Princess Mononoke (1997)

Ashitaka (English voice of Billy Crudup) fights the demon boar from “Princess Mononoke”

There are a handful of animated movies I would classify as superior productions in all aspects, and “Princess Mononoke (Japanese titled もののけ姫, best translated as Mononoke-Hime) is a classic example of achievement. Written and directed by Hayao Moyazaki, this period drama took 16 years of development to bring audiences a tale of fantasy, adventure and sorrow. The characters leave you caught up in the story and the artwork stuns viewers with rich detail and mood setting color. Studio Ghibli continues to bring the highest quality entertainment with productions like Princess Mononoke.

The story take place outside an Emishi village; a demon board runs amok and Ashitaka (voice of Yoji Matsuda, English voice of Billy Crudup) slays the beast but not without consequences. Ashitaka becomes cursed with superhuman powers that will eventually kill him if left untreated. On the advice of a elderly village woman, he travels west in search of a cure and comes upon a monk (voice of Kaoru Kobayashi, English voice Billy Bob Thorton) who suggest Ashitaka search out a forest spirit to lift the curse for him. The story continues there with an engaging plot and a list of characters you’ll enjoy.

This is a long film (approximate running time 2 hrs., 14 minutes) and parents should be warned that the images may be too frightening for young children. The opening battle scene against the demon boar is pretty graphic and the forest spirit is pretty spooky to watch lumbering through the woods. I do recommend this as a must-see for older children and adults, as I am sure you will find the production a spectacular one that leaves you wanting to own a copy of your own. Great voice performances were given by such stars as Claire Danes, Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) and Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting). I’m sure Studio Ghibli will continue to bring quality animation to worldwide audiences with future productions, but don’t let this one slip by you as I consider it to be a classic.

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