My last Princess Mononoke post briefly mentioned the Miramax DVD that was released here in the US, and I wanted to show some examples of how that released compared to other versions, particularly the Region 2 Ghibli ga Ippai disc from Japan from my library.
It should be noted that the Miramax DVD is getting long in the tooth, and usually by this point there would be one or two major reissues, with improved picture quality and loads of extras. It was a good release by the standards of its time. And Miramax should be thanked for delaying their release in order to include English subtitles, in response to the fans.
My only major beef with the R1 Mononoke is the picture quality itself. The picture is overly glossed and bleached out. You may not even notice this if you have never seen another version to compare it against. I discovered this myself when I saw a film print of Mononoke at the Oak Street Cinema in Minneapolis. The difference between the 35mm film and the DVD was shocking.
Here are a pair of examples for you to judge. The first screenshot is from the R1 Miramax. The second screenshot comes from the UK R2 disc, which looks the same as the Japanese R2 Ghibli disc.
As you can see from this shot, the color on the Miramax DVD is much more white, much brighter. The contrast has been raised notably as well. The second shot is how the movie really looks. The color tones are earthier, dirtier. This is not a black-and-white story with an easily identifiable hero and villain; Mononoke is drenched in shades of grey, surrounded by mud and dirt and rivers and trees. We see this mood reflected in Michiyo Yasuda's color scheme.
This second pair does a better job in showing the light and colors. The colors on the film print are warmer, easier on the eyes, and better suited to natural light and shadow. The Miramax version, again, is very bleached out, and it becomes fatiguing to the eyes. It's much closer to the cheap, computer lighting and over-contrasted lighting of today's anime. I've long suspected this was why I rarely touched my DVD all those years ago. It's really hard on my eyes.
If you decide to import the Japanese DVD, expect to spend a lot of money. Thanks to the declining US Dollar, a Ghibli ga Ippai release will cost just over $50. Even a few years ago, the exchange rate was pretty much 100Yen = $1. But the picture quality is clearly worth the effort, and the three-disc set includes storyboards and eight (!) audio soundtracks, including the Miramax dub.