Top positive review
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Best Ghibli film yet.
on 8 March 2007
In my opinion this is the best film from Studio Ghibli, and possibly the best animated film ever. This is because all of the different parts- the images, the story and the music- work together perfectly to transport the viewer to another world. Yes, it is set in Japan, but a Japan where iron was still a novelty and giant talking animal-gods ruled the land.
The imagery is probably the first thing that blew me away with this film. Even at the very beginning, there is about half a second of the hero, Ashitaka, riding through a wood, with the light and shade dappling his clothing so realistically that you are almost fooled into thinking it's a live-action shot they've sneaked in. The design of the characters, from the humans to the gods, is flawless, and some show real imagination (particularly the kodama).
The film's story is also brilliantly written, and never feels rushed or drawn out (although the ending feels a little abrupt). I won't waste time with a synopsis (as there's one above). I found that I became really emotionally attached to all of the characters, and you are constantly torn between which side you want to win; I eventually sided with Ashitaka, who basically just wants everyone to get along together, and although I found the ending a little rushed, it was extremely well done, and tied up most loose ends whilst leaving a sense of mystery.
However, it is the music that I think really makes this film stand out. The tunes are all beautiful on their own, but when paired with the imagery they help enormously to bring out all the emotions that Miyazaki (probably) intended. After hearing the song in the final scene, you'll have it stuck in your head for days.
Finally, I would say that this film is, like all anime, best viewed in the Japanese, with subtitles. The dub is better than most, but quite a few things are altered (for example most of the final scene, which really is the bit that should have been left intact). I also found that the American accents of the actors helped to remind me that I was watching a film, as opposed to living it. Be warned though, if watching with younger children; the subtitles do include a b-word or two.
Although some people have complained about the violence and gore, I don't think this is justified. Ghibli don't just make films for little kids, and Miyazaki wouldn't have included meaningless violence, as it's just not his style. It serves to remind us of the constant conflict between man and nature, and how cruel humans can be, which is one of the hardest-hitting messages in the film.
Overall, this is a film that you can't really go wrong with, as it's enjoyable on every level. Apart from very small children, this is great for any age group, and every self-respecting film fan should have it on their shelf.