Video Picks Archive
Reviews by Matt Heffernan <email@example.com>
This week my picks are Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke) (1997 - ) and Akira (1988 - ).
This week, I present an Anime double feature. The first film is one of the best
examples of Japanese animation in recent years. It follows a young prince as he
goes deep into the woods to find the Forest Spirit, who he hopes will cure him
of a demonic possession. On his journey, he finds a village that wants to clear
a forest for mining, which would require killing the Forest Spirit. When the prince
arrives, only a girl raised by wolves (who turns out to be the long-lost Princess
Mononoke) is trying to protect the forest. Director Hayao Miyazaki is at the forefront
of his art, whose work is now influencing Western animators, as well. Princess
Mononoke is a breathtaking spectacle and a thrilling action-adventure, unlike
any film (animated or not) that came out of Hollywood last year. No wonder it took
third place in my list of the top ten films of 1999.
Now, in Japan, animated films are not always meant for the whole family. Princess Mononoke received a PG-13 rating for its gruesome violence. The second film was never rated at all, but it's definitely not for children. Akira depicts Tokyo after an explosion destroyed the city, and it was rebuilt as a dark and scary version of its former self. The government had been experimenting with children to give them psychic powers, but one subject, Akira, became pure energy, causing the destruction. Now, another test subject is about to wreak havoc on the city, forcing his fellow motorcycle gangmembers to stop him. That's the best I can do to briefly summarize this extremely bizarre film. It's not for all tastes, but the viewer will be rewarded with some incredibly brilliant imagery. Unfortunately, the video is off the market in North America, but copies should be available to rent in most video stores. European readers will be able to find the PAL-format VHS tape at Amazon.co.uk, and both the PAL VHS and the Region 2 DVD at Amazon.de.
Update, July 22, 2001: Akira is finally getting a proper video and DVD release in the U.S. on July 24. For the first time, the original Japanese voice-over track can be heard with English subtitles. The DVD features both subtitles and a newly translated English soundtrack. Another feature includes a caption for translating the ubiquitous Japanese graffiti. This is the new must-have for any Anime DVD collection. Buy it now!
For more information, visit the Internet Movie Database:
Mononoke Hime (1997)
Guide to Star Ratings
Capsule Reviews © 2000 Matt Heffernan