrical trailer, and a 5-10 minute featurette about making the English dub of the film. The featurette primarily features the voice cast, although Neil Gaiman (who translated the film for the English dub) is also included. It was a decent featurette, but I do wish some more bonus features had been included.
Overall, if you are a fan of Miyazaki or simply like Princess Mononoke, this release should be included in your DVD library. However, it should be noted that Princess Mononoke carries a PG-13 rating, and really isn't meant for children.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD that my husband purchased as a gift.