This is a Japanese animation that’s been dubbed in English for an American audience – a folklore tale of demons and forest gods. It’s way too complex and violent for young kids. The animation is fairly staid; in most cases there’s little moving except for a mouth. But the artwork, can at times, be stunning.
Still, it’s an intriguing piece of work for older teens and adults via its environmental message. A young warrior named Ashitaka (voiced by Billy Crudup) defends the people of his village against a rampaging monster-sized boar that has been poisoned with ugly worm parasites and gone mad. Ashitaka is wounded by the boar and becomes poisoned himself. The villagers exile Ashitaka to journey to the land of the boars, a clan of forest-gods to seek out the entity that poisoned him and to hopefully find a cure for himself. This leads him to a village of iron-makers bent on destroying the forest and we come to understand that “Iron Town”, lead by the hateful Lady Eboshi (voiced by Minnie Driver), is at war with the protector of the forest, San or Princess Mononoke (Clair Danes). San is a young girl who was raised by a wolf and represents the wolf forest-god clan. She is unrelenting in her attacks on Iron Town and despises Lady Eboshi who she is trying desperately to kill. The boar forest-god, meanwhile, was the first unlikely one to fall prey to Eboshi’s efforts to ravage the forest’s resources. Ashitaka is caught in the middle as he tries to find a way for the forest dwellers and the inhabiitants of Iron Town to live peacefully.
The best scenes involve the Great God of the Forest, a kind of monkey-like-elk who both protects and transforms the forest into its living constituents.
Additional voicing from Gillian Anderson as Moro and Jada Pinkett Smith as Toki.
Lotta says: Generally the voices are good with the exception of the use of Billy Bob Thornton and his Texas twang in the role of Jigo, an Eboshi sidekick. The conservationist theme is an excellent one but the story’s resolution in view of it doesn’t satisfy. And I’d have to say it’s a little long but overall, it’s worth seeing. It’s rated PG-13 for lots of violence.