Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Princess Mononoke: The First Story - Hayao Miyazaki

Summary: An oversized, lavishly illustrated storybook featuring original watercolor art by legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki!

This is the original Princess Mononoke story, created by Hayao Miyazaki in 1980 while he was first conceptualizing the landmark animated film that would be released to universal acclaim seventeen years later. As an initial version of the tale, it offers a new and different perspective from the final version presented in the film. After a long, exhausting war, a samurai lost in a forest encounters a giant wildcat--a mononoke. The beast saves his life, but at the price of his daughter's hand in marriage... (Summary and image from

My Review: If you're familiar with the wondrous films of Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, you'll also be familiar with the title of Princess Mononoke (which is my personal favorite film of his repertoire, if not one of my all time favorite films in general).  However, this book has nothing in common with the film of the same name, but is wholly worthwhile just the same.

Years ago, Miyazaki was working on the idea for a new film, and while the Princess Mononoke we received is an unrivaled story about raging gods and humans, this is more of a simple tale, akin to Beauty and the Beast.  For one reason or another, the film never came into play (though the mononoke character is clearly a forerunner of Miyazaki's Totoro), so I'm grateful it was bound into a storybook.

Like Beauty and the Beast, this story has a monster and the girl who tames him, though with a different, Japanese twist, including a Samurai father possessed by a demon. I liked seeing this first pass at a story, complete with gorgeous art by Miyazaki himself, often no more than a quick scribble dashed with watercolor, but so vibrantly full of life.

Whether or not you know Miyazaki, this is a fine book for any collection, with a story of redemption and friendship filled with a heap of lovely illustrations, telling a fun little tale that anyone will enjoy.

My rating: Four stars

For the sensitive reader: The father, as mentioned before, becomes possessed by a demon, and this could be a trifle scary for some younger children.

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