Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-hime) (Studio Ghibli Collection) (1997)

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Released 28-Oct-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Menu Animation & Audio
Storyboards-Alternative Angle Storyboards
Trailer-Kiki's Delivery Service, Laputa Castle In The Sky
Theatrical Trailer-trailers and TV spots
Reversible Cover
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 133:21
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hayao Miyazaki
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Yôji Matsuda
Billy Crudup
Yuriko Ishida
Claire Danes
Yûko Tanaka
Minnie Driver
Akihiro Miwa
Gillian Anderson
Kaoru Kobayashi
Billy Bob Thornton
Hisaya Morishige
Keith David
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Joe Hisaishi


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Towards the close of the last millennium, when I was starting to get interested in anime, there were rumours flying around about an awesome new movie called Princess Mononoke, and how it was soon to appear on DVD, and how wonderful it would be. But it didn't appear. And didn't appear. And the millennium ended without it appearing in Australia (the millennium was almost ended when it appeared on DVD in Region 1). And we got interested in other movies, and gradually forgot Mononoke-hime, save for occasional moments of curiosity as to why it hadn't appeared here. The great Miyazaki-san decided that it wasn't his last film, after all, and made Spirited Away. Spirited Away appeared on DVD in Australia (with some minor controversy), and still we hadn't seen Princess Mononoke.

    Finally, it has arrived, roughly four years after the Region 1 release. Why did we have to wait so long? I don't know. To be honest, I don't care. It is finally here, and that's the important thing.

    If you haven't seen anything by Hayao Miyazaki other than Spirited Away, then you may be expecting a film called Princess Mononoke to be a children's fairy tale. Uh, no. In the US it garnered a PG-13 rating. Here it has been given an M rating. That rating is about right. I would not recommend this film for children.

    So if this isn't a children's fairy tale, what is it? It's a multi-threaded story. A fairy tale has a simple binary structure: here are the good folk, who live happily ever after; here are the bad folk, and they come to a sticky end. This story is far from binary. There are many sides to this story, including:

    All of these sides, and more, and none of them completely right. But none of them completely wrong, although I have the least sympathy for Jigo.

    We start in the east, where the Emishi are living in peace, and in harmony with the forest around them — even their paths are cut into the ground, possibly to reduce their impact on the plant life. We see Ashitaka, a prince of the Emishi, and his mount, Yakul, who is a red elk. Ashitaka is rounding up the people of the village because the old woman / oracle has sensed that something bad is coming. And it is. And it is very bad. A large mass of writhing dark serpents/worms appears from the forest, leaving a trail of death behind it. Ashitaka is warned not to let it touch him, but he is forced to intervene to stop it reaching the village. He tries hard to divert it, but is eventually forced to fight it, and it touches his arm. He stops it, but he is cursed / infected by it. He is told that he will die, but perhaps he can do something about the cause. So he sets out to the west, his only clue a ball of iron found in the body that was under the writhing mass.

    He finds two wounded men, and returns them to Irontown, where he learns that the people of Irontown are in combat with the forest because they want to mine the iron in the ground — they have mined out the iron under their town. Irontown is sort of the core of a communist / feminist enclave being formed by Lady Eboshi. She is helping women escape from brothels, and other people from other isolation, and she is giving them belief in themselves. But she is doing it at a cost, and so she is opposed by the forest and by the various tribes of giant creatures and demigods who dwell there. One of the most vehement opponents is the tribe of Moro the wolf goddess and her adopted daughter San. San was a human baby who has been raised by Moro, and who considers herself a wolf. She is also Mononoke-hime / Princess Mononoke. Another group of opponents is the boar tribe, formerly led by Nago, before he was shot by Eboshi.

    Ashitaka finds himself torn. He feels strong sympathy for the common folk of Irontown and their desire to make a better life for themselves, but he detests the way they are fighting the forest to do it. He is fascinated by San, and feels for her battle to save the forest, but does not agree with the way she is going about it. And he is awestruck by the Great Forest Spirit / Deer God. Ashitaka finds himself caught in the middle of the conflict between all these factions, when his instinct is telling him that they could, and should, all live in harmony.

    This is a sombre tale, and not all of the endings are happy. But it is a moving story, and one which is even more applicable now than when it was made. I could draw parallels between factions in this story, and factions in the news today, but you'll be more satisfied if you do it yourself.

    This is being released with two other Studio Ghibli films: Kiki's Delivery Service and Laputa: Castle in the Sky. They have been released with a uniform gold stripe across the top of the front cover. There are supposed to be more released in coming months. That will be a wonderful thing, for there is a lot more Miyazaki goodness to come.

    Strongly recommended, even for those who are not anime fans — this film speaks to everyone.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. That's the original aspect ratio.

    The image is fairly clear and sharp; the backgrounds seem about as sharp as we can expect given that they look to have been painted; foreground objects and characters look to be outlined in ink, and they are as sharp as we would like. There is no film grain. There is no low-level noise.

    Colour is well-rendered, and there's plenty of it — there are plenty of vivid colours in this film. There are no significant colour-related artefacts.

    There are a very few film artefacts, and they are small. You have to be alert to spot any of them, except for one in one of the opening logos.

    There is mild aliasing on virtually all movement, but it is at a level I don't find too distracting. It is exacerbated by interleaving — the interleaving is possibly an artefact of the conversion from NTSC to PAL (this seems likely to be an NTSC to PAL conversion, because the run-time is the same). There is no moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts, save for occasional shimmer.

    There are two sets of subtitles. One set is a literal translation of the Japanese, and it is quite interesting to watch these while listening to the English dialogue — doing so makes it quite clear how many liberties have been taken in transforming the dialogue into American English. The second set of subtitles match the English dialogue — they are English for the Hearing Impaired, and therefore include sound cues — they are rather accurate to the dialogue. I watched both sets of subtitles. They are easy to read, and seem well-timed.

    The disc is single-sided, dual-layer, RSDL formatted. The layer change, at 67:44, is not good. It looks almost as if it has been placed between one field and another, which is something I thought impossible. This is one layer change anyone can spot, sadly.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks on this disc. Both the English and Japanese soundtracks are Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps. This is one film that truly justifies a 5.1 soundtrack.

    The English dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear. The English script has changed the names and even some minor points of the story, which is irritating. Why would they see a need to change the name "Jiko" to "Jigo", for example? Or "Oracle" to "Wise Woman"? Perhaps the most annoying is the change from "Deer God" to "Great Forest Spirit". Still, the core of the story is unchanged, and that's good. Another irritation is the way that they have added extra lines to the script to explain things they think we won't understand — I dislike this apparent condescending attitude. I'll watch this film in Japanese when I watch it again.

    The Japanese dialogue is not perfectly matched to the mouth movements — see, for example, 97:57, where we see Ashitaka's mouth moving before the dialogue begins.

    The English dialogue has been performed by celebrity actors, not professional voice actors. They have done a decent job, although Claire Danes' effort was a bit of a disappointment. When I saw this film the first time, I felt that Gillian Anderson's voice was too recognisable, and distracting; this time it didn't seem so — possibly because they boosted the wolf sounds behind it, or possibly because I haven't heard her voice as recently.

    The score, from Joe Hisaishi, is epic in scope and grandeur — it enhances the impact of the film. Much of the music is sombre, and slow in pace, but it is powerful.

    The subwoofer is used extensively by this soundtrack — it gives emphasis to the crash of giant creatures, it aids the deepest register of the music, it is indispensable. The surrounds are used intermittently, but effectively, mostly for evocative sound effects, such as being complete surrounded by kodamas (clacking forest spirits). Both the English and the Japanese soundtracks make it easy to demonstrate why you invested in a 5.1 sound system.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The main menu is static with music, and is easy to use. Interestingly, the extras menu is animated with sound.

Reversible Cover

    The cover slick can be removed and reversed to show a different image, this time one of Ashitaka. Only the front image is different — the spine and back are the same.

Insert

    There is a single page insert listing the chapter titles.

Trailers (6:40)

    This is a collection of Japanese promotional pieces, including TV spots, trailers, and even a short promotional film.

Alternate Angle: Storyboards

    This is a huge extra. The complete set of storyboards for the entire film is provided as an alternate angle to the film. If you are interested in storyboards, this is a big treat. If you find storyboards less fascinating, you'll probably stop watching fairly quickly. I sampled the storyboards extensively, but I couldn't bring myself to watch all of them.

    The original Japanese credits are provided at the end of the storyboard angle. The film angle only offers credits in English, and only credits the English-language voice actors, unfortunately.

Trailers: Studio Ghibli

    There are only two trailers here:

DVD Credits

    A single screen showing the credits for the Madman team responsible for this DVD.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title was released in 2000 in Region 1. It was released with a fancy cover image featuring Ashitaka, including foil. I prefer the Region 4 cover — after all, it shows the title character!

    The Region 4 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 transfer doesn't show quite as much aliasing, and doesn't have the interleaving troubles, but the colour doesn't appear to be as well-rendered: it looks a touch exaggerated, almost as though someone had raised the chroma level a little to try to make the picture more colourful. I don't like it. It's really only noticeable when you compare the R1 and R4 discs, but having watched both, I think I prefer the look of the R4, even with its aliasing and interleaving. The R1 has a much better layer change, though, at 72:51, at a scene change.

    This is tough. The choice between these two versions really depends on what you judge as more important: do you want a puff-piece making of, or storyboards? Do you want slightly over-bright colour, or a bad layer change? For my tastes, the R4 is slightly preferable, but you may feel differently.

Summary

    A rewarding and fascinating complex tale of conflict between man and nature, presented rather well on DVD.

    The video quality is good, spoiled by a bad layer change and mild aliasing.

    The audio quality is excellent, with superb use of the subwoofer.

    The extras are fairly basic promotional material, plus a full-length alternate angle showing the complete storyboards of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Does this feature branching on the intro? - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
This did have a cinema release in Australia - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
English dialogue - Pearce REPLY POSTED
Pioneer DVD Angle icon problem - Charles Bracken REPLY POSTED
R1 wins - Anonymous
Re R1 Wins - Jace REPLY POSTED
R2 Japan wins? - John
language filter??? - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
Re: Re R1 wins - Anonymous REPLY POSTED