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studio ghibli's ‘princess mononoke’ is returning to theaters on hayao miyazaki’s birthday

To celebrate its 20th anniversary and its creator’s 76th birthday, the animated historical epic is charging back into cinemas.

by Emily Manning
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Dec 5 2016, 9:40pm

Right now, Studio Ghibli fans in over 400 theaters around America are reliving the Japanese animation studio's most magical offering, Spirited Away. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, an English language version of the highest grossing film in Japanese history (yup, it beat Titanic) screened in cinemas yesterday. Today, the original Japanese language version of Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece is on view. According to the re-release's organizers, Fathom Events, Spirited Away's return was met with such enthusiasm, the company will stage another Studio Ghibli commemorative screening next month. This time, Miyazaki's fierce classic Princess Mononoke is returning to theaters.

Similarly to Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke's return is a two-day event. The first screening, on January 5, presents an English language dubbed version of the film, featuring an A-list roster of voice actors: Gillian Anderson, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Billy Bob Thornton (seriously). On January 9, it will be shown in the original Japanese with English subtitles. Though the film was not released in the United States until 1999, it debuted to critical and commercial acclaim in its native Japan in the summer of 1997. So next month's screenings don't perfectly coincide with its 20th anniversary — July 12, 1997 — but do align with Miyazaki's 76th birthday, on January 5. 

Unlike many of Studio Ghibli's greatest hits — among them My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Spirited Away — Princess Mononoke does not take place in the present day. It's a historical epic set in Japan's Muromachi period, which spanned between the 14th and 16th centuries. Yet similar to one of Japan's most popular anime films of the moment — Your Name, a story of body-swapping teens informed by Tokyo's 2011 earthquake — Princess Mononoke does powerfully probe environmental themes.

This week's Spirited Away screenings also marked the North American premiere of Ghiblies: Episode 2, a 25-minute short film that follows Studio Ghibli's incredibly talented team of animators as they dream up new characters. Similarly, Princess Mononoke's theatrical return will include a special treat for American anime super fans: a screening of a music video Miyazaki directed in 1995 for Japanese rock duo Chage & Aska. It, like Ghiblies: Episode 2, has never before been released in North America.

"Twenty years after its release, Princess Mononoke remains an undisputed animated triumph and one of the most thrilling adventures ever produced," Eric Beckman of GKIDS, the organization presenting Princess Mononoke with Fathom Events, told IndieWire. "It's also a fitting way to celebrate Miyazaki's birthday as we remind ourselves of the cinematic gifts he has given audiences over the years."

A full list of participating theaters and tickets to both screenings are available here.

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Text Emily Manning