Top positive review
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The best animated film I've yet seen.
on 30 October 2001
When I heard that this film was finally coming out over here I was very excited. I'd never seen it before, but had seen other works of Hayao Miyazaki such as Totoro and Cagliostro. I was worried when I heard it had been bought and dubbed by Disney, fearing another mangled and edited poor translation as happened with Nausicaa /warriors of the wind.
However, the translation is superb - done by no less than Neil Gaimen of Sandman fame - and the voice acting actually very good, with little of the poor acting and odd characterisation we've come to be used to. Perhaps the translation looses us some of the finer points, but none the less, it's superb.
The film - What can I say? This is an epic tale that will draw anyone in who starts watching it, no matter how old they are. I watched this with my father, who's not a fan of animation (especially not Japanese animation), and he was enthralled, loving the beauty and the characters. It's certainly not a children's film, as it becomes quite dark towards the end. Dealing with themes such as mankind's effect on the environment and the destructive power of anger, this film tells the tale of the conflicts between a group of humans and a group of nature gods. Some scenes have echoes of Nausicaa, especially in character designs, and fans of Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood books will find much they like here. Scenes of the Forest Spirit changing from the Night Walker to a multi horned, human faced deer that can walk on water have a strange magical pagan feel to them, and an eerie beauty.
I'm trying not to say too much about the story as to give things away would be a crime if you've not seen the film before. I will say this : the ending is spectacular and satisfying - in some ways it reminds me of the finale of Akira - yet it still manages to remain open ended. The viewer and the characters are treated with respect and we're not given a cut and dried "punish the bad / reward the good" ending. Indeed, there are few characters in the film who can be viewed as purely bad. This is a good thing.
This package doesn't have too many extras. You can see a nice trailer, a short making of film, and have the option to watch in the original language, which is always nice. You do get Helen McCarthy's excellent book on Hayao Miyazaki, and that is a superb bonus. Let's hope that we start to see more films given this treatment soon!