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Featured Blu-ray Review: Hayao Miyazak Blu-ray Double-Shot: Kiki's Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke

November 18th, 2014

Hayao Miyazak Blu-ray Double-Shot: Buy from Amamzon: Kiki's Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke

To coincide with the home market release of The Wind Rises, two other Hayao Miyazak films are making their debut on Blu-ray this week. I've combined these reviews into one, partially because I've already reviewed one of the movies. Are they worth picking up? Are they worth the double-dip?

Kiki's Delivery Service

I previously reviewed this film and there's not a lot that needs to be added. The film is about Kiki, a 13-year old witch who is starting her one-year apprenticeship and is living on her own for the first time. She's not exactly on her own, as she is with Jiji, her sarcastic talking cat. Her new life gets off to a rough start, because she's not a very good witch. She's not an evil witch, she's just not very skilled. She can't create potions and she can't cast spells, but she can fly. So, she decides to start a delivery service. However, a crisis of confidence results in her losing these powers as well. Can she regain them?

For a film about a magic witch, Kiki's Delivery Service is very grounded, which is a word I'm using a lot today. It is a simple coming of age story, but one that is told masterfully. The characters are compelling and it is near impossible not to be drawn into Kiki's life and you instantly root for her. I've reviewed a lot of movies / TV shows where the lead character was just not very personable and the writing and acting gave me no reason to care about what happened to the lead character. That is not the case here. Most of the time, the stakes are not as high as in some of Hayao Miyazak's other films, but it is a very personal story. I loved it the first time I saw this movie and I loved it this time. If you don't own it, buy it now.

The Extras

The extras are the same as the two-disc DVD release, for the most part. The personality quiz and a look at Ghibli are gone and replaced by a look at Ursula's Painting. The technical presentation is not quite as good as it is with The Wind Rises, but that is not surprising given the age. Don't get me wrong, for a film that is 25 years old, it looks fantastic. However, there's a little more grain and the colors are perhaps a little softer. The audio is 2.0, which again means there's no activity in the surround sound speakers. It is still very clear and that's important.

Princess Mononoke

Unlike the other two Hayao Miyazak films I've reviewed this week, this one is full on fantasy and takes place in the time of gods and demons. We first meet Prince Ashitaka as he is traveling near his village. There is activity in the nearby woods and it has scared away all of the animals. When it comes out of the woods it is a boar covered in, what I think are black maggots. He is able to stop it before it reaches the village, but it was able to grab his arm cursing him in the process. The wise woman finds the source of the curse, an iron ball, and says the curse will kill Ashitaka. That is, it will kill him unless he can travel west and find what evil drove the boar god mad and turned it into a demon.

Very early in his travels, Ashitaka comes across several samurai attacking a village. He defends the villagers, but realizes the demon mark not only cursed him to die, but it also amplified his strength. He meets a monk, Jigo, who points him in the right direction, Irontown. The town is run by Lady Eboshi, who uses firearms to drive off the gods, including Moro, a wolf god, who lives in the sacred forest with her two pups, as well as a human girl named San. Ashitaka is able to save a couple of the men who nearly died when Maro attacked her people. For thanks, Lady Eboshi invites Ashitaka to speak with her. What we learn of Lady Eboshi is mostly positive. She did get her men to cut down the forest to mine for iron and she is intent on killing the Forest Spirit, but it is to protect her people. She even bought out the contracts of every woman working in a brothel she came across and houses and treats the lepers. That doesn't sound like the actions of a villain.

This is where we really run into spoilers. We also get to the part of the movie that makes it so good. It's a complex story with complex character. Lady Eboshi wants to kill the Forest Spirit, which will return the animals back to mindless beasts, which she thinks is for the best. Moro and San want to protect the forest, as do the other forest spirits, some of which are willing to be killed to the last of their kind in order to do so. Ashitaka wants peace. None of the main characters are truly villains and there are no truely right answers either. This certainly makes it more mature than most Hollywood fair, for instance. It is also more mature in the sense that it is not for young kids. There's a lot more gore and death than in most Hayao Miyazak's movies.

Combine the complex story with well-developed characters and of course the stunning artwork we've come to expect from Hayao Miyazak and this movie is a must have for all fans of animated movies.

The Extras

Extras begin with the film presented in storyboard form, while there are also numerous original Japenese trailers. Next up is a five-minute featurette with the English-language voice actors and crew gushing about the movie, rightfully so. Finally, there's a 20-minute look at Hayao Miyazak's stateside tour he did in 1999 to promote the movie. The technical presentation is better than the previous film with cleaner details and sharper colors. Additionally, the audio, both the Japanese and the English, are in 5.1 surround sound tracks. It isn't the most active audio track I've listened to, while the Japanese appears to be better in this regard.

The Verdict

If you are a fan of Hayao Miyazak's work and you don't own Kiki's Delivery Service or Princess Mononoke, then these two Blu-rays are must haves. Even if you already own the two-disc special edition DVDs, then the improved video quality is worth the upgrade for most people.

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Filed under: Video Review, Mononoke-hime, Kiki's Delivery Service, Kaze Tachinu, Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Yuriko Ishida, Kaoru Kobayashi, Yoji Matsuda, Akihiro Miwa, Hayao Miyazaki, Yuko Tanaka