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.
First off, I LOVE Hayao Miyazaki and a lot of his movies. I fell in love with Studio Ghibli’s artwork, music, and pretty much anything about them. This is one of my all time favorite movies in fact. Just the story line is so beautiful about how man and nature are supposed to live side by side but when one fights against the other, there can be both misunderstandings and consequences. The story is open to interpretation but it feels like a timeless tale. A lot of times, I found myself believing that he could have made the story in this time frame and it
would have had the same meaning behind the story. I’m going to sort of talk about what I consider part of this Psychology of this show, and this is only what I feel is part of this. What you take from it may be different.
The story is set in the Muromachi period of Japan when there were few Emishi people. The Emishi were actually a real people in Japan much like the Native Americans were to America. They lived in harmony with the land and had different tribes slightly different cultures and so on. Not much is actually known of the Emishi like where they came from and from what I have read, there are very few groups left.
The story of this movie follows the ‘last prince’ Ashitaka. I looked around but I couldn't find much on if this was a real person or not. I don’t believe he is a real character and was more symbolic of how that tribe was dieing out. Anyway, in order to protect his village, he kills a demon that was rampaging nearby and is cursed by the demon as he died. It turns out the demon was actually a boar god who was driven crazy by an iron ball that was shot into his body. In order to save himself and protect his village further, he leaves his people and travels west never to return to his people. I see this sort of a symbolic image, the idea of the young leaving their native land, the land they were born into and the culture they were born into, and being integrated into the Japanese basic ideas. It’s similar to the way Native Americans turned away from their culture to become part of the ‘white man’s world’ here in America. Not being able to return pretty much is the same where once you learn something different, you’re never really the same person as you once were.
As Ashitaka leaves, he sees the world outside his home as different and we get to see it through his eyes as bandits sort of rampage through another village he runs into. The places we see and the world we see outside his village just ends up looking like a rather cruel and selfish place. I think that was done on purpose as it again shows everything through the eyes of a boy who grew up in a place where everyone took care of everyone else. He goes farther from his village and the areas seem to get harsher until he finds Irontown which in many ways could be like Tokyo or New York in our age. It is a place with ‘futuristic machines’, guns, iron working and so on. Actually, I think the better thought of this place would probably be Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh was pretty much known for their Steel work.
And here in lies a problem. In order to get iron sand for making their weapons and machines, they must clear down the forest near them. Unfortunately, the forest spirits don't like this, which leads to the war between nature and humans. I consider San as like the ‘hippie’ or hard core nature lovers who think they are fighting for natures rights. Without giving away the ending, the whole feel of this movie seems to be about trying to find a balance between humans destructive nature and of nature itself. And that’s what I love about this movie. It’s something that a lot of people are trying to do now as well with all the new eco friendly things we have been doing lately to protect the earth.
The artwork is astounding and that’s saying a lot since it was all cel done. Each background, character, and lighting had to be hand drawn over and over again. In fact, according to the wiki, there were over 144,000 cels and Miyazaki personally oversaw each and every one of them, including redrawing parts of 80,000 of them. That is dedication to his work guys and that is why I love his work so much. They even give them a lot of detail down to small crust near the boar’s eyes and the almost realistic backgrounds that seemed to capture your eyes with every detail. There was very little computer animation used in the show, parts like the demon flesh on Ashitaka but I never noticed. They perfectly made it seamless. In fact, I had no clue it was computer animated in those parts until I did a little research for this review and that is what surprised me more.
I only watched this show in English, and I was not sorry. I fell in love with the voices; each person did a wonderful job trying to give the characters a realistic way of talking that worked well with that character. I do have some little nit picks though that I have to do. I might have praised this show up and down but I can also see some of the ‘mistakes’ that were done in it. Billy Crudup was the voice of Ashitaka and he played the character a bit too bland I think. I understand the character is not a wild and brave guy, he is just an average guy who left his family but he just sounds a bit to shy at times. Also, even though Billy Bob Thornton was the rather good voice of an old monk named Jiko-bo, he just never really grabbed me as much as I think that character should of. I don’t know exactly if this was intended but Jiko-bo just felt like he didn't know what he wanted to be. I could never tell if he was a good guy, a bad guy, or even what he was. You would think him being a monk would mean he would be one with the spiritual side of things but then on the other hand, he seems to be against them as well. He was a very confusing character for me and though Billy did a good job conveying that confusion in what he was, I wish he would of leaned a little more to one side instead of being so in the middle.
I fell in love with this movie so much, and it is definitely a must see for anyone who loves Studio Ghibli or movies with deep meaning behind them. That’s why this gets a very high rating from me.
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