Hayao Miyazaki’s Best Anime Would Be Completely Different If It Weren’t For… Neil Gaiman
The author fought with Harvey Weinstein for the authenticity of the anime.
- Princess Mononoke became a huge hit in Japan, which ensured its release in the US.
- The Miramax studio planned to make significant changes to the anime, shortening the running time to make the project simpler and more entertaining.
- Neil Gaiman was hired to translate and adapt the script, but he did not follow the studio's instructions to simplify the anime's characters and plot.
- Thanks to Gaiman, Hayao Miyazaki 's message was not altered, and viewers were able to see the anime as the creator intended.
Princess Mononoke is one of the major masterpieces of Japanese animation that marked the beginning of a new era in the genre. The film premiered in 1997 to unprecedented commercial success in Japan and attracted the attention of Western publishers. As a result, Princess Mononoke became one of the first experiences of showing a full-length anime on movie screens in the US and Europe.
Princess Mononoke Is Full of References to Japanese Culture
This fact is particularly interesting because, unlike Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind or Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke is a work aimed primarily at a Japanese audience and is filled with elements of national culture, mythology, and history.
The production of Princess Mononoke was not an easy one. The overworked crew would miss deadlines, and eventually, they had to hire people from other studios. During the work, Miyazaki himself experienced pain in his wrist and had difficulty drawing.
Miramax Planned to Do a Lot of Editing on Princess Mononoke
Work on Mononoke continued in the US as the Miramax studio, then headed by the infamous Harvey Weinstein, prepared to release the anime. Miyazaki's experience with the American release of his work was not the most encouraging – Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was heavily edited and entire parts were cut from the anime to make the project a simpler and more entertaining spectacle.
Would Princess Mononoke have suffered the same fate? Oh yes — if it weren't for Neil Gaiman.
Neil Gaiman Saved Princess Mononoke From Drastic Changes
Neil Gaiman was hired to translate and adapt the anime's plot to make it more accessible to Western audiences. Little did Weinstein know that Gaiman would not follow the studio's lead and completely remake the original work, but would instead defend the authenticity of Miyazaki's project.
Of course, Gaiman had to simplify some aspects of the original movie, but he should be thanked for the fact that we saw Princess Mononoke exactly as the author intended. For example, Neil refused to translate the word "samurai" as "warrior" at the studio's request. In addition, Weinstein wanted to cut the anime's running time by as much as 20 minutes, which Gaiman prevented him from doing.
In Princess Mononoke, as in many of Miyazaki's other works, there are no completely bad or good characters, which contradicted the studio's policy. In Hollywood animation, it was always clear – this character is the villain, and this character is the hero. So the studio executives wanted to sanitize some of the characters to fit into the black and white concepts, which Neil Gaiman didn’t allow to do.