Blu-Ray Review: Princess Mononoke (1997, Dir, Hayao Miyazaki)


I’ve been a fan of Princess Mononoke (1997) ever since I first saw it. It’s hard to believe it’s taken this long for it to come to blu-ray. But here we are, so let’s begin.

Mononoke is an anime fantasy flick by renowned anime director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Nausicaa In The Valley Of The Wind, etc) that focuses on the age old plight of mankind and mother nature, most times it’s a contentious relationship, has been lately, where Emishi Prince, Ashitaka (Billy Crudup), has the bad luck of being present when a “demon” attacks in the surrounding land near his village. This demon appears to me made up of writhing, black worms, but this is only a façade, a fatal one at that. The beast at it’s core is, or used to be, Nago, The Boar God, yes, a giant boar who has for all intents and purposes turned evil and striking out at anything human.

Ashitaka gets wounded in his battle as the black worms coil around his arm and infect it. Once Nago is put down, he vows vengeance on all humans before he disintegrates. A small iron ball was found lodged in his body and it’s theorized this is what turned him. Ashitaka ventures west to find out where this ball came from and hopefully to seek a cure to his infection which is destined to spread throughout his body and kill him much in the same way it killed, Nago. This “curse” operates on fear, hate and resentment growing strong with these emotions, but it’s not without its momentary benefits. Once pissed off, the “supernatural worms” beef up his arm leading to all sorts of potential bloody “side effects” in battle. An arrow can take off a head, or an arm, and a sword used with this arm can do the same, or even push open a gate that would take ten strong men to open.

As Ashitaka ventures into the west he crosses into a magical forest where Nago used to rule, and one where wolf Goddess, Moro (Gillian Anderson), has adopted a human child as her own, San (aka Princess Mononoke) (Claire Danes), and where even these animal Gods worship something stronger than themselves.

Enter the Great Forest Spirit. By day it takes the form of a four-footed human faced mammal that as the power to heal at a touch or kill, and can walk on water, but once night falls it turns into a huge, almost ectoplasmic entity referred to as the “Nightwalker.”

Venturing beyond the forest Ashitaka finally learns what Nago did before he fell from grace. Irontown, a fortress led by Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver), is at war with the animals and their Gods of the forest. She makes gun powder fueled weapons and her ingredients come from the very earth, which means she needs to cut down the forest to get what she wants, and she’s been doing this for some time. San has vowed revenge and she and Eboshi have been warring ever since.

Ashataki wants to be the peacemaker. He wants Eboshi to stop killing the forest and work in concert with Mother Nature and he wants San and Moro to quell their rage against Eboshi, but neither wants to give an inch.

Making matters worse is Jigo (Billy Bob Thornton) who has come to claim the head of the Great Forest Spirit, which actually happens, but not without mind-blowing consequences in the final act of the movie. It’s safe to say this flick didn’t end like I thought it would, which is a good thing nowadays when all plots and circumstances can pretty much be predicted from the get-go.

Do I even have to comment on the animation? It’s superb as can always be expected coming from Miyazaki.

Back on November 18th Disney released the DVD/Blu-ray Combo. The DVD included is just the old, solo DVD that had been out.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen high definition—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 French Dolby Digital—English, English SDH, French.

Extra Features:

  • Original Japanese Storyboards
  • Original Japanese And English Trailers
  • Original TV Spots
  • Original English Theatrical Trailer
  • Featurette (5:05)
  • Princess Mononoke In The USA (19:57)

Note: Since the DVD is just a copy of the old release the only extras on it are the Featurette and the Theatrical Trailer.


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