Princess Mononoke

this is # 17 in the ongoing Saturday Soundtrack series

Princess Mononoke

Music from the motion picture, composed by music by Joe Hisaishi, [Milan, 59:12, 32 cues]

Like most film music written to carry the mood and emotion of the film it accompanies, Hisaishi’s music for the 1997 film Princess Mononoke is varied: soft and enchanting (“The Journey to the West”), exciting, driving and forceful (“The Demon God”, one of my favorite things on this CD), haunting (“Adagio of life and Death”) and majestic (“Legend of Ashitaka”).

There is a definite Japanese sound to the music, but it’s not overt with the exception of the “The Tatara Women Work Song” and the “Princess Mononoke Theme Song” beautifully sung in Japanese by Sasha Lazard. The song translation is included in the booklet.

Don’t worry that the music here is from an anime film, that fact makes no difference in how good it is or how much it can be enjoyed.

Hisaishi’s genius is displayed in every cue, his ability to weave together the various themes of individual characters into a coherent whole that makes sense. There are avante garde elements, classical elements, tribal elements melded into a wonderful whole.

I’ve been doing several soft and touching, beautiful, lyrical soundtracks lately. This one has some of that, but it has more: it’s dramatic, forceful and strong where it needs to be in keeping with the story it underlies.

I always say good film music should be able to stand alone, and this does, it can be enjoyed without you having seen the film, but I urge you to see the film if there is any possible way to do so. It is available on DVD from most outlets including Netflix. I’d love to see a Blu-ray version. I had the good fortune to see it on the big screen and it was breathtaking. (Someone, somewhere will undoubtedly say Cameron stole from it for Avatar, but then it seems they say that about everything.)

I loved the film, and this is film music I take out often to enjoy for the drama, lift and scope of it.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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13 Responses to Princess Mononoke

  1. Jeff S. says:

    It’s been many years since I’ve seen this film but I remember loving it back then. Sounds like I need to see if I can snag it from the library again. Thanks for the soundtrack review.

  2. Carl V. says:

    Considering how big a fan of Neil Gaiman that I consider myself, it is embarrassing for me to admit that I did not see this film (which he helped adapt) until just last year. My wife, daughter and I all loved it. Everything about it, including the music, is very good, a top-notch experience. I need to pick up a copy of this on DVD for myself someday as it is one I would like to own.

  3. Patti Abbott says:

    I wish there was a theater that showed films like this so I could see it on a big screen.

  4. Richard says:

    Jeff S. – it is indeed a very good film, perhaps Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, though I know others will pick other films by him as best or favorite. I’ve always had a soft spot for Nausicaä.

  5. Richard says:

    Carl V. – yes, you sure do seem to be a big Gaiman fan. Frankly, I’m not sure why Gaiman is so popular, I know he did Sandman and other stuff, but it didn’t impress me much. I have a friend in San Diego who is a big fan and has tried to explain it to me, without success. I think his role in this film was minimal.

    It is available on DVD.

  6. Richard says:

    Patti – it’s the “art houses”, the ones that used to show foreign art films, as we called them in the day, that have anime for the most part. This was released through Miramax, after Disney bought the English language rights, and it ran for a couple of months in one theater in this area. I saw it twice and the place was packed each time, with lines to get in.

  7. George Kelley says:

    I loved the film and the music. This is another soundtrack I’ll have to hunt down and buy.

  8. Patti Abbott says:

    We have lots of art houses but they tend to do new stuff rather than revivals now.

  9. Richard says:

    This was a last minute choice. I had something else half written, but this was on the player and I decided last night to do it instead.

  10. Richard says:

    Your best best on this one is probably the DVD.

  11. Carl V. says:

    I’m not sure how to describe “getting” Gaiman. Probably the best I would say is that if you were to pick up either his latest, The Graveyard Book (as an example of a book for younger audiences as well as older) or American Gods (as an example of a book for older audiences) and couldn’t get into them then nothing about any of his work will probably appeal.

    He is far and away one of my favorite authors. I think he captures the spirit of folklore and mythology in his work in a way that feels contemporary while at the same time giving the reader the feeling that they are tapping into something much older.

    He also is, in my opinion, a masterful short story writer. Not all of his short stories are appealing to me (in fact some that others rave about end up being my least favorite), but when he does it well he does it very, very well.

    “Chivalry” is probably my favorite of all the short stories he has written, but I am partial to the King Arthur myth which makes that story stand out to me.

  12. Richard says:

    I guess this is one we’ll have to agree to disagree on, Carl. Like my love for Oingo Boingo. (heh)

  13. Carl V. says:

    I hear you! There are authors for all of us who just do something special whenever we read them, and Gaiman is one of those authors for me.

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