PRINCESS MONONOKE
MONONOKE-HIME
1997, Studio Ghibli, 134 min, Japan, Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

A landmark of animation and a film of unsurpassed power and beauty, Hayao Miyazaki’s epic story of conflict and balance between humans, gods and nature has been universally acclaimed by critics and broke the box office record on its original release in Japan. While defending his village from a demonic boar-god, the young warrior Ashitaka becomes afflicted with a deadly curse that grants him superhuman power in battle but will eventually take his life. Traveling west to find a cure and meet his destiny, he journeys deep into the sacred depths of the Great Forest where he meets San (Princess Mononoke), a girl raised by wolf-gods. Mononoke is a force of nature, riding bareback on a great white wolf and terrorizing the human outpost of Iron Town on the edge of the Forest.


WHISPER OF THE HEART
MIMI WO SUMASEBA
1995, Studio Ghibli, 111 min, Japan, Dir: Yoshifumi Kondo

In the mid-1990s, the great Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki (SPIRITED AWAY) wanted to begin mentoring a new generation of animation artists in Japan. The result was WHISPER OF THE HEART, a gentle coming-of-age drama scripted, produced and storyboarded by Miyazaki and then directed by Yoshifumi Kondo (later animation director on PRINCESS MONONOKE), whom Miyazaki hoped would introduce new blood into his Studio Ghibli. Adapted from the manga by Aoi Hiragi, the film tells the story of Shizuku, a shy student with high school entrance exam worries and inchoate aspirations, who meets a magical cat on a commuter bus and follows it to a boutique where significant objects abound, each with a story of its own. Notable for its celebration of the mysteries of daily living, in WHISPER OF THE HEART "Miyazaki's script suggests that a sense of magic can exist, even in everyday Tokyo," according to animation historian Charles Solomon. The story of a young girl finding her voice both literally and figuratively, WHISPER OF THE HEART is a film tinged by tragedy: Yoshifumi Kondo died of a brain aneurysm in 1998. His only feature attests to his talent, and Miyazaki has yet to find an equally gifted protégé.


MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO
TONARI NO TOTORO
1988, Studio Ghibli, 86 min, Japan, Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

The third Studio Ghibli feature from former Toei animator turned writer-producer-director-entrepreneur Hayao Miyazaki tells the story of young sisters Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe, who move with their father into a new house near a vast forest, in order to be closer to their ailing, hospitalized mother. Discovering wondrous forest spirits, they also encounter Totoro, a giant, lumbering, bunny-esque creature. "Here is a children's film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy. A film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. A world that is benign. A world where, if you meet a strange towering creature in the forest, you curl up on its tummy and have a nap. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO has become one of the most beloved of all family films without ever having been much promoted or advertised." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.


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