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Princess Mononoke (1999) – DVD Review

Princess Mononoke DVD cover art


Written by: Hayao Miyazaki, translated into English by Neil Gaiman
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton, Gillian Anderson


  • Featurette
  • Theatrical trailer

Released by: Miramax
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Own it.

When a demon invades his village and sets in motion events that are certain to eventually claim his life, Ashitaka (voiced by Crudup), must accept his destiny and go forth to find the origins of the demon and end the evil. On his journey he meets the beautiful yet savage San (voiced by Danes), who, with her family of wolves, is at war with the Lady Eboshi (voiced by Driver). Eboshi wants all the wilderness destroyed so she can mine for iron ore, whereas San is the forest’s protector. They want to kill each other. Out of all of this conflict, Ashitaka must somehow find a way to bring all the sides in this war to peace–lest no one survive.

[ad#longpost]No one was less surprised than I that a film of this magnitude would get such a shabby treatment on DVD. Considering every attempt was made by the company who owned the U.S. distribution rights, Miramax, to bury the film in cinemas, how could we expect any more from these people? I’m sure they felt that, due to the film’s underwhelming box office, the film needed no better than what we have here. Considering they guaranteed that box office with little to no support, who can blame them for being surprised at a prophecy that fulfills itself? This is Hollywood we’re talking about here.

So what did we get for our troubles? Well, a theatrical trailer and a five-minute featurette that’s simply adding insult to injury. The only thing to take away from the featurette is Danes’ vague and laughable notions of eco-friendliness. Having heard firsthand some of the stories from Gaiman about what went into making the English version of the film happen, it’s mind-boggling that they have only one comment from him. Not to mention the fact there’s no commentary track from Gaiman, and the closest thing we get to a making-of feature is one image of a running Ashitaka being drawn. Whoopee. And I read somewhere that there’s a 6-disc VHS set in Japan about the making of this film. And we get…shite. Figures.

Well, rather than just continue ranting around in circles, let me say this: buy the disc. The film is good enough that it makes up for the lack of extras and respect.

San from Princess Mononoke

Neil Gaiman from Princess Mononoke