Princess Mononoke

This epic film, staring the voices of Gillian Anderson, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Billy Crudup and Billy Bob Thornton, tells a deep story of conflict and the repercussions for one's action. While protecting his village from a demonic beast, Ashitaka becomes infected with a curse. Banished from the village, Ashitaka goes on a search to discover the means by which the monster was created. Before too long, he comes across a magical forest, where he sees a young girl and three large wolves. Not long after, he comes across a mining town, which is in conflict with the spirits of the forest. At that point, Ashitaka becomes a part of the conflict, even though he wishes for a peaceful resolution and co-existence.

The strength of the story is not just that it tells a conflict between the industrial development of mankind versus the power of nature, but that the people involved are not so easy to define. While you might be able to immediately label certain characters, you'll find that everyone has their own reasons behind their actions. Every character, even down to the smallest bit part, is developed with enough heart to make the cast fully believable. Everyone has their own reasons why they do the things they do, so no single person can be defined as villain in the conflict.

The animation is wonderfully stylish. Environments has a watercolor style to them, giving a lush life to the film. Characters all have realistic animation to them, with a good degree of humanity given to the characters. The world is believable and the difference between the forest and the mining city are stark in intent and execution. Princess Mononoke manages to deliver an lush visual story without the excess.

With such a big-name cast, there was always the chance that some of the performances might not come off well, but the main characters all sound and feel well executed. Except for a few "stiff" performances, the English dub is pulled off well.

While running well over two hours in length, the story is paced well enough to keep you interested. By the time the film comes to an end, you'll feel like you've been through every aspect of the intense conflict. The ending comes across as bittersweet but appropriate after such an intense buildup. If you've ever enjoyed anime, you owe it to yourself to see this magnificent masterpiece.

- - Vane

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