Princess Mononoke (1997)

Genres - Fantasy, Adventure  |   Sub-Genres - Anime, Fantasy Adventure  |   Release Date - Oct 29, 1999 (USA)  |   Run Time - 135 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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The epic film effort of director Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli, Princess Mononoke preserves the director's spirit of humanism while succeeding as a daring action-adventure. Though it contains more violence than his earlier works, it expands on his frequent ecological themes without falling into the black-and-white polarity of good guys versus the bad guys. Humans, animals, and gods have reached a point where they cannot live in harmony, and each faction -- be it lepers, wild boars, or forest spirits -- is warranted some dignity. Based on drawings of ancient forests, the scenery is breathtaking, being the first of Miyazaki's films to utilize computer-generated animation, although the bulk is still, thankfully, drawn by hand. Once the highest grossing film in Japan (before being surpassed by Titanic and later Miyazaki's own Spirited Away), Princess Mononoke was dubbed into English and distributed by Miramax. Fortunately, the raging forest battle does not get a sentimentalized treatment from the U.S. company. Rather than stock Disney-anthropomorphized animals, the forest creatures are represented with a variety of sincerity, compassion, and ferocity. The plight of the animals and forest gods rarely resorts to a simple moral explanation, and the central romance is not written off with a happily ever after. What Princess Mononoke does have is a beautifully rendered mythical forest inhabited by inventive creatures, while evoking as much rousing adventure as a sense of wonder.