Thoughts on the Princess Mononoke DVD

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AnimeNewsNetwork has not yet been able to secure a copy of Princess Mononoke on DVD for review, in the meantime we have received permission from Tom Wilkes, a regular poster on Nausicaä.net's Miyazaki Discussion Group as well as a member of Team Ghiblink, to re-post an article that he submitted to the mailing list.

The menus are serviceable, but slow and a bit clunky, possibly due to the late addition of the Japanese soundtrack. As others have noted, playback of the English and Japanese versions of the soundtrack includes seamless integration of the respective title and credits sequences.

The English subtitles are also quite serviceable -- translated in a literate (if not always *literal*) manner, and presented using a yellow, shadowed font. However, one can see where some of the supposed oddities in Neil Gaiman's dub version instead arose out of the subtitles. For example, the Tatari-gami is a "demon;" Kaya calls Ashitaka "brother;" etc. (But Ashitaka's wound is not "evil." ^_^) However, being used to the Japanese laserdisc release, to me the subtitles seemed a distraction from the artwork onscreen, so it's nice that they can be turned off.

The video quality of the DVD is first rate, as seen played by a
progressive-scan DVD player on a 40" HDTV in anamorphic mode. The print used for the master appears to have been substantially brighter than that used for the Japanese laserdisc release, so that much more detail is apparent in dark areas of the screen; on the other hand, some of the greens are not as dark and lustrous perhaps. The picture is rock solid, and the colors are also very steady, with none of the chroma noise evident on the laserdisc. I paused the DVD to look at a few stills, and they are also gorgeous.

The audio quality is also excellent on both the English and Japanese tracks (I've not tried the French -- yet ^_^). I noted that the English soundtrack is recorded at a noticeably lower level than the Japanese soundtrack (as played back through a Dolby Digital processor), requiring approximately a 6 dB boost to achieve the same effective loudness level. (The Japanese track on the DVD is recorded at about the same loudness level as the Dolby Digital track on the laserdisc.)

It's interesting to note that in the featurette included on the DVD, the film clips apparently use an early version of the dub. Compare the clip of San holding Ashitaka's sword at his throat with the final version of the dub. For example, in the featurette's clip, Ashitaka says "So lovely..." while in the final dub, he says "You're beautiful." **

Also, the Miramax theatrical trailer included on the DVD is the first version, with the narrator mispronouncing "Miyazakay" and "Mononokee." Oh well. ^_^

** I believe that Stephen Alpert, one of the translators for the
subtitles, talks about this change during his interview on page 82 of
the Ghibli Roman Album _How did America view PRINCESS MONONOKE?_.

The original post, and further discussion of the PM DVD can be read here.

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