Princess Mononoke - The Miracle at the Harkins (Part One)
November 6, 1999
Something funny happened on the way to total despair for us two anime fans here in America.
We saw Princess Mononoke. Or rather, we *experienced* Princess Mononoke.
Sure, it wasn't the first time for either one of us - I'd seen it once before, Christi three times. We knew Disney was going to do a fine job of it, and we knew that Neil Gaiman and the rest of the crew would do their best to translate this for the American audience...but we had our doubts. What if the voices didn't fit? What if they added too much profanity - or change character's personalities beyond recognizability? What if they translated coffee into hot chocolate again? (Just kidding on that last one, folks ^_^) Still, we entered the late late ten-o-clock showing with many other anime fans, maybe with just a smidgen of trepidation in our hearts.
Sure, there were *plenty* of longtime diehard fans (most of whom we recognized from the Phoenix scene), but we were outnumbered by the curious and the DBZ trendy crowd. How were they going to react?
Well, worry no more. We saw a miracle at the Harkins. The crowd was cheering, laughing, and crying with each scene. Never more was there any doubt that this movie was indeed Something Special. The voices were perfectly fitting, the music soared on the THX, and the way the movie just melded its way onto the big screen - it was ALIVE! It was magic. It was almost religious. Fan and casual viewer alike were caught up in the spectacle, and we saw people change their opinions on animation before our eyes as surely as we saw Yakkle bound across the screen. And it was not just positive...but enlightening and heartening. After months of watching what some anime distributors were doing with their wares, and months of hearing that people only see anime as Pokemon and DBZ... this movie changed everything.
We were afraid that Tekken was the sign of the times, each Big Thing (Ninja Resurrection, Kite) worse than the last. But Princess Mononoke went even beyond being even a "Miyazaki film". On the big screen, it is simply one of the greatest animated films of all time. It doesn't just leave its mark as a wonderful anime...but as a wonderful animation. Period.
If this movie doesn't bring the respect the animation medium has long deserved from the American public...then I'm afraid nothing will. But even if the smallest amount of wonder is instilled in the most jaded fan by this movie, if not downright joy and affirmation - then Princess Mononoke, Studio Ghibli, and Disney have all done the world a true service. This is why we're anime fans ... because just beyond the corner, just when you think all hope is gone for the medium, a masterpiece like this is finally brought to its fullest potential. Forget being underground, trendy, or edgy. Animation has really, truly come into its own, and it's about damn time.
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