Most helpful critical review
on January 23, 2002
I'm sure some people will accuse me of being a purist. OK, I can live with that. BUT I don't think you have to be a purist to feel the way I do about this film. This film may have been the biggest seller of all time in Japan, but the English language version wasn't, isn't and will never be. Why? Because even if the translation was perfect, which it wasn't, there are WAY to many concepts inherent in the story that cannot be understood without extensive knowledge of Japanese history.
Take the ending for example. I'm sure I'm not the only person who felt like the ending fell a bit flat. That's because, while I have studied Japanese history, I don't have the true FEELING of what it means to be a samurai, to follow the samurai way (bushido). I don't truly comprehend the honor system, as most Japanese people do. And while I do have some real experience with Japanese romantic relationships, I (and most westerners) don't share their belief in unrecoited, and even unspoken, love.
On top of that, I strongly disagree with the casting choices made for many of the voices. Many of them were, in my opinion, simply monotonous, possibly because, I think, the voice actors were chosen because of the popularity of their names, rather than their actual abilities to do voice work, which is definitely different from acting in front of a camera. (Don't get me wrong, I love Gillian Anderson on camera.) And further on that subject, it just didn't fit to have have WESTERN American accents (and I am American) coming from traditional Japanese mouths, and it was even more inappropriate to have vastly different accents coming from characters living in one of the most homogeneous societies in the world. Once again, casting for the sake of popular names.
NOBODY can fault Hayao Miyazaki for his work. The animation was fantastic, the story epic, and the music perfect. But after seeing (unfortunately proceeded by buying) this film, I MUCH prefer watching it in the original Japanese version, even though I can't follow the dialogue. I'll keep it, but only because it helps complete my Miyazaki collection.