Mononoke aftermath

Joanne Bernardi jobi
Sat Jan 15 16:15:43 EST 2000

More on PRINCESS MONONOKE:  intrigued all the more by the preview on the
official website and as a big fan of Jo Hisaishi, I emailed our local
(Rochester, NY) art theater about the possibilities of the film opening
here. The response was that they really wanted it, having just seen it at
the Toronto festival, but were not yet eligible because of Miramax's (to
me unfathomable) "wait and see policy." Apparently, if I remember
correctly, even as the "World's Image Centre" (sic), Rochester is
somewhere around the 7th tier in terms of market size (we are, after all,
upstate--the "other"-- New York). But, our art theater came
through and the film opened here on or right before Thanksgiving and was
held over by demand at least until Christmas, which is when I lost track.

Locally it was well-received (in the local paper, an "8" out of "10",
where it was referred to as an "appealing animated fable, from Japan's
Disney." I found it odd that Mononoke and Pokemon sort of hit the fan at
the same time in the US, resulting in a few surreal moments as mention of
the one, it seemed, couldn't be mentioned without mention of the other--
another unfortunate result, I think, of the "wait and see" release policy.
Pikachu might even have overshadowed the Princess--by the time the film 
got its requisite full-page color ad in the NY TImes, Pikachu had
already turned up in a couple of New Yorker cartoons and, almost
inevitably, on the November 1 issue's cover (trick-or-treating a big
bag of cash--crass Pokemon commercialism as the latest Christmas toy craze
was already an issue). Incidentally, It was the week of Oct 30 that the TV
Guide issued with four separate covers (4 different Pokemon characters), a
bizarre kind of tie-in to the collectable craze. (I got Pikachu and, from
a well-meaning friend, Charmander--anyone want to trade?)

My point is, I don't think anyone knew what to make of it all--everything
animated from Japan was getting lumped together, as somewhere in the midst
of the commercial mayhem a small scandal erupted involving an irate parent
demanding that DRAGON BALL Z manga be pulled from the shelves of Toys R Us
(some confusion over target age groups). I had a long phone conversation
with a journalist from the Dallas Morning News, who was trying to make
sense of all these anime in the spotlight by weaving some kind of
"cultural differences" fable where I thought the real problem was plain,
painfully ill-informed marketing. Like David, I also missed any "serious"
critical attention paid to MONONOKE, if there was indeed any. And I heard
not a single hint of the likes of Amino Yoshihiko. The "history" of the
movie was glossed over tremendously in everything I read. In the Chicago
Sun-Times, apparently (I'm going by a reprint used as PR at our local
theater), Roger Ebert placed the film "in medieval Japan, at the dawn of
the Iron Age, when some men still lived in harmony with nature and others
were trying to tame and defeat it."  It was a sentence I had to read a few
times myself to try to figure out where it was coming from. It all went by
in a blur of "Japanese is Japanese is Japanese."

I hinted at and got the two books Aaron mentioned for Christmas, but
haven't really checked them out well enough to comment. The MONONOKE book
is beautiful, and I found (I have looked at the pictures) the copious
illustrations--both from the film and Miyazaki's layout
drawings--extremely informative. I was particularly interested in pp.
38-39, which shows the evolution of the character of Ashitaka (possible
variations). The book is reviewed in either the October or November issue
of _Animerica_; the November issue of _Animerica_ features Pokemon, the
December issue (vol.7) features MONONOKE--although that little yellow
rascal Pikachu is in the upper left-hand corner of the cover over the
blurb "Win a CD!") I think you can access excerpts at the magazine's
website,, or you could try the website.

The MONONOKE book is translated by Mark Schilling, and also features an
introduction by him--maybe he'd like to say a word or two?

Sorry for the length, but one last bit: HElen McCarthy also just came out
with (written together with Jonathan Clements) _The Erotic Anime Movie
Guide_, Overlook Press, 1999 US version (UK 1998)ISBN 0-87951-705-0. The
format appears similar to her earlier _The Anime Movie Guide_ (US 1997).

Joanne Bernardi
U of Rochester

On Sat, 15 Jan 2000, David Desser wrote:

> My response to Aaron's query about the release pattern of PRINCESS MONONOKE
> is:  I told you so.  See my post a few weeks back about Miramax's
> deliberate mishandling of the film.  A couple of people slammed me for my
> opinion at the time, but time has since told the tale.  A film which opens
> to good discussion initially must be released reasonably quickly thereafter
> to take advantage of whatever hype has been generated.  Failing to release
> MONONOKE within a few weeks of its showing in the US's major cities was
> guaranteed to drain the film of any glamor and thus any hope of significant
> box-office.  It never opened wide here or even very much outside of a dozen
> or so major cities. (One theatre in Chicago; a couple of theatres in
> Philadelphia and its suburbs--Art Theatres, by the way in Philadelphia/New
> Jersey.)
> I have seen neither of the two books Aaron mentions, though I am a regular
> habitue of bookstores, including a recent visit to Tower Books in
> Philadelphia, which specializes in film and media-related works. Helen
> McCarthy has become something of a "pop" expert in anime with at least two
> previous books on the subject, so it's not surprising to see her publish a
> >Hayao Miyazaki : Master of Japanese Animation : Films, Themes, Artistry
> >by Helen McCarthy
> >Paperback - 220 pages (September 1999)
> >Stone Bridge Press; ISBN: 1880656418
> >
> >The Princess Mononoke : The Art and Making of Japan's Most Popular Film
> >of All Time
> >Hardcover (October 1, 1999)
> >Talk Miramax Books; ISBN: 0786866098
> >
> >Any comments on these?  Anyone see any articles they liked?  Can anyone
> >talk about the themes, shape, and nature of the discourse on Miyazaki?
> >
> >Just curious...
> >
> >Aaron Gerow
> >Yokohama National University
> >KineJapan list owner
> >For list commands: send "information kinejapan" to
> >listserver at
> >Kinema Club:

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