Mononoke Day is At Hand!

by Marc Hairston (Team Ghiblink),
(reprinted with permission)

Okay folks, this is it. One of those pivotal moments in history.

This Friday is when "Princess Mononoke" premieres on this side of the Pacific (in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Toronto)

Whether it does well or not at the box office almost doesn't matter. What matters now is that the Miyazaki magic has hit the mainstream consciousness in America, and anime will never again be seen the same way around here.

For years we have had to explain ourselves to our friends and family. We had to deal with the looks we get when we tell someone that we like Japanese animation. "You mean....stuff like 'Speed Racer'?" they say. (At least that's what they say if we're lucky; if we're unlucky they think we're watching cartoon porn.) In any case, it didn't matter how much we tried to tell them about these shows with plot and style and thought in them. It didn't matter when we told them there was this animator in Japan named Miyazaki who was almost a god. They just looked at us and thought we were weird.

And they thought that because they didn't know any better. Because the only cartoons they'd ever seen were on Saturday morning tv or else Disney and the also-ran Disney wannabees movies. Anime just never showed up on their radar.

But no more. When "Newsweek" and "US News and World Reports" (and hopefully "Time", too) run feature articles about Mononoke, when every major newspaper is running articles about the film (the New York Times has run three already and the film isn't even out), when "Entertainment Tonight" covers its industry premiere, when Roger Ebert runs interviews with Miyazaki himself on "At The Movies", then you know that mainstream America has finally noticed anime.

And now it's finally your chance to show them. To show all of your friends and family what this stuff you've been watching for years is really like. To show them something that's "okay" for them to watch (even though it's Japanese animation) because it's put out by a major studio they've heard of and endorsed by national critics (like Ebert) they already know. To show them something that, even if they don't understand all of it, will change them. No one who has seen only Disney and Saturday morning cartoons will ever be able to think of animation the same way after they walk out of the theater. With some luck they'll even turn to you (without that weird look) and say "So that's why you've been watching this stuff."

Anime fandom grew because we shared. Fansubs, scripts, recommendations, 12th generation copies of shows taped off the air in Japan. Why did we do this? Because the natural instinctive response of every human being when they find something good, be it a movie, a book, a song, is to grab someone else and say "hey, this is great, ya gotta see this...."

And so anime fandom has grown until we've reached this point. And now this Friday, like it or not, we're going mainstream. It's time for us to share anime with the rest of folks here.

Despite a vocal few who want to keep anime all to themselves, it's too late for anime to stay a cult thing anymore. There are too many six year olds out there trading "Pokemon" cards. Too many schoolkids running home to watch "Sailor Moon" and "Dragonball Z" every afternoon. Too many movie critics scanning their thesauruses looking for superlatives to shower on "Mononoke".

Going mainstream is a cause for celebration, folks! Going mainstream means never having to explain yourself again. After all, nobody has to explain themselves when they say they're a Star Wars fan. After this Friday, when you tell someone you're a fan of Japanese animation, they'll be more likely to say "Oh, you mean like 'Mononoke'?"

So what can we fans do help this bring about this great leap forward?


Go see the movie.

Take your friends and family with you. Take as many people with you as you can with you. If necessary, buy their tickets (or at least offer to pay them back if they don't like the movie). Go back to see it the next day if you can. If you're within a couple of hours driving distance of one of the cities it's opening in this weekend or next, then don't wait for it to come to your town, drive over to see it.

I know this has been said over and over, but we can't emphasize it enough: WHETHER "PRINCESS MONONOKE" GETS A WIDER RELEASE DEPENDS ENTIRELY ON HOW WELL IT DOES THE FIRST TWO WEEKENDS IT PLAYS IN LIMITED RELEASE. It doesn't matter that it will only be playing at only one or two theaters in most markets, what Miramax will be looking at is *not* the total box office, but the how full the each theater is. Every warm body in every theater seat at every showing brings us that much closer to a full scale nationwide release.

Over at Nausicaa.Net we've already gotten one report from one city where the theater manager said he wasn't going to bother selling advanced tickets because they'd never sold out the theater for any foreign film. I won't tell you which city and theater that was, just assume it's the one nearest you. Go prove him wrong.

And after you've seen the movie, go to the Miramax website ( and send them email telling them how much you enjoyed seeing the film and how you're going to tell all your friends to go see it too. If you live in an area that isn't currently scheduled to get "Mononoke", email them now and tell them where you are and how much you'd like to see "Mononoke" playing at a local theater. They'll listen.

So don't worry about whatever nitpicks you may still have about the movie. After years of trying we've finally gotten Hollywood to shell out millions for a quality dub with name actors that's playing in real movie theaters! Go see it and take your friends. It will change them, and it may change you. And you'll be able to look back years from now at these few weeks and know you were there when history was made. When the light of Miyazaki's magic came to American theaters.

Anime. It's not just for otaku anymore. Spread the word.

Editor's note: One other thing... We've been hearing reports about otaku that WON'T go see Mononoke in the theater because it's dubbed.

If you're one of those people, GET OVER IT! Whether you like dubs or not, go see this one -- it's one of the best. Besides, Miyazaki said (with myself in the audience) that the dub exceeded his expectations. "I made Mononoke to be seen in the theater," he added. If you are willing to actually go against the words of the creator of the holy grail of anime just because you are too picky about how you absolutely HAVE to have your anime, your sanity truly comes into question.

Don't make me strap you to a chair and tape your eyelids open and force you to watch Midnight Panther. I'll do it, too. :P

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