Eric Lurio's with his review of the pic, let's see what he has to say.
"Mononoke Hime was a phenomenon in Japan. In 1997 it made more money than any other film in the history of the medium in that country. Since then it has gotten a reputation as something special. Possibly the best animated film to ever come out of that country.
"The reason for this reputation is basically because of it's adult content. It's a violent film, and at times mean-spirited, and I just don't mean in the usual sense either, although it's that too. This is about mean spirits. What writer-director Hayao Miyazaki has done is create a new religious epic.
"The film begins in a forest in northeastern Japan during the 13th century AD. A demon is rampaging through the forest killing everything in it's path. Our hero, Ashitaka (Billy Crudup), the last prince of Emishi people, who were in Japan before the Japanese got there, manages to kill off the deity, but only after it puts a curse on him in the form of a fatal rash. The local shaman (Mitsuko Mori) tells him the only way to save his life is to go to a sacred forest in the west where people may not enter and ask the Forest Spirit (a deerlike god of life and death) for it's help. So our hero saddles up on his faithful antelope Yakkle and the two gallop off to confront destiny...
"On his travels, Ashitaka comes across civilization, which means that he gets run out of town pretty quick. His only friend is a monk named Jigo (Billy Bob Thornton), who appears to be comic relief and unlike most of most of the other characters, looks Japanese. He has an ulterior motive, but we're not exactly sure what it is.
"As our hero and his trusty antelope approach the sacred forest, they come across a group of people carrying supplies back home. But they are attacked by a giant pack of wolves, and it is on the back of one of these we meet the title character, San (Claire Danes), the Princess Mononoke. Ashitaka manages to save a couple of victims, including one named Koroku (John Di Mita), who babbles alot.
"Make no mistake, this is not some eco-fable like some have mentioned. This is a story about power, and the old gods are in conflict with a humanity barely in the iron age. It's actually difficult at times to figure out who Miyazaki wants us to root for.
"Koroku lives in fort next to an iron mine, which is run by Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver) and her assistant Gonza (John DiMaggio). Both these people are shown to be actually dedicated upstanding people who want the best for their people, and the minors and smelters, the latter of whom are women are quite genuinely fond of them. Suddenly, San attacks, and after a pretty nifty battle scene, our hero winds up with her in the forest.
"We are now into the world of Shinto, the Japanese religion, where everything has a spirit. Some, such as the maraca-like Kodama are benign, and others like the monkey gods, are not. The two main divine antagonists Moro (Gillian Anderson), the wolf-god, who's adopted San, and Okkotonushi (Keith David) the Boar god, are not actually all that nice, the latter one especially. The Forest Spirit appears to be benign, but actually we can't be sure.
"Unlike most Japanese animation, the craftsmanship is top notch, nearly as good as the top domestic product. The climax is pretty extraordinary, and the vistas depicted are gorgeous.
"The English-language version of the Japanese animated feature is better than the subtitled version for a simple reason: it's far easier to get information through four orfices than three, especially when it comes to cartoons, where the mouthing of the words isn't always that exact. An English version looks just as natural as the Japanese.
"Neil Gaiman's interpretation of the literal translation is to be commended because it makes everything clearer to those not already emeshed in ancient Japanese culture, and that's pretty much 97% of everybody here in North America. If this and Pokemon don't bring Japanese anime into the North American mainstream, nothing will."
[Eric Lurio liked it.]