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Double Feature: PRINCESS MONONOKE (MONONOKE-HIME), 1997, GKIDS, 134 min. 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. In Japanese with English subtitles.
POM POKO, 1994, Studio Ghibli, 119 min. Dir. Isao Takahata. In this brilliant and often overlooked Studio Ghibli masterpiece, the forests are filled with groups of magical tanuki, mischievous raccoon-like animals from Japanese folklore, which are capable of shape-shifting from their standard raccoon form to practically any object. The tanuki spend their days playing idly in the hillsides and squabbling over food – until the construction of a huge new Tokyo suburb clears the nearby forest and threatens their way of life. In an effort to defend their home, the tanuki learn to transform into humans and start playing tricks to make the workers think the construction site is haunted, ending in a spectacular night-time spirit parade, with thousands of ghosts, dragons and other magical creatures descending on the city, in an abundance of fantastical characters that would not be matched onscreen by Studio Ghibli until SPIRITED AWAY. In Japanese with English subtitles.