Mencius said: "The forests were once lovely on Ox Mountain. But as they were near a great city, axes cleared them little by little. Now there's nothing left of their beauty. They rest day and night, rain and dew falling in plenty, and there's no lack of fresh sprouts. But people graze oxen and sheep there, so the mountain is stripped bare. When people see how bare it is, they think that's all the potential it has. But does that mean this is the nature of Ox Mountain?

Without the heart of Humanity and Duty alive in us, how can we be human? When we abandon this noble heart, its like cutting those forests: a few axe blows each day, and pretty soon there's nothing left. Then you can rest day and night in the clarity of morning's healing chi - but the values that make you human keep thinning away. All day long you're tangled in your life. If these tangles keep up day after day, even the clarity of night's healing chi isn't enough to preserve you. And if the clarity of night's healing chi isn't enough to preserve you, you aren't much different from an animal. When people see you like an animal, they think that's all the potential you have. But does that mean this is the human constitution?

With proper sustenance, anything will grow; and without proper sustenance, anything will fade away. Confucius said: Embrace it and it endures. Forsake it and it dies. It comes and goes without warning, and no one knows its route. He was speaking of the heart."

(XI.8)

A few quick notes on the film; Director Hayao Miyazaki is a renowned animation director in both Japan and the U.S. Mononoke, released in 1997, quickly became the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time. It spent eight months (!) in theaters, and grossed $150 million in a country with only a tenth of the theaters that the U.S. has.

The film itself was in development as early as 1980, when Miyazaki began to sketch out the original character for San. The underlying man-versus-nature theme of Mononoke also permeated an earlier Miyazaki film, Nausicaa. However, he was still intent on creating a film with Mononoke's character, and in 1994, production on Mononoke Hime began.

Part of the reason for the film's success was it's 'genre-busting' appeal. Unlike most period dramas, he gave his samurai and geishas deeper and more human characterizations.

Mononoke was Studio Ghibli's first computer-animated film, and so they spent 19.2 million dollars on the necessary hardware and software to produce it. Miyazaki himself took a hand personally in 80,000 (!) cels over the course of the movie.

The grueling workload and the huge expense paid off, though, as Mononoke is widely considered to be the film of the decade.

--Research source: "Princess Mononoke: The Art and Making of Japan's Most Popular Film of All Time"

Highly recommended anime feature film released in the USA by Miramax. Unlike most post-modern anime this one is set in 15th century Japan.

A young prince, Ashitaka, is forced to leave his isolated villiage after protecting it from a forest god-turned-demon who left a curse upon his right arm as a mark of it's hatred toward mankind. In his travels to find a cure he becomes engaged in a conflict between man and nature. There he meets San, the wolf-princess, who is determined to drive the humans from the forest and the Lady Eboshi who runs Irontown.

Animation is top quality, as are the musical score and American voice-acting by Claire Danes, Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver and Gillian Anderson. The plot is quite extraordinary as there are no clear-cut (no pun intended) hero or villian since animator Hayao Miyazaki draws out both sides of the argument of nature versus science.

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