Director Hayao Miyazaki ranks among the most interesting and original figures currently working in world animation. His charming children's films My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service enjoy a rapidly growing audience in the U.S., and his brilliant Princess Mononoke, which broke box-office records in Japan, was released theatrically in the U.S. in November of 1999. Although storybook adaptations and a few Japanese volumes about individual films have appeared in the U.S., a major study of his work in English is long overdue. Miyazaki's many fans will enjoy Helen McCarthy's Hiyao Miyazaki and Mark Schilling's Princess Mononoke: The Art and Making of Japan's Most Popular Film of All Time, but neither is fully satisfactory.
Schilling's Mononoke is a translated and expanded version of The Art of Princess Mononoke, published in Japan in 1997. A respected journalist based in Tokyo, Schilling is a much more polished writer than McCarthy. His summary of Miyazaki's career is concise but informative. Scores of handsomely printed backgrounds, cel setups, and frame blowups trace the story of the film, but the reproductions of Miyazaki's own pencil-and-water color drawings are even more interesting. The layouts, landscapes, inspirational sketches, and early studies of the characters reveal the mind of a great artist at work.
Like McCarthy's Hiyao Miyazaki, Schilling's Princess Mononoke would have benefited from more careful proofreading; in a discussion of the use of computer animation techniques, for example, Schilling turns "morphing" into "morfing." --Charles Solomon [via]