This myth of chivalry and environmental activism set in medieval Japan rises
above the typical anime fare seen in the US. Acclaimed animator Hayao
Miyazaki's heart-stopping art direction helped his film break box-office
records in Japan -- it's second only to Titanic.
The English translation by Neil Gaiman is nicely voiced by the likes of Claire
Danes, Gillian Anderson, and Billy Bob Thornton. Young Ashitaka (Billy Crudup),
the last warrior of a dying samurai clan, kills a giant boar that attacks his
village. When a strange scar consumes his body, the village wisewoman tells
Ashitaka that the boar was a nature-protecting demon, and that to lift the
beast's curse he must seek the Great God of the Forest. On his way he meets the
princess, also known as San (Danes); an orphan raised by the wolf goddess Moro
(with Anderson's husky whisper), she fights to save the forest from encroaching
exploitation by iron miners led by her nemesis, Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver).
Ashitaka, who's in love with San and living on borrowed time, must find a way
for the villagers and the forest dwellers to live in harmony. Its setting
reminiscent of C.S. Lewis's Narnia or Tolkien's Middle Earth, Princess
Mononoke resonates with quiet truths rarely channeled by Hollywood.
-- Peg Aloi