The epic conclusion to “Month of Miyazaki”; here’s this week’s MYHNSBS!
Welcome back to “Movies You Have Not Have Seen But Should”. Throughout this month of September, we are celebrating the “Month of Miyazaki” in honor of acclaimed writer, animator, producer and director from Japan, Hayao Miyazaki. As we do, we will highlight four of Miyazaki’s films. To wrap up the “Month of Miyazaki”, we will look at the classic fantasy film Princess Mononoke.
The film is set during the time of the Muromachi period in Japan (roughly between 1337 and 1573). A prince in the Emishi village named Ashitaka (voiced in the English dubbing by Billy Crudup, best known for his work in such films as Almost Human, Watchmen, Big Fish and Public Enemies) is attacked by a demon while trying to defend the village. He kills the demon but is left with a curse. The curse gives him superhuman abilities but will inevitably kill him. The village wise woman suggests that Ashitaka go west to find a cure from the curse that the demon (which is revealed to be boar god Nago). As he travels west, he meets a wandering monk named Jigo (voiced by Billy Bob Thornton, who has been involved in such films as Friday Night Lights, Sling Blade, and Armageddon) who shares that Great Forest Spirit may be the one to help Ashitaka. The two then run into a caravan that is from Irontown and tend to some wounded. Ashitaka and Jigo then make their way to Irontown, which is a town known as a refuge for the social outcasts. It is ruled by the Lady Eboshi (voiced by Minnie Driver, best known for her work in Good Will Hunting, Grosse Point Blank, and the Disney version of Tarzan), who uses the outcasts to manufacture weapons against the gods. She is the one who was responsible for the boar god turning into a demon (Nago has an iron ball stuck inside him from a weapon shot at it).
The Lady Eboshi is opposed by the wolf clan which has among its clan a young lady named San (voiced by Claire Daines, best known for her roles in the TV shows My So-Called Life and Homeland along with such films as Romeo + Juilet and Little Women) who is also dubbed Princess Mononoke. San was raised by the wolves in the forest and is protector of the forest and the Forest Spirit. The film then sees Ashikaba and San fight and later join forces against a common enemy. Is Ashikaba cured? What role does Jigo play? What happens to Lady Eboshi and the people of Irontown? You’ll have to watch the film to see.
The film also features the voices of John DiMaggio, Jada Pinkett Smith, Keith David and Gillian Anderson (who we had highlighted earlier this month for her voice work in another Miyazaki film From Up On Poppy Hill). It was initially released in Japan in July of 1997. It became the highest grossing film in Japan that year (until it was surpassed by Titanic). It was released in theaters in the U.S. in October of 1999. Interesting fact, the English dubbed version had some adaptations by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is known for his work on The Sandman. Princess Mononoke was highly received by the critics and won numerous awards. It was submitted for nomination for the 70th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film but was not nominated (this was before there was a category for Best Animated Feature Film).
Princess Mononoke is available on DVD (hopefully it will be released on Blu-Ray, it’s one of the few Miyazaki films that has not been). This is not only a classic Miyazaki film but a classic film in general. I would recommend you take the time to find a copy of this film to add to your collection. It’s a great Miyazaki film to wrap up this month of celebration that you may not have seen, but you should.