Princess Mononoke Subbed
Perhaps I mentioned above that I have only watched the Ghibli standards dubbed. I decided that I need to re-watch them all subbed to see the difference, and to give my opinion properly on this deep, abiding issue. As I watch each one, I will give my review to give a true, balanced opinion.
Princess Mononoke dubs had one major problem: Billy Bob Thorton as the monk working for the emperor. He was too obvious, too in-your-face celebrity. And the tone he set didn't seem to match the character. The Japanese voice was that kind of irritating comedic actor often found in anime, but at least he was part of the cast. BBT stood out like a sore thumb.
But, it turns out, that was the least of the dubs problems. The real issue was the translation of the script that not only changed things, but anglicized them. I knew already that Mononoke was set in a samurai time, but it never really felt like a samurai movie. The dubs created some never-world Japan in which Japanese cultural touchstones didn't exist. The subbed Mononoke is very much set in a centuries-old Japan, despite it being some Shinto alternative fantasy world. With the subs I would certainly have included Mononoke in my samurai movie marathon (oh, how I wish I had!), as the themes of true nobility and restrained violence are included there. Subbed Mononoke is even more a fantasy with political ramifications, because it is much more connected to a real, historical context.
The Japanese voices were of a type with Japanese acting that I'm familiar. There were jokesters, the noble women and the hero. They are all variations of the types, as the priest jokester was also the motivating force, and the women were noble, but one-sided. The hero is an uber-hero, saving all without regard to their alignment or loyalty. But since these Japanese types were easy to determine with the Japanese actors, it was easier to see their significance and differences.
I'm thinking I'm gunna like this occasional marathon. It will give new life to my viewing of my Ghibli favorites.