Princess Mononoke (1997)
February 17, 2018 6:59 PM - Subscribe

On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami's curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.

Roger Ebert: Hayao Miyazaki is a great animator, and his "Princess Mononoke" is a great film. Do not allow conventional thoughts about animation to prevent you from seeing it. It tells an epic story set in medieval Japan, at the dawn of the Iron Age, when some men still lived in harmony with nature and others were trying to tame and defeat it. It is not a simplistic tale of good and evil, but the story of how humans, forest animals and nature gods all fight for their share of the new emerging order.

NYTimes: The film features a superb blend of hand-drawn cels and fluid computer-generated motion, but its look is also gratifyingly understated. Notably absent are the little anthropomorphic touches that enliven most animation involving animals; this film's prevailing attitude toward its creatures is one of respect and wonder. And in welcome contrast to the chest-thumping animated musical, this film uses the grandeur of its score (by Joe Hisaishi) gracefully to enhance the momentousness of its story. Individual scenes are most intriguing for their rich variety in a film whose human characters (ironworkers, lepers, hunters, former prostitutes and Princess Mononoke, a feral young woman reared by wolves) are as varied as the woodland fauna.

Movie Mezzanine: Princess Mononoke‘s greatest feat is in crafting a story that could’ve been so easily simple, but manages to be more morally complex than even the most epic live-action films. While the film has a very clear environmentalist message, it in no way feels pro-nature or anti-modernism. It’s not quite an anti-war film; more of a “pro-peace” one. Each of the film’s varying factions are shown with detail and Miyazaki’s typical humanism. It’s not even just as simple as man vs. forest. Even the creatures of nature are divided, with the apes getting in the way of the wolves’ progress, and the boar clan trying to act out their own agenda. The humans, meanwhile, are just as divided as the animals, with samurai, iron workers, and a group of hunters all fighting for control of both the forest and the future of mankind.

There’s so much going on that it’s a wonder that Miyazaki can keep everything so coherent and manageable without losing the film’s epic and purposefully convoluted scope. Of course, with all this complexity for the bigger picture, the film’s intimate moments feel somewhat short shrifted, as not enough time is spent between San and Ashitaka (although their parallels are still wonderfully written and thought out). This is the exact opposite of what happened with Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, a similar fantasy epic with an environmentalist bent and a man vs. nature story. That film, however, was more focused on intimate character details than the intertwining political struggles of its divided factions. Princess Mononoke, by comparison, doesn’t have a character that feels as well-rounded as Nausicaä, but its incredible attention to detail for each of the struggling societies’ needs and desires is so rich that it makes up for it.


15 Beats: Analyzing The Structure Of "Princess Mononoke"

Five reasons to celebrate Princess Mononoke – Hayao Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece turns 20

Studio Ghibli Wiki
posted by MoonOrb (8 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
While I'm talking, this one blew my mind. I'd only heard about Hayao Miyazaki and decided to go watch a non western comic (with blood on the movie poster!) on the big screen on a whim, and boy did that blow my mind.

This and Chihiro are on my permanent rewatch list, and even when I think to myself, oh no, not again, this has gotten old, it never fails to blow my mind.
posted by flamewise at 12:51 PM on February 18, 2018

The one thing which struck me about the film when I saw it (one of my first times experiencing a non-Western animated storytelling), was the motivation for most of the characters felt valid. There weren't stereotypical thinly crafted villains, bad guys for the sake of being the bad. While characters acted in ways portrayed as negative to other characters (and to the viewer - such as the killing of the god), we're not talking Disney evil villain here.

Also, on reflection, did Del Toro borrow from this film for his second Hellboy film, concerning the plant god/creature?

Beyond the storytelling, the animation was superb and the music excellent.
posted by Atreides at 7:00 AM on February 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

My mom really hit a bulls-eye with her Christmas gift to me this year of the full storyboard.

One time in college, I took a piano class for fun. We all had to pick a piece to perform at the end of the quarter, and after busting my ass every day practicing, I was able to play Ashitaka and San from memory. I'm finally going to get myself a piano soon, and I'm looking forward to learning it again.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 9:10 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

This was my first Miyazaki movie and man I was hooked immediately. The stunning visuals intertwining with the storytelling really made me see anime and animation in general in a completely different way.
posted by numaner at 10:22 AM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

As a heads up, if anyone is interested in a chance on catching this on a theater screen, Fathom Events will be having showings of Princess Mononoke as part of their Studio Ghibli Fest. Subtitled version July 23rd, 2018, and dubbed on July 22nd and 25th.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:01 PM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I saw this in a fairly empty theater on opening weekend. Adult anime (Ninja Scroll, Crying Freeman) had recently entered my purview thanks to Blockbuster Video and Night Flight. I have never been more shocked by a turn in a film when a Samurai's arms are sheered clean off by an arrow. I laughed out loud at how completely unprepared I was for that to happen.

I am forever unhappy with the ending. All of a sudden the bad lake town lady decides she is redeemed, and instead of returning home to his own village, Chichiro decides to go back to lake town? NO
posted by Brocktoon at 11:37 AM on March 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

radwolf76: "As a heads up, if anyone is interested in a chance on catching this on a theater screen, Fathom Events will be having showings of Princess Mononoke as part of their Studio Ghibli Fest. Subtitled version July 23rd, 2018, and dubbed on July 22nd and 25th."

Just saw one of those showings today and I'm glad to report that it lived up to twenty years of hype. Truly, an amazing film.
posted by octothorpe at 3:56 PM on July 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hayao Miyazaki’s Cursed Worlds - "In the complicated universe of Princess Mononoke, there is no longer room for villains such as Future Boy Conan’s power-hungry Repka, the greedy Count of The Castle of Cagliostro, or the evil Muska of Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Miyazaki instead gives his audiences the ambitious but generous Lady Eboshi and the enigmatic monk Jiko-bō, who insists that we live in a cursed world. Jiko-bō isn’t the only one who thinks this, apparently. In the darkest moments of his tale of humans battling the “wild gods” of the natural world in fourteenth-century Japan, Miyazaki seems to be saying that all the dwellers of this realm, human and nonhuman, are equally cursed. Princess Mononoke raises questions Miyazaki had implicitly asked in the Nausicaä manga: Given what humanity has done to the planet, do we have a right to keep on waging war against the nonhuman other? Is there any way that humans and nonhumans can coexist? "
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:37 PM on October 23, 2018

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