When an Emishi village is attacked by a fierce demon boar, the young prince Ashitaka puts his life at stake to defend his tribe. With its dying breath, the beast curses the prince's arm, granting him demonic powers while gradually siphoning his life away. Instructed by the village elders to travel westward for a cure, Ashitaka arrives at Tatara, the Iron Town, where he finds himself embroiled in a fierce conflict: Lady Eboshi of Tatara, promoting constant deforestation, stands against Princess San and the sacred spirits of the forest, who are furious at the destruction brought by the humans. As the opposing forces of nature and mankind begin to clash in a desperate struggle for survival, Ashitaka attempts to seek harmony between the two, all the while battling the latent demon inside of him. Princess Mononoke is a tale depicting the connection of technology and nature, while showing the path to harmony that could be achieved by mutual acceptance.
In 1997 the film won Best Japanese Movie, Best Animation and Japanese Movie Fans' Choice awards during the 52nd Mainichi Film Awards. In 1998 the film won the Best Picture award during the 21st Japan Academy Awards.
Let me start by saying that I am not a Miyazaki-disciple. I do not view him as the "grandmaster of everything anime." When I say "yeah...Miyazaki is ok" I say it not out of ignorance (I've almost every one of his films) but because I personally find him to be incredibly overrated. However I find that when he has all of his stuff together, Miyazaki can destroy practically any other director out there, the man is incredibly talented, but his problem is consistency.
When I say that Princess Mononoke is his masterpiece, I mean it. It was the first film where
he finally got everything together and made a perfect anime film. Some will say that Spirited Away is better, but Mononoke is so much more powerful than that.
Story: Miyazaki does not like civilization. He stated once that he would prefer it if we went back to living in the fields, he wants to get rid of all technology. In Mononoke we see the evils of industralization and how humans are killing the earth. Humans can coexist. But many purposefully try to make themselves better and stronger. Miyazaki does an absolutely amazing job of showing that industralization, if handled the wrong way, is an incredible evil, but that it is in the hands of humans..of real people. I didn't really care all too much for the story, but I found his use of spirits to be incredible. I wasn't a huge fan of the story itself, it was a country boy goes to the city vibe...but I was a huge fan of all the political jabbings that Miyazaki was throwing. I will admit that I didn't notice it the first time around, I was told this as I watched it the second or third time, by my friend who is a Miyazaki acolyte. The beauty of the story really comes after you watch it the second or third time, as the whole movie experience is very overwhelming.
Art: I give it a 7. I am not a fan at all of Ghibli. I absolutely cannot stand their use of recycling their characters. I hate how all the women look exactly the same, and the men have the same annoying mustaches and beard combos that obscure almost their entire face. I find it lazy and incredibly detracting. I found that Ashitaka was.....boring, his design was so lacklustre that I have now just googled him to figure out exactly what he looked like. Where the art shines in this is in the spirits (gods), the creatures, and San. The designs of those characters alone redeemed the art for me. Also worth noting that in the beginning all those "snakes" were done digitally, which was, for me, impressive.
Sound: Eh....what can I say. Miyazaki films ALWAYS have great music and soundtracks. I have never found an instance in watching any of his films where I've gone "hey, the music doesn't really feel right." The music in his films are absolutely superb.
Character: I felt that the characters weren't really people so much as symbols. I felt that Ashitaka, in a certain way, was innocence. When his arm is cursed he is given a power that he cannot wield and he struggles to find a way to cure it, to get rid of the curse that now stains his arm and will kill him. Eboshi was industralization, but she was also compassion. I felt that she was the most human of all the characters, even though many people view her as an antagonist or slap her with the label of "oh..she's the evil lady." The thing I appreciate about this film is that there are only a handful of truly bad people. Everyone else is human. San is humans living with nature, but at the same time she is a beast herself. She lives in harmony with nature and has absolutely no qualms about killing to defend her land. Every character is multifaced, however if you only view the movie once you might not see the different characteristics of each character.
Enjoyment: The perfect Miyazaki film. It is deep for people who are looking at it closely, but it is also just a fun film for people who are only looking for something fun to watch. The first time I watched this (the first Miyazaki film I'd ever seen) I wasn't impressed at all. Mind you, I was probably 10 at the time, this was the first exposure to REAL anime I'd ever had. But as I watched it again recently I realized just how great of a film it really is.
However it really is accessible. You talk to almost anyone about anime and they'll probably (99% likely) know about Princess Mononoke. I know that this turns a lot of people off. Personally when someone comes up to me and says "hey, I saw Samurai Champloo and it was great, can you recommend me anything else kind of like it?" It makes my skin crawl a little bit. However, Mononoke is a staple, and is really something that you should watch, if you haven't watched it, I would definitely put it at the top of your to-watch list.
First of all I'd like to say this is my favorite Miyazaki Film. Why you might ask? Its the most powerful and thought provoking of all his films. It also communicates a message very differently since it has much darker overtones than his other lighthearted films. While they may be enjoyable and powerful in their own way they can never be compared to the stature of this film. I hold this one higher than the quality of Spirited Away. Which in my opinion is then most overrated Miyazaki/anime film. This is the one film that Miyazaki completed perfectly because it gave you that feeling that
it couldn't get any better. The film has themes that even an adult could enjoy immensely.
The story is basically can be summed up as Man's conflict against the natural world. While this may be a good summarization it also could be misleading because with Mononoke we don't get a classic good vs evil plot. The fascination I have with this film stems from the many groups that are at conflict with one another and how no one is truly the evildoer. We have nature battling with human civilization while within itself there are humans trying to topple each other. The story revolves around how self-destructive we are as human beings and how we haven't realized we are innate in nature. The movie gives us parallels of the battles that the humans face with each other while still all congregating together for that one perceived enemy in the film, nature. All in all the film tries to communicate a deep message through the story and it leaves the viewer with a lasting impression.
The characters in this film are fascinating. Particularly Ashitaka and Princess Mononoke. We follow the story through Ashitaka's experiences with the different warring groups in the story. He always is the rational character in the movie and he openly tries to correct the irrationalities the other characters have. he serves as the medium which communicates the overall story and how meaningless the conflict can be found to be. He is extremely brave and he usually gets himself in dangerous situations in order to show the others their incorrect ways. Princess Mononoke is another intricately created character which is full of mystery. She seems to detest fellow humans for their selfish egotism and hostility towards earth and its inhabitants. Lady Eboshi is the a character some may mistakenly confuse for the villain of the movie. I think this would be more prevalent with western viewers like myself. The reason for this is they might seem to mistake her as another modern day oil baron except she is much more than that. Her main goal is to protect her people, particularly the other women who live in the city. She feels in order to do this She has to pursue the industrialization of her city in order to protect her people from the samurais and beasts of nature.
In the animation department this is a Studio Ghibli film so you obviously will get an amazing experience visually at least. With this film though I feel the animation captures the essence of nature. It does this with the various beasts and mystical characters Miyazaki created. There are even gods in this movie which helps bring about the feeling that nature is alive. You will enjoy the action sequences in this movie. Especially the battles between Lady Eboshi and Princess Mononoke. I also think the use of CGI in this film was done well and this is coming from someone who despises CGI.
The music in this movie is beautiful. Its the kind that can put you in a trance that you wouldn't want to ever wake up from. Especially the main theme song. A lot of the music puts you in the right mood for the film. Especially the more darker music which is used during scenes with the beasts of nature. The battle scenes also have plesant sounds and the sword fights don't contain the same sword clashing sound *cough Nausicaa cough*.
Anyways, I recommend this film because its Miyazaki's Masterpiece.
For each new Studio Ghibli film I watch, I just get more and more convinced that they are the best animation movie studio out there. Princess Mononoke is by no means an exception.
Ashitaka, the last prince of a people called the Enishi, gets cursed while fighting a demon, and sets out on a journey to get rid of the curse, which can be lethal. He soon hears rumors of a forest spirit that can give and take away life, and sets out to find it. However, he soon finds himself in the middle of a fight between humans and animals, and he soon gets to
know of a girl called Princess Mononoke, who has sided with the animals.
The way the story is presented makes it really enjoyable, as we get to see how various humans and animals view the ongoing fight. Different humans have different viewpoints, different animals have different viewpoints, and it makes it so that part of what they think is right, but they're also wrong about things. In the middle we have Ashitaka, who is the only one looking for a peaceful resolution to this struggle. It's mainly the theme of destroying nature that's mainly being touched upon, a theme I feel is something everyone should think about.
The small love story you that's presented is what some would call forced. At least I do. I didn't quite like the way in which it was presented, but different persons have different opinions. It was okay enough though, but nothing that really placed itself in my heart. Maybe they just didn't do enough with it. But it's okay, since the focus of this movie is other things than love.
As expected of Studio Ghibli, the visuals are stunning, especially when you think about the movie's age (8 years). With its massive budget of 2,4 billion yen, what else is there to expect anyway? The environments are drawn extremely beautifully, be it mountains, lakes, villages, trees or underbrush. Sometimes I just forgot the movie because of the stunning environments. Thank heavens for rewinding! The character motions are extremely fluid and lifelike, and with a total of 144 000 cels during the movie, you couldn't expect anything less (I even heard that Miyazaki re-drew quite a lot of them himself). I got quite surprised when I learned that they used CGI in the movie; I couldn't spot it at all. That again serves to prove the quality of it. The character designs are typical Studio Ghibli-ish, so you'll know what to expect in that department if you've watched a Studio Ghibli film.
The music is perfectly in tune with the movie, giving that calm, mysterious kind of feeling that you'll expect when in a forest where magical creatures are as normal as insects. But ti doesn't do anything more than that, really.
Overall, Princess Mononoke is a film that you might enjoy the most for its stunning natural environments; they almost overshadow the plot. But all the different factions, the different viewpoints in the fight, and last but definitely not least, the theme of destroying nature are all something that everyone should give a thought. Especially the latter.
Warning: This review may contain significant plot spoilers and is really more intended for the thought and entertainment of those who have already watched the movie.
For a while now I've been hearing rave reviews about Hayao Miyazaki's films. He certainly has an impressive track record, having created the three most popular animated movies in Japan. Apparently his anime work is greeted with positive reception everywhere, for this movie was placed in Roger Ebert's own top ten favorite movies for 1999. It's about time I finally watched it for myself, but it's left me with a strange aftertaste, and I'll tell you why.
The movie opens with
a dramatic scene that shows off the superior animation quality in the form of a worm-covered boar demon. The main character and hero of the movie, Ashitaka, is introduced. He makes short work of the beast as it advances on his home village, but not without being cursed himself. Afterwards the village leader explains to him that he must leave forever because the curse is going to agonizingly rip through his soul, eliminating every remnant of his being before killing him shortly after. In her own words he is now completely dead to all of them, and may god be with him as he leaves to the West on some hopeless quest for self justification. Ashitaka replies simply, showing no fear at all, leaving in what appears to be some kind of manly, stoic demeanor. He wouldn't have even said goodbye to his family if it weren't for his younger sister seeking him out as he rides away into the night.
Frankly, Ashitaka is one of the most brick-like characters I have ever watched. It takes well over half the movie for him to display any kind of feelings at all. Quiet, brooding, and mysterious characters are always great side additions to someone a little more exciting, but Ashitaka isn't there to complement anyone. He is the main character, and his empty lack of reflection on everything that happens in the story ended up encouraging my own empty lack of reflection. However, the problems don't end there. The other half of his personality is being Mr. Perfect. Mr. Perfect never explains what he's doing or why he's doing it, but he always resolves every situation without any sort of doubt or difficulty. He is the walking antithesis of conflict. In fact all his presence ever really does is delay some sort of inevitable action. This character doesn't feel like he should be the focus of anything. He's flawless and emotionless and what's left is this feeling that the story might have been better off without him. The main events of the movie are set in motion and concluded without his significant involvement. The only thing that's changed by his presence is that two characters who are destined to kill each other are forced to wait a little longer.
This movie could have been a lot more enjoyable if the focus was on someone else. It's like every character besides Ashitaka is interesting and has some kind of inner conflict or apparent goal. Granted, all of the characters are as flat as a slab of concrete, but at least some of them could drive the story somewhere. Perhaps the story could have followed San, the savage human girl raised by monstrous, intelligent wolves. Or maybe it could have focused on Lady Eboshi, a woman hell bent on destroying an entire magical forest to advance her manufacturing of advanced guns designed by lepers, all so she can conquer Japan and, presumably, the rest of the world. Even Jigo could make a more interesting story as an undercover agent posing as a monk who, ironically, is tasked with killing gods.
Unfortunately, despite these exciting events, this leads into my other complaint: This story is random and full of holes. I'm picky about plot. When someone tells me that a movie is great I expect some kind of reasoning for the events that take place within. As the movie progressed I found everything increasingly less believable. No, I don't mean believable as in magic and gods; I mean believable as in characters and actions are motivated by some kind of evidence. Early in the movie Mr. Perfect pays for a bag of rice with a gold nugget, impressing everyone in the town he's passing through. Why would someone from a tiny village that was exiled from the Japanese empire be sporting gold, and why wasn't it ever mentioned later on? Is it just a stab to emphasize Ashitaka's flawlessness? The lying monk whose job is to kill the forest spirit, a powerful and benevolent god, was asked to do so by the emperor. Why? To kill the forest? Why does everyone want to destroy the forest to begin with? For natural resources? While that does make a little bit of sense, it's never clearly confirmed or denied. Instead you're left with this epic battle between Iron Town and nature in which everything is destroyed.
The entire movie is comprised of seemingly random events that were all designed for the purpose of making it to the end and looking really dramatic along the way. I mean really, LEPERS are designing Lady Eboshi's guns? One second Ashitaka displays freakish demonic strength and the next he's out cold for days. The very climax of the movie came from absolutely nowhere! Upon being beheaded, the benevolent holy forest spirit god whatever who disapproves of war turns into a giant raging blob of doom that indiscriminately kills everything in it's path. Mr. Perfect returns its head so it can become normal again, but it would have happened about thirty seconds later without his help anyways. Iron Town and the forest are both leveled, but that's O.K. because the revival of the forest spirit plants new seedlings so it can all grow again. San leaves Ashitaka because she can “never forgive the humans for what they have done,” and Lady Eboshi vows to rebuild Iron Town “even better than before.”
Basically what I'm trying to say is that after everything that happens its all back to square one. Perhaps in the future Ashitaka convinces everyone to live in harmonious peace, but it doesn't matter because it didn't happen in this movie. I was left with a feeling that the story's net change was zero, and I hate watching anime that ends this way. Sure, people died and stuff got trashed, but there is no PLOT ADVANCEMENT! Every time I see a story that ends this way (like Trigun, for example) it makes me want to smash my head into my computer monitor until I faint. But I guess the visuals were great, and the music too: top notch for this medium! Great really, it's so great! If you like Naruto or Inuyasha or Death Note or whatever then this movie is probably some kind of godsend. Really, I think you should watch it and then you should watch everything else created by Miyazaki and demand more and more and more and more and more and more! There's nothing like endless waves of mediocrity constantly pumping out of the studios to keep us all entertained. Who cares about little details when we can just keep getting more of it?!?! We say screw quality because that takes TOO LONG. Quick somebody get me more anime that I can inject into my veins and get high on big shiny eyes, impossibly attractive characters, and cool demons and shit FUCK YEAH!
-You can read all my non anime related reviews at my blog: alexanderzero.wordpress.com
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