|Fan Reviews & Impressions of the Miramax English Dub|
The following are fan impressions and reviews of the Miramax English dub version of Princess Mononoke. These impressions originally were submitted either to the Miyazaki Mailing List, or directly to Team Ghiblink, by fans who saw the dub.
As of 27 October 1999, the English dub version has been shown at the following venues prior to its opening on 29 October:
The fan comments are reproduced here with minimal editing.
Some links to fan comments on other Web sites discussing the English dub version have also been collected here.
Links to articles and reviews concerning the original Japanese release can be found at the Impressions page.
Submitted by Daniel Kraig on 15 August 1999:
sure, I'd be more than happy to describe the experience with the Mononoke showing. I'll start with the booth on the Comic Con floor:
Physically, the booth was rather bland. One table with little information and a stand up in the rear advertising three films, Mononoke in the middle. The other two escape me but I don't believe they were animated films, the new Farely Bros. film being one if I recall correctly. Unfortunately, reluctant is the only adjective I have that I can really apply to the representative. Thanks to your excellent site I really had no questions for her. Almost immediately upon approaching the booth I caught site of a red flyer and glanced the enticing words, "Princess Mononoke," which was being given to someone, who like me, had spied it being given to someone else. I asked what it was and she was kind enough to show me though not kind enough to hide her hesitation. The only explanation I have as to her hesitation would be the lack of any guarantee the flyer gave the holder. The flyers permitted two admittance's and it was conveyed that I should arrive as early as possible. I gather more where given out than the theater capacity could hold ( the theater was one of those new stadium dealies with limited seating and small screen ).
After a rather suspenseful moment of being held about five back from the door as they went in and counted seats, my friend and I made it in. The organization on the theater side was not too stellar as Gaiman can attest. Twice during the Q&A he was competing with blaring theater music.
For those who have never seen him ( that day was my first time as well although it was earlier in the day during a panel for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund ) he is very British in the English Charm sort of way. He briefly mentioned that he had seen it 1400 times already but never the final dub but sadly, "for his sins," he had to return to the convention and give speeches and hand out Eisner Awards, but that he would definitely return to catch as much of it as possible.
Unfortunately, I was stiff necked in the second row of the theater, rather detached from the crowd and so couldn't really absorb how others were reacting to it as it was projecting. I can say for sure that every flying limb and head garnered the appropriate nervous giggles. In a way, due to my proximity to the screen, I am still looking forward to seeing it fully, from a distance where I can take everything in.
It was tough enough to remember everything ( and I think I did ) but don't think this is chronologically accurate:
"Are you know an Anime fan?"
"Before I was a vague anime fan. Now I am still a vague anime fan but now I am a huge Miyazaki fan" (Audience really loved this quote =)
"What's your favorite scene in the movie"
(in mock embarrassment) "the scene in the forest when it begins to rain and you see the drops on the rocks and then everything is glistening with water. You will never see that in a Disney film."
"Would you do it again?"
"I love doing it and am extremely proud of it but I will NEVER do this again. It is very difficult. I am used to writing whatever I want ( and Gaiman loves prose ) and it's not too great trying to get four syllables from three mouth flaps =)"
"How did it get to you"
(And this could be a joke, you decide) "Originally it was brought to Quentin Tarantino who said, 'Give this to Neil Gaiman.'
"Thank God!" =)
"Did you have any say in voice actors"
"no" and went on to mention that Billy Bob Thorton came in late and some of his lines were worked around him. And on a humorous note, shared how originally Leonardo Dicaprio was going to be one of the voices and that he, having a 13 year old daughter, feared should he turn down this job, he could expect ground glass in his morning tea.
When first approached he asked for a video cassette of the film but was told "no," and that he should see it on the big screen first. He was promptly flown to Los Angeles to do just that.
He was left out of the loop on the first dub and this was quickly discovered by the American director (please insert his name as it escapes me) who Gaiman had nothing but kind words about, that this was a big mistake as they had botched everything he wrote. Needless to say, it was rectified and Gaiman partook in the dubbing as well.
Gaiman and Audience Member:
Both consented humorously that the English dubbing matched the lip movements better than the Japanese language did.
Has yet to meet Miyazaki but he said every line of dialog was personally approved by him. There were no frames cut and the only dialog the was changed was only for additions, for American audiences that might be confused. His example was the scene where (insert name of male protagonist here) had to leave the village, the lines about "never returning, you are dead to us now" to explain the ritual of the hair cutting.
An example of the approval process, this one he won: The line in Japanese Miyazaki thought was better translated as "this is no ordinary wound" but Gaiman really thought this too stiff and too Saturday morning cartoonish and so he got "this wound is something evil" Gaiman said Miyazaki doesn't speak English but does read it proficiently.
K, that's about it.
Submitted by Chris "Tigger" Wallace on 15 August 1999:
Have to wade through 374 letters, but in case no one else has yet to post it, Miramax held a special invitation-only screening of the dubbed "Mononoke-hime" at San Diego Comic Con.
The short review - pretty darn good. I was not too conscious though it (having still trying to undo severe jet-lag and no sleep), but the voice acting was pretty decent. Little stilted in places, but a valiant first effort.
More in a few days (unless someone else beats me to it - and feel free to do so).
Submitted by Adam Tierney on 16 August 1999:
Hey, I really love your page to death and would ALWAYS love to help out in any way I can. Anyway, I was one out of a couple hundred VERY lucky people to see the world premier of the English dub of Mononoke last Saturday in conjunction with the San Diego Comicon 1999, and if you'd be willing to use it for your news, I'd like to share a review/news update about the dub with you.
The film begins exactly the same, and true to their agreement, Disney (they're actually releasing the film through Dimension, a subsidary of Miramax) has not taken out one second of footage. Joe Hisaishi's score also seemed to be entirely intact. But as for the dialogue, CHANGES GALORE. Not to dumb it down, but I could understand that changes had to be made by Mr. Gaiman (who was there for Q & A, and whom I got to ask a few questions to as well). The first immediate change is that during the once silent (save the score music) opening scene, now they have a narration by Keith David (from Dead Presidents, Something About Mary, and the voice of Goliath from TV's Gargoyles). The opening prologue basically tells about the age of forest gods and demons and what-not, which I guess is somewhat necessary for American audiences, who are not used to the deep myth-style storytelling of the Japanese.
From that the story remains farily the same. Billy Crudup is a very good Ashitaka, and refers to his ride as "Yakkule" instead of "Yakkuru". He then rides up to the watch with the old man, where there occurs another change - the concept of the "tatarigami" is not longer in the film, in the sense that the people have NO IDEA what is coming out of the forest. As he's being chased, Ashitaka is yelling at the beast stuff like "I do not know what you are, friend or demon, but please calm yourself!" Again, this happens when the old woman magistrate walks to the beast, and says something like "I do not know what you are, but I bow to you."
Ashitaka gets hurt in the arm again, and when he is in the hut with the old woman and the town nobles, she instead of in the original version, says he must now cut his hair and goes into the symbolism of that, before he leaves. And as he leaves, when the young girl (I cannot remember her name for the life of me) runs up to Ashitaka, she is now his sister (I'm assuming so that American audiences can be more comfortable with his and San's relationship later on).
The wife in the town (in the pink shirt) is played by Jada Pinkett, and of course Lady Eboshi is played by Minnie Driver. Both keep their respective accents, which seemed a little strange in the film: Pinket had a very black dialogue, and Driver had a very English one, and it seemed a little strange considering they are supposed to all be from the same area. As San, Claire Daines does farily well, especially when she first fights Eboshi (Daines really gets some good grunts out). But Gillian Anderson, though she does TRY, just cannot get the gruff, animalistic voice that Akirhiro Miwa used for Moro, even with help from echoey sound effects. Billy Bob Thornton plays Jiko, and is pretty funny at his lines, though I felt at times he lent a little too MUCH humor to the film and in translation, it lost much of it's poetry.
Gaiman spoke on that at one of his panels, and how difficult it was to write for the film. I asked him if he'd be willign to script any of the other Miyazaki translations, and he said, "It was an amazing process, it was a wonderful thing to be a prt of, and I'd never do it again in my life." He spoke of the difficulty of balancing the idea of faithful translation, and still sneaking in enough information to keep American audiences understanding the film. He also said one of the most frustrating things he encountered, was "having a really great line in mind in four syllabyls, and the character only flaps his mouth three times." And in that repect, Gaiman did a great job - this film did come out of the characters mouths even better than the original Japanese did, which is a GREAT rarity compared to most dubbing jobs. He also talked abotu translating not just the literal words, but concepts and impact, too. Such as when Jiko tastes his soup. Gaiman said "the literal translation was, 'This soup tastes like water', which on a scale of insult, from one to ten, is a ten in Japanese culture. But when you translate it into English, this soup tastes like water, it rates down at about a one. So I changed it to, 'This tastes like donkey piss', and that put it back up at a ten again."
Keith David probably gave the best performance of the film as the second, white boar, whose name I cannot remember - he was very deep and animal, and did well as the boar lost all his sense in flight toward the forest lake. And while basically everyone did well enough, it just felt like Driver, Pinkett, Anderson & Thornton were ill-placed. The film as a whole did dissapoint me, but then I thought, well the whole reason thsi si beign translated is for the regular American audience to understand it, and if that means dumbing it down here, or putting more explanation, or sneaking in a couple more jokes, it's fine. And if you go into the theaters with those expectations, you won't be dissapointed - just know that this is not the direct translations we are used to, this is the AMERICAN VERSION of Mononoke, and reflects just that.
I asked Gaiman if he would ever work with Miyazaki in comics form, write a story for him to illustrate, and he kind of stared at me as if I'd spouted utter nonsense, and said, "Would I ever work with Miyazaki on a comic? Of course...I'm not STUPID." He was a very funny and interesting guy to listen to. He also told us of how he got involved, which is hilarious. He said that Harvey Weinstein (chairman of Miramax) aquired Mononoke Hime and said, 'There is only one person to write the adaptation of this film - Quentin Tarantino.' Of course, when he phoned Quentin, he declined and said he could never do it, go get Neil Gaiman. So Weinstein did, and refusing to send Neil a copy of the tape, instead set up a full theater for him to watch it in, subtitled, to get the whoel glory of the film, and Neil loved it. But what really clenched the deal was that Weinstein said, "Look, we've got the film all ready, we've already started casting, and Leonardo DiCprio is almost CERTAIN to play Ashitaka, he's already expressed an interest." And as soon as Maddy Gaiman (Neil's daughter) heard that, she looked at her father and said, "Daddy, you're not even THINKING about turning this down, are you?" And so he signed on, even though DiCaprio backed out and Crudup took over wonderfully.
And that's about it. If you'd like I could answer any more questions and/or send you a scan of the movie pass they gave out (it has an image of the American poster, but it's a horribly photocpied pass they gave us and I'm not sure how it'd come out). Also, I saw at the Bandai/Pioneer booth that a video of "The Dog of Flanders" (the TV show Miyazaki & Takahata briefly worked on) is released, and though their footage is not included, it has that older Takahata look to it, like Heidi. And also by Bandai/Pioneer, and more importantly, Panda Kopanda is being released here in the states, titled "Panda and Friends." I was unsure form the preview whether it's going to be dubbed, since all they showed was clips from the shows, along with that annyoing cute theme song, but I woudl assume dubbing is going to happen since it's a show for small children. Also, they showed clips from both episodes, so it looks like they will be included on one tape. And very lastly, Bandai/Pioneer also showed (only as a title) that "The Castle of Cagliostro" is being rereleased through them. I asked whether or not the original dub would be used (which I quite liked, presonally) or a new one done, and the spokesman said that they would like to do a new dub, but it all depends on how much time they have.
Thanks for reading all this. Please feel free to reprint all or part of what I reported, and email me back if you need any more information or the scan. Thanks, and keep up the great page!
- Adam Tierney
(Follow-up to Adam's original submission:)
Yes, the vocal song WAS in the movie, and translated into English. I'm not sure who did it, but it was SO well done that the girl was already singing it for a good minute before I even REALIZED it wasn't the original Japanese version. Gaiman commented on translating the song, too, and how strict Ghibli was, saying 'Well, you can use the word Ghost here, but not cloud here,' and so on. He said that Ghibli was very strict (not necessarily in a bad way) along the way, constantly checking up on his script, and that full new version were always sent to Miyazaki to read over, though it seemed that Gaiman never did actually meet Miyazaki himself.
(Another follow-up to Adam's original submission:)
The song did not seem to be by any recognizable star, and I swear, it sounded EXACTLY like the Japanese girl's voice, and I could barely tell it was in English at all. But I doubt they used anyoen famous, since they really seemed to be tryign to make it an unnoticable change.
I'm not exactly sure if it was used twice - I would assume that it was, since all the music seemed to be placed exactly the same in this version, but I only really noticed it at the end of the film.
I'm a pretty big fan of Angelina Jolie's, and not much of a fan at all of Puff Daddy's, but I know their voices pretty well and I didn't hear them or see their names on any of the credits. Aside from the main players (Crudup, Daines, Pinkett, Thornton, Anderson & Driver) the only person's name I recognized (and whose performance I REALLY loved) was Keith David, who got a lousy billing in the secondary cast, even though his part is MUCH more important than Pinkett's was.
The opening of the film had a new logo by MIRAMAX.
Actually now that you mention it, the prologue DID seem familiar - it was spoken by Mr. David, and was probably more or less the same as the written one in the original version. I don't know for sure though, I'll have to check my copy at home.
The poster used for the film (and the Dimension booth had some REALLY nice half-sized posters in full color, which I wish I could've swiped) was of a bust-shot of San, looking to the right side, and I think holding a dagger, with various little villagey imagery below her. I could be mistaken, but that's basically what it was. I was surprised, since I always thought they would just use the classic bloody San/Moro shot.
Submitted by Lee Bourgeois on 17 August 1999:
The 1999 San Diego Comic Con International had a special treat for those fortunate enough to have gotten a Princess Mononke flier from the Miramax/Dimension Films booth (#2734), which was redeemed at the Gaslamp 15 Theater at 701 5th St., last Friday, August 13, 1999. It was difficult to get the flier at the con, because fans were told on different occasions that, it would be "1st come 1st served", that later became "there will probably be a drawing", then on the 13th at 10:30am, I was told they had handed out fliers, and would hand out more throughout the day. When asked when, I was told "sometime today".
I stopped by again and was told the rest of the fliers would be handed out at 2:30pm. I arrived at 2:15, and the booth was already surrounded by a crowd 3 rows of fans deep, that later grew to 5, and caused security to tell everyone they were blocking the aisle. The last of the fliers were handed out to a scene of outstretched hands. I felt the flier touch my hand and felt lucky to have gotten it. The flier stated that: the showing was for 7:30pm, to get there early, that there was no guarantee of admission, it was good for two tickets, and that Neil Gaiman, who scripted the English dub, would be there to give a talk and answer questions.
I rushed over to the theater at 5:30pm, to find a line had already formed. Many of the people I met were fans of Miyazaki-sama's work and there were people who knew nothing, but were interested in seeing this premier. One of the fans was costumed as "San". The doors opened up at 7pm to those who had redeemed their fliers for tickets, the rest waited anxiously for a chance to get in, while the people with tickets got seated. The viewing-room had stadium style seating so everyone that got a seat, got a good view.
At 7:30pm, Mr. Gaiman came in to tell us about his participation in scripting the English version. He stated that it had been a very difficult task for him, because of the constant dialog of changes and adjustments to the script, between the studios and himself, which he found amusing, but took a lot of time to complete, and he said he wouldn't want to go through that again. He was very proud of his accomplishment, his relationship with Hayou Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, Harvey Weinstein, and Miramax Films. Neil told us to enjoy the showing, he was unavoidably called to hand out awards at the Eisner Awards ceremony, had not seen the newly scripted version in its entirety (and wished to), but would be back later as soon as he could, for the viewing and the question and answer period afterwards
We all settled in for what turned out to be the best presentation of Miyazaki's work to date. The original soundtrack was left intact, the songs used the original music score (the lyrics according to Mr. Gaiman, after the viewing were probably the most negotiated over out of all the adjustments), the dialog adhered for the most part to a literal translation, with all Japanese surnames being enunciated correctly, the voice acting was very well done (with most of the emotions of the characters matching that of the Japanese voice actors'). My friends and I knew we were seeing the equivalent of the best anyone has ever done in paying homage to the Japanese and their animated visual storytelling! We were ecstatic over the production values and the sense that the right people who cared about the project were allowed to complete it. I'm telling everyone I know or meet, to see this great accomplishment! I hope this kind of effort from Miramax will spill over into the other Ghibli Studio works.
Sincerely, Lee Bourgeois
Submitted by Mike Nelson on 17 August 1999:
I was recently in San Diego for the Comic Con and while there, a bunch of my friends and I were priveleged to catch the very first viewing of the completed Princess Mononoke dub. We saw it in a theater in downtown San Diego. I had never seen or even really heard of Mononoke Hime before this but my friends all had and they had seen fansub copies of it so they dragged me along to see it and I must say that it was an incredible movie. My friends all said that it was the best dub of an anime that they had ever seen. Neil Gaimen was even on hand to do a Q&A afterwards. The dub was very faithful, according to my friends and Neil Gaimen, except for a few lines which mean basically the same thing and there are also a few lines added to give a bit of an explanation at times, but other than that, expect a treat.
Submitted by Imaginary Girl on 3 September 1999:
I was fortunate enough to not only see the Ghibli VHS from Japan (no subs, a but an excellent script to go on) but to be one of the first viewers of the finished product at San Diego Comic Con last month. Once we found out the film was being screened, you better believe we made it our life's mission to get in. I have had friends sigh and ask me things like, "How bad is it, really?" and "What kind of dumbing down did they do for the American audiences" and I was happy to tell them all that this English dubbed version of Miyazaki's masterpiece got my two enthusiastic thumbs up. Miramax did a FABULOUS job with the voice casting and with the delicate handling of the subject matter. This wasn't a kid's film to begin with, and it hasn'e been compromised for US audiences, either.
Thank God for Neil Gaiman, a man who appreciated the work in its original form and kept its integrity intact, and thank God for Miramax in not disappointing this Miyazaki fan at all!
Submitted by Ashitaka no Miko on 19 September 1999:
Starting at the beginning.... the line up was *huge*. I got there early enough to be near the front of it but by about 6:15 (the show started at 7) the line had extended halfway around the block.... and this was the line for those who had tickets.... I couldn't see the end of the rush line and I wasn't about to leave my spot to try. An amusing note is that the usher who was making sure we all had tickets had started out saying 'Princess Monoke' but was corrected before he had the chance to say it more than twice. I saw a copy of the english film poster. It looks nice. The folks from Miramax look to be doing their best for PM.
Once inside the theater, everyone was very excited. The cheering started the moment the lights began to dim. Miyazaki-san was welcomed with a standing ovation that lasted a good 5 or 6 minutes but quieted very quickly as he began too speak. He welcomed us and explained that the movie (MH) had been created by ignoring all rules set down to make entertainment. He also apologized for the length of the film. (as if any apology was necessary....) Again, the audience cheered at his words.
Then the spotlight was turned off and the opening ads began to roll.... we started cheering again when the Ghibli logo came on screen.... (of course, this might have been because it was the _last_ of the logos....) And then it began.....
I'll try to avoid any spoilers....
The voice-over at the beginning was well done and complements the pictures behind it. It's very similar to the dialogue in the english trailer at the end of the MH LD. "In ancient times, the world was covered by forests ruled by god-like beasts and demons. Now, the forests have dwindled to a few scattered outpost ruled by the the Spirit of the Forest" or something like that.....
As for the voices.....most of them were extremely well done. A few things bugged me though.... the first few lines of Gillian Anderson's dialogue seemed a bit off....but got better later on... I can hear why people don't like Thorton as Jikobou. Thorton's voice sounds more open than the original's who's voice had a shady overtone to it which suited the character much better. Kouroku's name is mispronouced often... sounds like koro-KOO instead of KOH-roku. Danes does not sound like a valley girl..... I don't understand where that impression came from.
The song dubbing was seamless....but the words were a bit hard to pick out.
*SPOILER* (skip next paragraph)
The only part of the translation that bugged me was near the end when Ashitaka calls out "Forest spirit! I give you back your head!" It sounded a bit ....over dramatic ?.... but that was it.....
Overall, people liked it. I happened to be sitting behind some people who had never heard of Ghibli nor seen any Anime before.... (though they'd heard of anime). They were surprised and impressed by the depth and splendor of the film. As they left they said they felt like they needed to sit down and discuss the movie over dinner.... something they hadn't really experienced from an animated movie before....
-Ashitaka no Miko.
Submitted by Kachina Angelblood on 20 September 1999:
Hi all, i never really post, but heres my fun story of my first viewing of Mononoke last night in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass.. Lots of minor spoilers ahead, so be afraid, be very afraid...
I went with my sister, and her boyfriend, cos i knew they'd love it more than they'd realise. but she was late picking me up (as per usual) and we arrived for the 7pm showing a little after six to a long line. for the 9:40 showing. 7pm was sold out, and tickets for the last show didn't go on sale for another half hour. Not being of the obsessive mindset, my sister and her beau fled the scene (i anticipated a long T ride home).
wait in line forever. finally got a ticket (i half expected them to sell out just in front of me: Its a small theatre, and i was really that far back in the queue) i ran to Ma Soba and got some mandarin interpretation of pa jun to go, and got in the queue for entrance to the theatre. much further up than before. i started getting chilly and bored when the line started to move at 9:50. The film started at 10:06.
Here come the spoilers....
ok, i really liked it, and this is really going to be big. This is the best promotion for this film (the festivals) and i think its going to pull off. The dubbing was real good, in that i forgot to be mad that it wasn't a sub. Billy crudup, Minnie Driver, Jada Pinkett-Smith were all good. The forest gods irked me a little, voice vise, but that was an artistic choice, i guess. Claire Danes wasn't as good as id hoped, a little too animalistic, i suppose, but maybe the role was simplified somewhere. Puff Daddy and Matthew Lillard are not in it, IIRC, despite what the FAQ says (this sorely needs an update)
i really loved the Kodama. I want a stuffed one on my bed. I think it may be my Hallowe'en costume as well, as soon as i figure out that head thing. One comment i loved from another viewer was that "you just know those are gonna be all over my walls by tomorrow." ^_^ In general, people loved it. people missed a few things that were too japanesey for them (beheadings? well, they got the effect, but they thought it was odd for this kind of movie) and when one of the wolves starts chewing on Ashitaka's head (it was pretty funny tho)
As for Ryoko's concern about the good/evil dichotomy being brought into the story: I think the way they said the wound was evil, they were wrong in that Ashitaka didn't know any better. Later on, he realises that its not the wound that is evil, it is his own hatred. In fact, its not his 'red right hand' that gives him his strong moral fiber. The evil/hatred thing is not so clear when transferred to the gods who have turned into demons, but then we don't have a word in English that includes both god and demon.
speaking of which, i agree with Miyazaki's thought that the title should have been changed. this wasn't really about San, but Ashitaka. Also, i don't think people in this country will get the Mononoke=San thing. it took me a bit as well. I knew Princess Mononoke referred to San, but when the characters said "San" i didn't know who it was.
As for undue comparisons to Nausicša: I still like Nausicša better, although Mononoke was excellent. The music was also better, imnsho, i didn't really hear any hooks in the one prominent song i heard. Still cant beat the Nausicša requiem.
that's it a guess. i hope next week is a little more sane.
Submitted by Enrico Casarosa on 26 September 1999:
Just got back from the PM showing at NYFF !!! It was great !!! Miyazaki-San
SUzuki-San , Neil gaiman , Claire Daines showed up !!! Pretty exciting !
I enjoyed the dub ..... I personally didn't find major annoyances with the
voice dubbing ....
Even Bob Thorthon (who I had heard bad things about) wasn't bad I thought... I was very glad to see that Miramax didn't add a single second of extra soundtrack !! All the silences were there .... And the English versions of the songs were pretty good.
The only problems I have are with the Avery Fisher Hall !! I wish the screen was bigger (I was a bit far back ....)!! And the "exit" lights were way too bright !!! So the teather wasn't dark enough !! That really bothered me !!! That and a damn %#@$^^& sitting behind me ... laughing talking and chewing gum with an open mouth during the all movie!! (Excuse me .... Just a little frustrated).
OH and another thing ... Is it me or the Miramax poster (the one with the coin thing) kind of suck? Well, my 2 cents ....
Submitted by Ryoko Toyama on 26 September 1999:
Addendum to Ryoko's comments, submitted by Griffin Waldau on 27 September 1999:
"But it is one of the best dub I've ever seen."
Yeah, I feel that way too, I feel that "the poetic interepretation" wasn't quite poetic enough in quite a few places, I felt that some of the more delicate lines were replaced with a harshness. But it was still great. Ashitaka's voice was really good, except why "Ash-ee-taka" why??
(A Nausicaa Nocturne: http://www.waldau.com/griffin.html)
Addenda to Ryoko's comments, submitted by Tom Wilkes on 27 and 28 September 1999:
"Finally, the organizer appeared on stage, and introduced
If I recall correctly, Jack Fletcher -- director of the English dub voice cast for PM -- was also introduced onstage at the New York Film Festival showing.
"Yeah, I feel that way too [...]"
Ditto -- ignoring the voices for the moment, I felt that overall the dub was very close to the original Japanese version, to the extent that I could recognize the source of 90% or more of the lines in the English version.
"Ashitaka's voice was really good, except why "Ash-ee-taka"
The pronunciation was more like "Ah-shee-ta-ka," which isn't quite as bad. ^_^ Perhaps it was done that way because it has the same number of syllables as "Ani-sama" ("older brother," which is how Kaya addresses Ashitaka in the opening scenes of the original Japanese version). There are other instances in which this four-syllable pronunciation of Ashitaka's name better fits the lip movements for the English version (e.g., "Ashitaka-hiko" => "Prince Ah-shee-ta-ka")
Addendum to Ryoko's comments, submitted by Justin Sevakis on 28 September 1999:
I have to dig my notes out from all the people I interviewed with Ryoko's help (I WAS nervous! I'm just naturally impolite and loud! ;) and I'll post my findings on AnimeNewsNetwork.com within a day or so. The theater was really better suited for orchestral performances than for films, and the screen was rather small from where I was sitting too, but everyone I was sitting near seemed to enjoy it immensely. A few people walked out. I resisted the temptation to trip them.
The dub was FANTASTIC. More on that on ANN as well.
Submitted by Jee Hoon Lee on 2 October 1999:
The September 30th sneak preview of Princess Mononoke was a resounding success. Although I tried to get there as early as possible, I finally got to the James Bridges theatre on the UCLA campus by 5:15 or so and the line was already getting long. By the time the box office opened, the line was still growing and before the screening commenced an announcer gave a brief introductory speech and mentioned that "another theatre full of people" were turned away.
Quite a few of those in attendance were obviously familiar with Miyazaki and clapped enthusiastically as the lights dimmed for the movie. And indeed, there was laughter at certain violent scenes (plus roaring laughter when the wolf tries to rip off Ashitaka's head) as I expected after reading other reports from previous US screenings. It seemed to be positive laughter--perhaps inappropriate but understandable. Why do I think so? I really can't say except for the answer of someone I viewed the movie with: he laughed and commented even more than the average viewer during the screening, clearly enjoying himself, so I asked him why he laughed at certain times which seemed inappropriate, to which he replied, "I don't know. I had a good time and that's all I care about."
I'm still anxious to see the movie again in a "standard" theatre when it officially opens to gauge the response of a more average American crowd. Plus, the sound system was adequate but as far as I could tell, it was in mono.
My reactions to the movie: I enjoyed it, but I was surprised at my renewed ambivilance about the animation. It was wonderful to see the rich detail on the big screen, yet at certain times I wished the character animation was more fluid or dynamic. The visual storytelling was strong enough to offset this--Miyazaki certainly has a masters eye for moving the scenes in a highly cinematic way that is uniquely his own. Much like watching a Stanley Kubrick movie and exclaiming "That's a classic tracking shot".
The English dialogue was adequate yet felt rushed or forced at times. I actually rather liked Gillian Anderson's version of Moro. With many of the other voices, especially Thorntons, I had a difficult time attaching the voice to the character in a meaningful way.
This will always be a problem: if you were directing the live-action play version (heh heh), what would you tell Claire Danes to do? "Hello, Claire. Ah, see you're playing a Japanese girl raised by a wolf-god. You really hate people and you think of yourself as a wolf--no, no you don't actually sound or walk around like a feral wolf-child--you have clothes and are educated in the language of ancient Japan. Yah, you're a confused, alienated teen-ager who kills humans--just don't ask me what you eat, as far as I know its beef jerkey. Got it?"
Or Billy Crudup, "You are a stoic young prince. No, you don't have a kingdom, you've been banished from a tiny lost tribe of Japanese peasant-types. You're one cool character under pressure, except for the curse thing. Just think of yourself as Steven Seagal without the stick up your butt. By the way, you fall in love with a wild-child girl who's never been on a date and wants to kill you half the time--not an original situation I know, but work with it."
Minnie Driver, "Just keep that luscious accent and act cold as ice, you're perfect. Background? I'm not sure, you're supposed to be one hellbent lady who comes out of nowhere in feudal Japan to beat back oppressive nature and the patriarchal samurai ruling classes to create a feminist utopia. Rush Limbaugh would call you a Godless femi-nazi. You even have an emasculated sidekick to boss around (he also gets his phallic symbol turned into a useless pretzel by the hero)."
Jee Hoon Lee
Submitted by Pamela Scoville (via Andrew Osmond) on 3 October 1999:
Note (by Andrew Osmond): The following report is excerpted from Issue 4 of the monthly e-zine PaperSnarl, providing news and gossip from the worlds of sf and fantasy (particular emphasis on artwork, convention reports and animation). Anyone interested in subscribing should drop a e-mail to email@example.com with the single-word subject line SUBSCRIBE (UNSUBSCRIBE to remove).
By a coincidence-that-was-presumably-no-coincidence, on Sunday there was, not as part of MoMA's retrospective but as one of the movies on show at the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, the US premiere of the English-language version of the Miyazaki/Ghibli hit _Princess Mononoke_, in its original Japanese version one of the biggest box-office successes of all time. Presumably the MoMA organizers had been brought in to help out the folk at the Lincoln Center: not only was there still no popcorn, but the performance started 25 minutes late, by which time the audience -- who felt they deserved at least some kind of public apology for the delay, having paid $14+ per seat -- were slow-handclapping. Finally a panjandrum appeared with the sorry explanation: "These things take time." This was so patronizing -- he might have done us the courtesy of lying -- that it made the audience angrier. This was a pity, because unbeknownst to us Miyazaki himself was waiting in the wings ready to say a few introductory words. Before his appearance various other people involved in the production were introduced, notably Neil Gaiman (or Neil Gelman, as the panjandrum called him), responsible for the English-language adaptation and for some reason obviously regarded by the panjandrum as less important in the scheme of things than, say, the duo responsible for casting the voices. Which they had done very badly: all through the movie we were conscious that we were watching a near-masterpiece but that somehow it wasn't _stirring_ us the way it should, and this was attributable to the voice-track -- not the adaptation, which was perfectly serviceable, but the voicing itself, which was poorly cast and flatly directed. We both decided that we'd like to see the Japanese-with-subtitles version; contrary to the usual case, this may well be the version of choice.
Submitted by Charlie Tangora on 9 October 1999:
Well, I'm now back from my first viewing of Whisper of the Heart, as well as the PM Chicago premiere, and I'm done with the SAT (Saturday Schedule: 1) Take SAT. 2) Eat lunch. 3) See Mimi. ) so I have time that I don't have to spend studying. My impressions:
Mimi has stunning backgrounds, animation, and sound, and that Miyazaki-directed flying sequence is just amazing. And, in contrast, the story is a wonderful, quiet, unassuming love story. Superb filmmaking, and it really hit the spot after the past few days, which have been very stressful for me.
PM: Any good opinion I ever had of any other dub I've ever heard has just been destroyed. Wow. That's all I can say. Wow. I'm familiar with all the mistakes people make when trying to dub a film. There's the extra "you know" or "right" put in to make the lips match (Sailor Moon,) or the obsessively literal translation that makes no sense a result (Perfect Blue) or the actors concentrating on syncing the dialogue and not on how their voice sounds, which gives you overacting, underacting, stiffness, even from actors that are normally very competent. Gone. It's beautiful. These voice actors are _acting,_ not just rerecording.
Which brings me to another point. They are acting. They are using their own interpretations of the character, not the original actors'. Claire Danes's San is very different from Yuriko Ishiida's San, and Billy Bob Thornton's Jiko-Bou is nothing like Kaoru Kobayashi's. I know it's bound to cause controversy, like whenever anything gets changed, but I for one like it. For once, I was not loving the movie and tolerating the new voices, I was actually enjoying the different take on it. When I want to hear the original versions, I'll get out my LD. And I liked the use of accent. Sure, you wouldn't be hearing an English accent in ancient Japan, but you also wouldn't be hearing English!
OK. Audience response. I'll elaborate more once I get into spoiler space. There was an amazing lack of crowds. And I mean everyone there was stunned at the lack of people who showed up. We'd all heard the horror stories from New York and UCLA, and the Film Center office had been flooded with calls inquiring about PM. But the line didn't even start to form until an hour twenty before the showing, and it never got longer than about 20 people. It did manage to sell out, though. At Mimi today, there were a lot of empty seats.
Yes, there were laughs at the violent bits, but there were bigger laughs at funny bits. During some of the quiet parts early on, there was some restlessness, but by the end, you could have heard a pin drop. And there was huge applause at the end.
I also begin to understand some of the complaints critics have been making. As for the length of the film, I think it's perfect; Miyazaki-san had a lot of things to put in, but he got it all in. The thing is that the SAIC Film Center seats are hour-and-a-half seats, at best. By the end of the film, nearly 3 hours after I sat down, my rear end was *hurting.* It's a credit to Miyazaki's ability that I didn't notice it until after the film was over.
Also, as for those critics who don't understand the film. At the end of my row, there was a guy who appeared tot be a critic. My friend, sitting next to him, said this guy was looking down, scribbling in his notebook the whole time. "I mean.. WATCH THE DAMN MOVIE!"
Okay, I'm going to move into spoiler space now...
PRINCESS MONONOKE SPOILERS
I DISCUSS SOME DETAILS YOU CAN SEE ONLY ON THE BIG SCREEN
DO NOT GO UNLESS YOU HAVE *AT LEAST* SEEN THE JAPANESE VERSION
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
Might as well go through in chronological order, I guess. There is an opening narration, which extends much longer than the original text, and appears to be based on the promo film's narration.
The Tatarigami is now simply a "demon." Less complicated that way, certainly. And no lines are hurt because of it. And the rules surrounding them are unchanged. But it's still the biggest problem I have with the dub, and, well, it's because it makes taking sides almost a requirement in discussion. Sailor Moon has this problem - all the names were changed for the dub. So, you can't even mention a character's name without implicitly endorsing the dub or the original, and probably getting flamed for it. No matter what you're discussing. Likewise, Okkotonushi is now just "Okkoto."
Groans and expressions of disgust when the Tatarigami was around - and there was a laugh when Hii-sama (now "the wise woman") first appeared. I think it was because she was being carried.
Kaya is now very clearly Ashitaka's sister.
And the violence. Yes, it got laughs. But it was clearly different from obviously intentional laughs, like the ones Kouroku or the Kodama (name unchanged ^_^ though I actually wouldn't have minded if they had been changed to "Echoes," and I was wondering if they'd do that) got. Especially Ashitaka's second battle with samurai (when Yakkul got hit by an arrow) which got what was, for me, a very gratifying response. When we saw Ashitaka's scar grow, there was a rumble of apprehension that passed through the audience (collective holding of breath) and once people started dying, there was not only laughter, but many exclamations and oaths from people ("Holy shit!" "Oh my God!" "Jesus Christ!" etc.) I think it had it's desired effect.
The Kodama got quite a fan club. When they were playing off Kouroku, there were lots of laughs. The first really, full-blown, HUGE laugh I heard from the audience was when they started imitating Ashitaka carrying the wounded man on his back. One of them paused, and the audience realized what he was doing. MASSIVE laughter. By the end of the first scene involving them, it got to the point where a laugh would come whenever one so much as smiled. And, indeed, the point where I felt like the last strings broke and the audience got pulled completely into the film was when they started to die. The one who appeared at the end got several relieved laughs and sighs.
It's probably obvious by now that MH seems a lot funnier now than when I first watched it. The best, most moving scenes are unchanged, and even more amazing once they're up on the big screen. But a lot of the little bits of humor are played up in the new version. For example, San's brothers and their stomachs. First, it's well established by the original footage, when one of them grabs a dead ox from the stream and runs off with it after Ashitaka's first encounter with San. That's now very visible - it was hard to see on video. And, with their appetites established, Neil beautifully rewrote the "Can we eat Yakkul?" scene;
Wolf 1: What about... *him*?
Wolf 2: Yeeeeessss.....
*HUGE LAUGH* (might have been a line covered by the laughter, I'm not sure)
San; No, you may not. Go on home.
What a great dub... I just can't get over it. And I hear comments from friends like "Every other animated film I've ever seen has gone down two notches," "Lets's see, my favorite animated films... Mononoke, obviously - *THEN* Akira, Laputa, ..." or my favorite: "I've got one big problem with Mononoke... I have to wait until the 29th to see it again!"
- Charlie Tangora
And so far, only 2 films out of 10!
Submitted by Susan J. Napier on 13 October 1999:
Well, I finally got to see PM in Austin and wanted to share my experience with y'all. First of all: I've seen the film at a movie theater in Japan and own a copy of the video but even so I was still bowled over by how awesomely beautiful it was on the big, big screen of Austin's Paramount theater.
My friends and I got there around 6:30 and there was already a huge line around the block. My heart sank for a minute since not everybody had passes and I was afraid that they wouldn't be able to get in. As it turned out, although the theater seemed almost full, at least the downstairs, everybody found pretty good seats. The crowd seeemd to me to be a very typical Austin crowd which means varied! People in suits, "old" people in their 40's and fifties in ponytails, a lot of people wearing black, a lot of students and some families. Although I saw some friends from the UT anime club, I didn't get to meet anyone from the list--it was just too crowded. Too bad, though.
The showing started just a little late but everyone seemed in a good mood. They brought out Neil Gaiman at the beginning, just to welcome everybody, and he got a good response. Then the film began and we were swept away. It was very interesting comparing the American audience response with that of the audience I saw the film with in Japan. Americans laughed much more! But I honestly don't think the laughter was particularly inappropriate. There really are some very comic moments in the film (no spoilers) and I was so glad that people reacted to them.
My group ended up with five children, ages 8-10, and I was particularly interested to see how they would react. (Especially since I was responsible for persuading everyone to come, I was worried if one of the kids became traumatized or had nightmares or whatever it would be all my fault!). In fact they all loved it! ALthough there was a certain amount of "Why is he cutting off his ponytail? Why is that lady so mean?", there was also a lot of "Cool!" and "Wow". The girls in particular liked the forest scenes which they pronounced "beautiful!"
And it really was a such a beautiful movie. I hope this doesn't sound silly but I came away actually feeling spiritually uplifted, and kind of mad at the reviewers who just didn't get it. The film's environmental message is never preachy but really works within the complexities of its setting.All the adults I (only one of whom was an anime fan) were totally blown away.
I thought the dubbing was pretty good, myself, once you get used to it. But one of my friends, who works on sound for live action films, was kind of disappointed in the animal voices. As I recall, the animal voices in the original WERE more unusual but maybe that's just my impression.
At the end of the film there was sustained applause. Clearly people had really liked it. VERY unfortunately, I had to leave before Gaiman came on again to answer question so would be very interested to hear how that went.
Anyway, it was a great experience. Thank you Miyazaki San.
Susan J. Napier
The University of Texas
Submitted by Walter Amos on 15 October 1999:
First off let me say I'm sorry it has taken me several days until I could compose this response. Between pressures in work coupled with both home ISP and work machines being down, and then intermittent problems with this mail account causing me to temporarily be deactivated from this list, it has been an annoying few days. Fortunately the pleasure of making the trip to Austin to see PM on the big screen with friends (even if it did mean getting back home to Houston at about 2:30 am and having to get up for work the next day) did help a lot.
Susan J. Napier wrote:
"But one of my friends, who works on sound for live action films, was kind of disappointed in the animal voices. As I recall, the animal voices in the original WERE more unusual but maybe that's just my impression."
"At the end of the film there was sustained applause. Clearly people had really liked it. VERY unfortunately, I had to leave before Gaiman came on again to answer question so would be very interested to hear how that went."
I did stay for that and will try to summarize the highlights (what I remember, in no particular order: that's what I got for waiting 3 days and not tape-recording it...)
My favorite exchange came as a result of the question "What was the hardest part of writing the script?" Gaiman's response was "Finding just exactly the right line to convey the meaning and emotion of what the character was saying, and if only the bastards flapped thir lips just ONE MORE TIME it would have worked!"
He talked about being asked to first do the film. He said he received the call from Harvey Weinstein who explained that he wanted absolutely to make the best version possible of this film and so they had contacted the writer they thought would best be able to handle this. Quentin Tarantino! Fortunately Quentin had the presence of mind to say "You don't want me for this, you want Gaiman." So Neil was called and was initially skeptical, but asked to be sent a video of the film. Weinstein said No, and insisited that Neil's first exposure to Mononoke be in the theater. So he flew out and saw it in a tiny screening theater at the studio. Neil said that going in he had been very doubtful and prepared to turn down the offer at the end. When he came out though he was totally stunned and thought along the lines of "They already called Quentin about this, now me. If I turn it down they will call someone else, who may well fuck it up. If I do it, I will at least fuck it up with a profound sense of respect." So he agreed to do it. But he said that although it was a unique and fascinating experience he would never want to do another one. Which is a problem because now he is getting more calls from other anime film studios asking if he will script their films as well ! ^_^
I was very pleased that he insisted a lot of the credit for the dub quality goes to ADR/voice director Jack Fletcher, who took great pains both to coach out just the right performace and to match dialog to mouth movement. Jack also had a deep respect for the film and insisted on going the extra mile to do it right. (Having a great deal of contact now with the actors who worked on what I still think is one of the finest anime TV series dubs ever, Star Blazers, I know the importance that a talented and apssionate ADR director can have to a film).
Also relating to the "flapping lips one more time" comment he said he never thought how much he would thank God for those little times when a character is talking with their back to you or with their mouth covered." He had a terrible time with most of the human characters, but fortunately for the animal gods like Moro the mouth movements don't refelct really gnerating speech anyway, so usually during the animals speeches is when you are hearing pure Gaiman dialog without meddling or tweaking.
He said theat throughout he tried to insert little extra bits of dialog to help understanding of Western audiences. He said a lot of these made it in in the first 2/3 of the film, but in the later third Miyazaki was much more adamant about the original dialog and removed these changes.
He also said there were actually a few times where MIyazaki was really impressed with Gaiman's interpretation. One of Gaiman's original contributions was a piece of dialog for Eboshi about the fact that they make the iron in Tatara-ba and then sell it oin other towns for rice which they need to eat. On the way back they fight the wolves to return home, and Eboshi comments that if they don't get the rice home their effort will be for nothing. Miyazaki liked that idea and said he wished he had thought of it himself.
Gaiman was in general rather afraid of the times he met Miyazaki because, as he put it, "it was a bit like meeting God." Gaiman said that you wouldn't know it toi look at him but he is really shy. However at one film award ceremony he had a mission: apparently he has a favorite sushi restaurant near his home and the owner got wind he was working on this project. The owner's daughter is a big Miyazaki fan, and the owner asked Gaiman to try and get something autographed. At this ceremony he had a mini-cd sort of thing he wanted to get autoigraphed but was really nervous. But the then considered the options "free sushi for the rest of my life, or waiting an hour to get that last bit of poison puffer fish with the meat cut from near the liver". So he frced himself to ask Miyazaki for it, which he happily did, drawing a Totoro on the cd, and then pulling out a Mononoke art book and autographing that as well and giving it to Gaiman.
When asked if he himself was an anime fan Gaiman said "for years people had been pushing these various animated films from Japan at me that I thought were brilliant and lyrical pieces of storytelling which I quite enjoyed. It was only years later now that I learn these films were more or less all by the same guy. So I realized I was less of an anime fan as I was a Miyazaki fan." (This sounds like the attitude I've read of a lot of Japanese adults. "I'm not an anime fan, but I like MIyazaki")
I was exceptionally happy to hear Gaiman's comment that people at Miramax are very strongly considering releasing Laputa in theaters, especially with Jo Hisaishi's re-recorded fully orchestral score. I am proud to say that I was the first one to stand up and lead the audience applause after THAT one! ^_^
He also said that everyone should encourage all their friends and relatives to see this movie so that it will do well enough to go into wider release. Because, if this film (the pinnacle of the genre as far as anime is concerned) isn't the breakout film that brings anime to a wide American audience, we may end up not having another such opportunity for a decade or more. (I don't think he has much to worry about this...)
On a side note in response to questions about his other works, he talked about his upcoming new Sandman book with illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano. He said it is set about 400 years before the period in which Mononoke occurs, the Heian period in Japanese history. I thought about asking why this election was made but didn't get a chance and it was getting late.
Well that's about all I can remember for now. I also took some photos of the line waiting outside and of Gaiman oin stage inside the theater. Once I can get them dveloped and scanned I will try to post them somewhere where all can see them (though this might be a little while until I finish off the film roll...)
Submitted by Walter Scott on 17 October 1999:
Princess Mononoke had its DC area debut on Saturday at the Freer Gallery of Art (Smithsonian Institute). After having to stand up through Nausicaa last month due to a full house, I resolved to get in line early for Mononoke. I arrived three hours early to find a line already snaking around the museum hallways. Within another hour the line had completely circumnavigated the museum and was out the door. A bemused Smithsonian photographer was taking pictures of the whole scene (after asking everyone's permission). Needless to say the hall was filled and a number of folks didn't get in. I think it's going to be quite a scene on November 5th when the movie opens at the tiny Inner Circle theatre near GWU.
There was a brisk business being done outside the auditorium in various anime related titles (mostly Stonebridge, such as Helen's Miyazaki book & her two anime guides; also the English Art of Princess Mononoke book). Judging from overheard conversations and from all of the Otakon and Katsukon T-Shirts, it seemed to be a fairly hard core otaku crowd [as opposed to, say, the Kiki audience, which seemed more diverse]. People were in very good spirits and not minding the wait at all, enjoying the mini-convention atmosphere. A number of folks I talked to expressed hope that Princess Mononoke would do well commercially, and therefore create more of an American market for all kinds of anime (including, but not limited to, the Ghibli titles).
MONONOKE SPOILERS FOLLOW....
Well, I'll certainly have to go back and see this one again a few times! Mostly I was focusing on the translation and the voice acting, and I think I missed some of the enjoyment of sitting back and letting the visuals and the story wash over me. And such visuals! What a splendid forest to get lost in! There were many details I never noticed on tape, such as the fireflies and dragonflies skitting across the pond. Not to mention the wealth of detail in all the Iron Town and battle scenes.
The audience was basically riveted. Silent intensity in the quiet forest scenes. Initial astonishment and then nervous laughter at the violent bits. I don't think there was anything unhealthy about this laughter, I think in some cases laughter can be an unconscious reflex response to frightening or upsetting situations. It certainly wasn't mean spirited. Plenty of good natured laughter for all the Kodama bits, and for the Iron Town villager's jokes. I think that the interspersed comic relief was useful to help the audience absorb what is, let's face it, a pretty dark movie. Anyway, there was heartfelt applause both at the beginning and the end.
I think I was relieved more than anything else, after hearing so many criticisms of several of the dub actors. There are no performances to be embarrassed about, and even if some of the voices seemed a little oddly matched to the on screen characters, the actors generally 'filled out' their characters with style and enthusiasm. Minnie Driver just nails Eboshi. Her air of calm self assurance is just chilling, such as in the scene where she casually takes pot shots at the gorillas who are replanting the trees she has destroyed. I also enjoyed Billy Bob Thornton's droll, disarming and totally remorseless Jiko. Billy Crudup does a solid, dignified job as Ashitaka; with so much dialogue, he's kind of a foundation for the whole film.
It was hard to juxtapose Gillian Anderson's voice with Moro after being used to the deep male voice in the Japanese original, but perhaps a new audience would not have that problem. Her performance was fine, if perhaps a bit lacking in menace. Danes was passable as San, not as bad as some have said, but she certainly didn't plumb the depths of the character. She seemed to warm up to Ashitaka awfully quickly and in general seemed a little too *nice*.
I also thought it was a shame Gaiman didn't give her an "I love you (but)" at the end but just "you mean so much to me...". Kind of loses some punch. I thought from the story proposal that Miyazaki would have wanted to keeep "I love you". Did he approve this change? Since San's back is turned when she does the line, it's hard to read Miyazaki's intentions here. Is she torn in two, or she basically at peace with her decision, the way Ashitaka seems to be?
Maybe it's because the voices were all cast in isolation, or maybe it's an aspect of the characters that only struck me in the dub, but it's striking how each character sort of forms their own little world in which everything they do is right. As the story progresses, you kind of ricochet among these characters; each one seems perfectly convincing in their point of view, until the next one speaks. Even Jiko in his last little speech exerted a Saruman like spell on me for a brief moment. Surely the sun will come out in just a few seconds ... the old gods are done for ... what's the harm in letting this little old gnome win one for a change?
I also found myself having more sympathy for the folk of Tatara Ba. Partly because the dub version's comic exchanges e.g. between Toki and Korokou seemed "softer" and less cruel than the more literal translations I had read. It seemed like some of these translations were a little looser than the others. e.g. the women on shift at the bellows saying how life is easier than in the brothels because "the men don't bother us ... unless we want them to!" I don't recall that last bit being in the original!
I also noticed a lot of plot points being repeated several times, which I take it was done by Gaiman to help orient the audience. I think that with such a complex story that this is a decent thing to do. I remember being confused on a few things the first time I watched Mononoke, so I don't think it's condescending to repeat things a bit. Things like the Emperor putting a price on Shishigami's head because he was seeking immortality, and this being Jiko's motivation, are mentioned several times, as are Eboshi's buying the brothel women's contracts and taking in the lepers. I was still actually confused about some of the double crosses near the end. In the dub, Eboshi wonders whether Lord Asano's attack on Tatara Ba was coordinated with Jiko. Is this ever confirmed anywhere or is it just her feeling?
Also, in the dub it seemed clearer to me that Jiko was the original provider of the hand cannon and mercenary troops to Eboshi. Yet Lord Asano's samurai, at least, seem completely surprised by the rifles, as if gunpowder was unknown to them. Is it ever established where these guns come from? The Chinese? Portugese? Local invention? Or does Miyazaki leave it up in the air?
I was left at the end with really just one disquieting thought, which has also come up for me when viewing the original. The final dialogue attempts, half heartedly, to wrap things up into a resolution, but this is clearly an illusion, since as Miyazaki has pointed out there is no answer to the problem of humanity's conflict with nature. I am particularly bothered by Eboshi's statement "Let's make this a good village" and Ashitaka's admission that he will help the villagers rebuild. But rebuild what? A kinder, gentler Iron Town? Isn't Eboshi going to continue on her same basic course, to cut down the forests and lay waste the mountainsides and make more weapons? We also know historically that eventually Eboshi and her independent band must come to a bad end once the next Emperor comes and "unifies" (subdues and conquers) the land. And what is San going to do anyway with her mother and all of the Gods dead and her clan folk dwindling away to mere beasts? It's really almost too painful to think about.
As usual, each viewing of Mononoke, or really any Ghibli film, reveals new layers and new questions. I can't wait to see this dub again a few more times. What a treasure. I'm going to keep promoting this movie to everyone I know till I'm blue in the face, and I hope to blazes that it will go wide and find a sizeable audience here. I think when C.S. Lewis reviewed Tolkien's Rings saga when it first came out more than fourty years ago, he said something like "here are truths that pierce like cold iron ... good beyond hope." That's how I felt about Princess Mononoke yesterday.
Submitted by Ryoko Toyama on 21 October 1999:
Well, I finally got some quiet time to write a long post. So here is something I've been meaning to write for a long time - my personal thoughts on the English dub of MH.
First, let me cleary state that I think the dub was one of the best dub I've ever seen. Overall, translation and acting were both superb. What I will complain in the following post is mosly a minor nitpicking.
Second, this is, after all, my personal opinion. And opinons differ among people. After we saw MH at the NY Film Festival, the people I had a dinner with had different opinions. One loved Minnie Driver's acting, the other didn't.
So, please do not judge the dub just because I said something negative about it. We've had enough of "Disney/Miramax had screwed it up!" outcries. If you want to judge how they screwed it up, at least please wait until you actually see it, not just a tiny trailer, but the entire movie.
Third, I've only seen the dub once, with not so great sound system. My English listening comprehension isn't great to start with, and my memory is far from perfect. So I don't remember the English lines precisely.
Finally, the following contains some spoilers to the film, altough I would make a spoiler warning if it's the major spoiler. Also, if you want to see the film without any preconcieved notion about how the dub was, please don't read the following.
OK, enough warning. Let's get down to it.
1. Translation of names.
Most of the character retained the original Japanese name. "Ashitakahiko" (the formal name of Ashitaka) is "Prince Ashitaka". It feels a bit weird to hear him called "Prince" ("My Prince" by Hii-Sama), but I guess there was no other choice.
Hii-Sama is "Wisewoman", Tatara Ba is "Iron Town", Didarabocchi is "Night Walker", Shishi Gami is "The Spirit of Forest" (or Forest Spirit), Tatari Gami is "Demon", Ishibiya -Shuu is "Riflemen", Okkotonushi beacme "Okkoto".
Interestingly, Jiko Bou became "Jigo". I don't know why. Maybe Tokuma's translation spelled his name that way.
One thing that I did not understand. The elder Emish who was up on the watch tower was called "Ji-i-ji" in the original. Jiiji is a somewhat childish way of calling a grandfather, or old man. The word suggests that if one calls someone as Jiiji, they are very close.
Jiiji was Ashitaka's gurdian (I don't know if this is the right English term though. Basically, Jiiji watched over Ashitaka while he was growing up. But rank-wise, Ashitaka is higher than Jiiji).
In the dub, he was called "Jii-San". I don't know why. Average Amerians wouldn't know what it means. Then, why should they change? "Jii-San" sounds ruder than "Jiiji", and does not suggest the same close relationship as the word "Jiiji" brings about. It bothered me. (Although it won't make any difference to an average American audience.)
Another thing. The leader of lepas (the one who asked Ashitaka not to kill Eboshi) was still called "Osa" in the dub. I wonder if this was because they thought that "Osa" was his name. (It means "leader".)
I need to see the dub several more times to catch all the lines, but I think that it was well done overall.
There are several lines I was not particulary fond of.
In the forest, when Ashitaka told Eboshi that Tataraba is under attack, Eboshi asked, "What is your proof?", and Ashitaka said, "Don't be ridiculous. What reason do I have to lie?" or something like that. I found this rather out of character of Ashitaka. In the original, he just say "None!" I wonder if Gaiman wrote this line, or it was one of those lines changed at the recording studio by Jack Fletcher.
As well, when Kaya saw Ashitaka off, Ashitaka was worried if she might get in trouble for that. In the original, she said, "I will bear the punishment later", but in the dub, "Who cares about that!" or something like that. Again, I found it rather out of her character.
I don't know why they changed the line so that Ashitaka and Emishi didn't know about Tatari Gami. In the original, Jiiji warned Ashitaka not to touch the Tatarigami, and Ashitaka shot Tatarigami fully awared that it would bring him some terrible fate. That's why he said "I made up my mind when I shot Tatarigami".
I was a bit bothered by "I don't know what you are, god or demon". Although it was later explained that a God can turn into a Damon, I do not like this dichotomy of "God or Demon". Also, in the original, Hii-Sama was treating Tatarigami as a God, saying "I do not know where you came from, God, but I humbly and respectfully say this to you..." (or something like that.) But in the dub, the line was somehwat changed (although I don't remember what she said in the dub.) I didn't feel that she was treating the Tatari gami as a god in that scene.
Also, the bullet that made Nago into Tatarigami was now "iron bullet". I don't know why. In the original, it was just "bullet" or "poisoness bullet" (according to Moro). The Roman Album said that it was a lead bullet, and I think that it was what Miyazaki-San intended. It was the lead poisoning that drove Nago mad (and weakened Moro).
Overall, very well done. Billy Crudup sounded very natural as Ashitaka. I think that he had enough nobeleness to be Ashitaka. Claire Danes sounded somewhat flat, but this is probably because San is such a character. Yuriko Ishida in the original didn't do a particulary good job anyway, so Claire was OK with me.
The character I liked best was Toki. Jada Pincket-Smith did excellent Toki. I did not feel strange at all her "black-speech", but that's may be because I'm not a native English speaker.
Gillian Anderson as Moro was surprisingly good. Sure, she was no match for the original Moro, but there is only one Akihiro Miwa in this world. No one except Miwa could make that great performance in the original. I think that Gillian sounded wonderful as a wolf goddess, with enough care, cuelty, voilence, and nobelness in the voice. Still, I wonder if the American audience can understand San's misery, from Moro's line "Poor, ugly, and dearest my daughter".
I was not so impressed by Minnie Driver. She sounded fine when she was talking to women or lapers, in her "soft voice". But I think that she lacked strength and commanding quality in her voice a little bit. When Ashitaka arrived at Tatara ba, and was surrounded by the Tatara people, Eboshi makes her appearance. In the original, she was very commanding. Her first voice in this scene immediately tells Ashitaka and the audience that she is in charge, and she is a formidable woman. I couldn't feel that in the dub. I wish that she sounded a bit tougher in some of the scenes. In the quiet scene, she did great.
Billy Bob Thornton wasn't bad, but I felt that his voice was too "handsome" for the role. Jiko is like a crown. People don't think much of him, at least as a threat at first, because he is so unassuming. That's why he is so scary when he shows his "true color". So he should sound like a funny little guy at first. Thornton's voice didn't suit this role, IMO.
I had a big problem with Kouroku and Gonza. Especially Kouroku. They spoke really fast, and their lines sounded forced out of their mouths. They sounded so....cartoony. You know, the kind of unnatural speaking pattern of Saturday morning cartoon. Everytime Kouroku was on screen, I had to wince. It was a pity since Kouroku is such a funny character.
The dub director might have thought that Kouroku and Gonza are two of few human characters who provide laughter in the film. So maybe he felt that they should be played in cartoon (as Americans think of) way. I think that this is a mistake.
Don't get me wrong. The acting of two were still better than most of the voice actors in dubbed anime. However, since the level of acting in PM was so high, they stack out.
Again, over all, this was one of the best dub I've ever seen.
Submitted by Griffin Waldau on 21 October 1999:
Eventhough it's pretty much ancient history now. I finally have finshed my reports about my adventures at MoMA and the New York Film Festival last month. If anyone is interested the front page of the MoMA report is at:
And the front page for the NYFF report is at:
I wrote a lot of extra details too, so for those of you who read the whole thing, I thank you in advance. There are pictures and illustrations too so for those of you that don't feel like reading...
I also plan to add a page with my opinion on the Mononoke dubbing job but I'll wait to release it until more people have gotten a chance to see it. I'll post it in the next couple of weeks along with more illustrations and photos for these sections.
Let me know what you think, thanks!!
sketch that I just did about the "Special Guests"
at the New York Film Festival and how they might have reacted to the American
audience and how they behaved during the movie. I don't think this is what
actually happened but the picture just seemed to turn out that way... it's
pretty funny I guess.
[Note about the sketch: Left to right - Nausicaä, Miyazaki-san, Suzuki-san (producer of "Princess Mononoke")]
Submitted by Ryoko Toyama on 22 October 1999, from a posting to rec.arts.anime.misc by Mike Tatsugawa of Anime Expo:
The premiere of Princess Mononoke was last night in Westwood and it was a blast. Anime Expo procured 100 tickets and the UCLA anime club procured another 20, so this premiere definitely had a heavy slant towards fans.
The stars drove up in their limosines and all the photographers swarmed them. Every time someone people knew drove up, people would applaud. They then let everyone else in and there was a scramble for the best seats. I got lucky and kept shifting around until I got the center seat in the middle aisle.
Ms. Anderson came in late, so when she tried sneaking over to her seat, she got a LOT of applause.
Having never seen the Japanese version before, I didn't walk in with any biases towards the original voices and the original interpretations. I liked the dub and the rewrite. Billy Bob stood out as a Southern Monk, but everything still held together. (BTW, did they change the ending a little or was it always kind of smarmy?)
Following the movie, there was a cast party at EuroChow in Westwood. All the VIP's were there and it was fun. Over cosmopolitans and champaign, Ms. Anderson and Mr. Thorton were discussing something intensely. We got introduced to Neil Gaiman and he started to tell us about what it was like working with Miyazaki and then working with Amano on the new Sandman comic. He just happened to have a bound edition with him and he showed it off to us.
I was discussing Mononoke with the execs at Miramax and they said that fans will be critical to the success of the movie. They are following the "Shall We Dansu?" and "Shakespeare in Love" strategy and are going to rely on support from fans and word of mouth to allow them to move to phase II and do a wide release. If it doesn't take off, then the film will simply become an art house film. So if you want to see it hit America's mainstream market, fans will have to do their fare share and get the word out.
Sorry if this sounds disjointed. It was a late night! -_-
Submitted by Robin Casady on 26 October 1999, from C. Casady:
I'm forwarding (with permission) a report from my brother about the Mononoke Premiere in Westwood (Los Angeles). My brother is a special effects animator who specialed in rotoscoping, and started out doing masks for the first Star Wars.
Well, I am back from the Premier of Mononoke in Westwood. It was held at the little Mann theatre on Lindbrook right across the street from the Kirkeby building, now the Armand Hammer museum. I arrived two hours early, at 5:30 and there were about 40 people in front of me. One I recognized from the UCLA lines. There was a red carpet laid out, red ropes and cordon apparatus and a bank of bright lights on C stands with sandbags. Many press people were milling about as well as a whole swarm of official looking people of all types appearing as if they had some special purpose in being there. They all seemed to have their noses in the air. The audience crowd seemed to comprise many Asian, I presume Japanese, people and the usual genre fans.
I hadn't been in line long when they decided to start up the generators. Two brand new Honda portable power generators were at the curb to power the bank of lights. I just happened to be at the place in line next to them so a was forced to sit right next to their noise and fumes. That was a drag. My friends showed up on time a little before 7:00
As the line began to move we were able to pass through the red carpet section and we passed Billy Bob Thorton giving an interview. There must have been 15 or 20 crews of cameras and interviewers lined up. It was a huge battery of press. As we passed the concession stand there was free popcorn and free sodas available.
When we finally got into the theater I was annoyed as hell to find that the center section was cordoned off with "RESERVED" signs on the chairs. Except for the first five rows in front and the very last row in back the entire center was off limits! The front five seemed mostly full when I got in so we sat in the very last row in back. For the next 30 minutes we watched as the crowd filled up the side sections and the huge center section remained mostly empty. At one point an official woman came through the row in front of me removing the reserved signs. When I asked her if we could move up she said no, that they were still reserved. Go figure. Eventually the center section filled up and I presume it was with people who arrived much later than I did. Even as the lights went down I could see at least 5 empty seats in prime locations. I couldn't help feel like fodder, cattle, filler.
Soon I had my second celeb sighting. Gillian Anderson walked in and sat near the very center of the theater. As she moved down her row she was met by another woman who hugged her before she sat down. There was a small smattering of spontaneous applause erupting from the audience when she was spotted. She didn't seem to react or acknowledge it.
The organizers of this event weren't classy enough to say anything before the show. There were no announcements, no introductions, no welcomes, no thank you's. The lights just went down and the movie appeared. The studio Ghibli logo appeared first and it got a cheer and applause just like at the UCLA festival.
Then I noticed it: a loud low frequency hum was coming from the speakers and it continued for the entire length of the film. This really damaged the experience from my point of view. The sound in general was too loud and I was glad I was sitting in the back of the theatre.
I certainly appreciated seeing the film a second time and got much more out of it. It is truly a stunning and beautiful film. I was able to appreciate much more the complexity of the film, the ambiguity with the characters, the good and evil in each character. The message of renewal, the statement that life is a horrible crock but somehow still worth living. In fact one of the characters says as much in one scene. Billy Bob's voice was as inappropriate as ever and my guests commented on that. At another point, when Claire Danes was speaking my guest leaned over and said "'Gag me with a spoon, a Valley girl!" He's right. Her voice was totally inappropriate for San. His comment later that neither Billy Bob of Claire seemed to try to create any character voice but rather just spoke the lines flatly and plainly was very accurate I think. He gave me his versiuon of what Billy Bob should have sounded like and I agreed. He said HE could have done the voice.
The show ended with much applause and we filed out onto the street where I was able to stand pretty near Gillian as she gracefully signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans before getting into a black Mercedes limo and disappeared in a convoy of them. I never saw Mini Driver or Claire Danes and I assume they were not present.
If the film really opens July 29th then I'm afraid for it's success because by this time there should be ads everywhere, TV ads, bus bench ads, billboards, trailers in theaters. I've seen none of this.
That's my story. Feel free to forward or post if you'd like.
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