Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki Starring:
Yôji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yûko Tanaka
“The Forest Spirit gives life and takes life away. Life and death are his alone.”
The first time I ever saw Princess Mononoke was luckily at the Belcourt Theatre around June of 2012. I also had the special privilege of seeing it on a beautiful 35mm, subtitled print. What happened when the film started, I’ll never forget. Having basically no knowledge of the plot, or expectation, the film blew my mind in pretty much every aspect. I remember standing outside the theatre with my friend trying to wrap my brain around the beauty and perfection that I had just witnessed.
The film is about Prince Ashitaka trying to rid himself of a curse that was put upon him from a wandering demon. He then is banished from his village to either find a cure, or die. Along his travels he finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest and the people of a mining town
The film decides to leave the viewer to choose as their leader for there is no antagonist, but only perspectives. The choices being, let humans live and the forest could be damaged or die, or save the forest and the humans are killed.
If I had a gun placed against my head and I was told to create a top three favorite films of all time list, this would be the first title I would say. It’s close to, if not (depending on my mood), my favorite film of all time. Everything from the art direction to cinematography to musical score are absolutely stunning in every regard. Every time I have seen the film, I sit through the credits just to hear the amazing score. Even my mom, who hates all things anime, walked into the room just to say that it sounded beautiful. Even the ending makes me draw a tear at the perfection. If you haven’t seen Princess Mononoke I personally can’t recommend it highly enough.
“To see with eyes unclouded by hate.”
Princess Mononoke has never really looked in the home market, having myself seen the DVD release, I found the colors to be lacking and having it sort of like a vhs, almost like there was a layer of dust on the film. With the blu ray, the results are groundbreaking. As I said in my opening paragraph I saw this on 35mm, and I can honestly say the blu ray looks better in every regard. Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, colors pop beautifully and black levels are inky and deep. Skin tones are spot on perfect. There is no jagged lines anywhere to be found, and it looks to be a full restoration from the source materials. Its as though it was just released yesterday, a perfect transfer.
(the film also includes subtitles for Japanese, English, French, German, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional) languages)
“Cut off a wolf’s head and it still has the power to bite.”
Princess Mononoke comes in a myriad of sound mixes including Japanese (LPCM 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), English Dolby Digital 5.1, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, German, Korean, Cantonese and Mandarin. While I did try the LPCM mix, I preferred the DTS-HD MA due to the sound stage feeling more full and expansive. The sound mix has never sounded better. The LFE usage starts immediately in the beginning with the thunderous roar of the taiko drums and has a presence throughout the film. Soon after, the sound stage fills with beautiful score and fantastic use of rear speakers. The film continues to provide clear and concise dialogue that never gets drowned out by the other speakers. A personal favorite moment during the film is where the kodamas start rattling their heads as it completely surrounds the listener in a very realistic manor. Overall I loved the audio mix and had no issues with it.
Packaging and Bonus Features
“I’m going to show you how to kill a god.”
The packaging for this release is quite great with it having a subtle and minimal cover with a book like packaging. I thought use of green suited the theme of the film and it stands out perfectly on my shelf.
Bonus features on the other hand, is the only thing that’s lacking with this release.
Since all of the menus, and every thing written is in hiragana and kanji, I was unable to read the official names for the bonus features.
The first feature is having the entire script available to read with the film and storyboards that appear as the film goes. It’s very interesting to see how Japanese scripts are written as opposed to English ones.
The second feature is about twenty or more trailers for the film from teasers, to differing countries. There are no English subtitles, though it was interesting seeing how little of the film they show for their trailers. In a way I wish American releases had this type of marketing.
The final feature was advertisements for upcoming releases from Spanish animated houses and even English ones. There was also an advertisement for what I think is a “location” scout for the Ghibli films. To be honest it looks like something that would be on tv. Finally there is a trailer for “From Up On Poppy Hill” blu ray release.
Overall(not an average)
“You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose.”
Studio Ghibli has time and again, blown me away with not only showing, but proving that animation is an art form that can tell any story; An art form for kids and adults that can be watched time and time again. The video and audio for this release are jaw dropping and the film is, in my eye, the very best the studio has ever put out.
Overall (not a average): 9/10
Packaging and Bonus Features: 4/10
…now where is that Spirited Away blu ray?!!
It should be noted that I imported this blu ray from Amazon.jp for the price of $60, so for some the price may be too much for a single disc blu ray. Also any and all menus are in Japanese kanji.