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Princess Mononoke: The First Story Book Review

Princess Mononoke- The First Story Book

“Princess Mononoke: The First Story” is a must have for Miyazaki devotees.

Before it became an acclaimed feature film in 1997, “Princess Mononoke” started out as an entirely different story way back in 1980. Now, thanks to Viz Media, that original story (complete with hand drawn pictures) has been released in a new oversized hardcover book which is presented in a sort of children’s book fashion.

The story: After being on the losing side of a battle, a samurai warrior becomes lost in woods. While roaming the forest, he happens upon a dwelling filled with food where he proceeds to stuff his face. The warrior soon discovers that the home belongs to a large wildcat (Mononoke) that resembles a Totoro and Catbus. With his life in danger, the samurai begs for his life and offers up one his 3 daughters to be married to Mononoke. The story cuts to the samurai coming home to his wife and 3 daughters who are outraged by the deal he made. Matters become further complicated as the enemy approaches their own home. At this point in time, an evil demon spirit (Onigawara) approaches the samurai in order to make him a deal to become stronger and victorious in battle. The samurai accepts the deal and is given what he was promised.

Meanwhile, as part of the original deal, one of the samurai’s daughters goes away with the Mononoke, but she becomes distraught by her father’s current state. Wanting her father to be human again, she and Mononoke go on a quest together to try and make this a reality. There’s a bit more to the story than that, but I don’t want to spoil the final act.

Written and drawn by Hayao Miyazaki, “Princess Mononoke: The First Story” is an interesting piece of Miyazaki history. While the story we eventually see in the feature film version is much more polished and rich, this 1980 “Beauty and the Beast” esque version still proves to be an engaging story about good, evil, and redemption. Yes, it’s a bit rough and could have been more developed, but it’s fun to compare and contrast the two tales and see how this story influenced Miyazaki’s other work.

As for the watercolor drawings, they may be unfinished sketch work, but they’re positively brimming with imagination and life. It’s a real testament to Miyazaki’s creative genius when even his filed away work still elicits such emotion and wonder.

Note: There is an afterword by Miyazaki in which he talks about his career and art, story influences, and concept sketches.

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December 11, 2014 - Posted by | Book review | ,

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