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Hayao Miyazaki's epic masterpiece FINALLY comes out on BLU-RAY!
on November 21, 2014
Of all of Studio Ghibli's many award winning films produced by it's co-founder Hayao Miyazaki; none has ever achieved the critical acclaim that Princess Mononoke did and there is no doubt that it is and will forever remain his most monumental achievement. Not to mention that It is also considered without a doubt to be one of the ten best animated movies ever made! So it is nice to see this masterpiece released on a North American Blu-ray where it rightfully belongs!
So what makes this film so incredibly good? First and foremost is the stunning level of detail. Although made back in 1997; it's level of detail and animated movement is so great that only a handful of cell based animated films has ever approached it and ironically half of them like Spirited Away and Ponyo are also Studio Ghibli films! Then throw in a complex storyline two and a quarter hours long (and never boring) that's constantly weaving new elements (always stunning in their visual beauty) into the mix and that never adheres to simplistic western ideas of good and bad and you have an animated movie that bears as much resemblance to a Frozen or a Sleeping Beauty as a B movie does to The Ten Commandments or Lawrence of Arabia.
For example in a typical animated movie the so-called heroine (San who has been raised by the Wolf God Moro) would be all noble and kind. But in this real world of myth and legend, she's quite willing to kill the odd innocent wagon driver if that's what it takes to preserve her beloved forest! And as for Lady Eboshi who rules Iron Town and in a typical western storyline would be a greedy tyrant. In Mononoke while yes, she may be destroying the forest and is also intent on killing the Great Forest spirit. She's also taking in girls from all the neighbouring brothels to run her forges and making them the equals of the men. Plus sheltering and protecting Lepers who she uses to make her guns and weapons. It's that sort of adult quality in plot and detail we're talking here!
As for this new Blu-ray release, video wise it's definitely worth upgrading from the older Miramax DVD release. Good as the DVD was, the new Blu-ray is even better! This is definitely the way a movie of this quality should be seen. Audio wise it's not quite as important as the original soundtracks are from the late 90's and were already in a DD 5.1 format. The DVD's tracks being boosted up to DTS-HD 5.1 tracks in English, French and Japanese. I didn't really notice that much difference over the DVD's existing DD 5.1 audio which already was quite good.
As for the included DVD release; it's essentially identical to the earlier Miramax DVD release right down to the menus which is why they don't match with the BD's menus which are similar to the new Kiki's Delivery Service Blu-ray that also just came out. So if you don't have a Blu-ray player and only intend to watch the new DVD; there's no point in upgrading from the older Miramax release.
Finally a few extra points. On the back cover Disney lists the DVD English track as 2.0. But not to worry as it is the same 5.1 track as the older Miramax release. Also because switching audio tracks also switches screen credits; you can only change audio options from the main menu! And finally on a more important note, if you prefer watching this with the Japanese audio track; please note the following. The literal translation track of the older release has been replaced with a newer subtitle track on both the BD and DVD that's essentially identical to the closed captioning track just without the extra sound effects captioning. In other words, it appears to be dub titled. So if you preferred the older literal translation track; you might want to hold on to your older release!
Now despite the niggling over the subtitles; overall I can't praise this movie enough! It is and still remains one of the finest animated movies of all time. And if you have a screen big enough; the new Blu-ray should definitely be picked up if you want to see just how good a true animated movie can be! FIVE BIG STARS OUT OF FIVE !!!