Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
It is set in medieval Japan, and centres on the struggle between the supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans who need its resources, as seen by the outsider Ashitaka. "Mononoke" is not a name, but a description that might be rendered in this context as "avenging spirit", making the title of the film Princess of the Avenging Spirits.
Prince Ashitaka saves his village from a cursed boar-god but is cursed in the process. As the curse spreads, he has a short amount of time to find a cure for the curse before it kills him. He discovers the curse originated from a bullet shot from a hand cannon made in Irontown. There lady Eboshi is fighting a war against the spirits of the forest so she can extract its resources for her people. Tribes of intelligent boars, apes, and wolves and San (the mononoke princess of the title), who was raised by the wolves, defend the forest. Ashitaka tries to mediate and falls in love with San in the process.
The film was massively successful in Japan and with both anime fans and "arthouse" moviegoers in English-speaking countries. In those countries, it was widely interpreted as a film about the environment, told in the form of Japanese mythology. The Walt Disney Company's Miramax subsidiary chose to put a lot of money into creating the English dub of the movie with famous actors and actresses, yet when they released it in theatres, there was little or no advertising and they gave it a very limited release where it was only in a few theatres and only for a very short time. Many anime fans didn't find out about it until it was too late. Disney later complained about the fact that it didn't do so well since apparently they expected that even under those conditions it would do as well in America as it did in Japan. Since then, the DVD sales have done far better because they do not have a limited availability.
The United States and United Kingdom DVD releases have both the English and Japanese soundtracks, and the US release additionally includes two different sets of English subtitles (the dialogue used in the dub and a "literal translation"). The English dub (which was taken from a literal translation into "words that people can say" by Neil Gaiman) simplifies many aspects of the film, and so many English-speaking fans of the film prefer to watch in Japanese with the "literal translation" subtitles.
The English translation of the title, Princess Mononoke, is somewhat misleading as it translates only half the title, leaving an impression that mononoke is a proper name. The original title Mononoke Hime actually means something like "Lady of the Ghosts" (although the concept embodied by the word "mononoke" is a complex one with no exact equivalent in English: hence the decision to leave it untranslated).
- Direction, Original Story & Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki
- Music: Joe Hisaishi
- Production: Studio Ghibli
- Executive Producers: Seiichiro Ujiie & Yutaka Narita
- Producer: Toshio Suzuki
- English language script for the US version: Neil Gaiman
- Yōji Matsuda - Ashitaka
- Yuriko Ishida - San
- Akihiro Miwa - Moro
- Yūko Tanaka - Lady Eboshi
- Kaoru Kobayashi - Jiko Bou
Miramax English dub voice actors
- Billy Crudup - Ashitaka
- Claire Danes - San
- Gillian Anderson - Moro
- Minnie Driver - Lady Eboshi
- Billy Bob Thornton - Jigo
- Princess Mononoke official Miramax site (archived)
- Princess Mononoke at RottenTomatoes
- Mononoke Hime page at Nausicaa.net
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