Princess Mononoke Review

Princess Mononoke is a Studio Ghibli film released in 1997 and directed by acclaimed anime director Hayao Miyazaki, if you haven’t heard of him you should wipe yourself from existence. Previous works consist of, Lupin The 3rd Castle of Cagliostro, Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky Laputa, My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, The Wind Rises (his last feature, though there is talk about a new one) and probably his most famous work to date, Spirited Away, it won an Academy Award on Best Animated Feature in 2003, as Ghibli movies had been officially distributed to western audiences by Disney up until recently where Gkids distributed the last few. Yeah, sad to say, but ever since When Marnie Was There in 2014, Ghibli have been bankrupt. I forgot to mention that Hayao Miyazaki also co-founded Studio Ghibli with the late Isao Takahata. He himself has got a reputation in the business, with his most famous film being Grave of the Fireflies, my dad’s favourite animated film ever.

I will be touching on spoilers, you have been warned.

Ashitaka is a young prince who, after his life-altering confrontation with a boar that has been consumed by his own hatred, has been cursed and is leading himself down the path where he would rise to his fate. What follows is not a tale of good and evil, but a look into all the sides in a war with “eyes unclouded by hatred”. Miyazaki, through a fantastical lens, has crafted a beautiful motion picture which is not only an achievement in film, but one in storytelling. Thoroughly, has he given us a look into the journey of a young man who has got himself entangled and caught in the middle of a war where right or wrong does not exist and he brings it upon himself to make peace from all this.

Either you go into this movie and have conflicting emotions of the characters throughout the whole run time, or you go in knowing exactly what it’s trying to do. Like I have mentioned before, there is no right side or bad side, but rather a clash of different viewpoints, that do end up with real-life consequences, such as death or being badly injured. Every character is given an understandable motive and is either too rash or proud to accept peace or has this delusion of war being the only way.

The forest creatures plan to rid the world of humans and the humans plan to destroy the forest and expand. The humans also plan to chop off the head of the forest spirit, the giver and taker of life. To be specific, Lady Eboshi plans to take the forest spirits head. She seeks for the security of the inhabitants of Irontown, where she rules, and kills to do so. She represents the idea of innovation and the dangers of it. The forest spirits grow angrier. Within them is a human raised by a wolf god thingy, San.

San is supposed to be Princess Mononoke, which translates to princess of vengeful spirits. She is what brings hope to Ashitaka, her existent should help the world see light. Lady Eboshi mentions of her being human once and for all after the wiping out of forest creatures. Ashitaka wishes for her to be like him, rid of all hatred and a yearning for peace, because she is so close to the forest creatures, maybe they can settle something. Though a futile attempt, it drives the plot forward to other elements where the outcome is met, but at a steep cost. Anyways, during this ordeal, a sort of romance sparks between them, a really slow one, and quite quiet.

Now that we have established the general elements of the synopsis, we can move to the technical aspects of this film.

The animation is some of Ghibli’s most cleanest, well it looks like a regular Ghibli film, which is definitely a good thing, their films are beautiful. The movie does look more of a spectacle than the earlier works, such as Porco Rosso and Kiki’s Delivery Service, which aren’t these big adventures but more quiet little stories. One thing that’s really nice are the hand to hand combat scene, it’s cool to see Ghibli handle these scenes, and as expected, they are smooth and fast and just really pretty to look at. I am a huge fan of action sakuga (the money shots of animation). I personally think that Yutaka Nakamura is one of the greatest animators working today. There are a lot of explosions, they look really good. The animation is so detailed that every piece of shrapnel when a wooden roof is shot at with a cannon is carefully drawn. Ghibli are really masters of their crafts, even if they’re animating on the threes, they still look beautiful.

The backgrounds are absolutely gorgeous. Big sweeping canvases of greenery, really embracing nature, exactly what some of the characters want to get rid of, kind of adds more than something nice to look at to the movie.

It’s just a really beautiful movie.

Now I’ve only watched this movie in the sub once and the dub four times. The dub is really good, I mean Disney did it so it must be good. Here’s something that might surprise you, Neil Gaiman localised this film for the west. I think that’s really cool, so cool. The dub, as expected, is amazing. We got Billy Crudup playing Ashitaka, Billy Bob Thornton playing Jigo, Minnie Driver playing Lady Eboshi, Claire Daines playing San and John DiMaggio playing Gonza.

In the dub, San, at first, sounds like a really moody teenager that no one seems to understand. Doesn’t really add anything I just wanted to point it out. She does sound different as the movie goes along.

Ashitaka sounds like he’s holding a shit halfway through his arsehole throughout the whole movie, trying not to lose his focus.

I forgot to mention but, wait for it….. Keith David plays Okkoto the Boar god. I fucking love Keith David, with his “Were it so easy”, That’s him as the Arbiter by the way. Halo is the best game ever and no one can make me call it Combat Evolved, it says Halo so Imma call it Halo.

The music for this film, oh my god the music for this film is like being taken on an adventure where you die the happiest death ever. It’s so sweet yet sounds like a warning of something dangerous that will happen, like it’s telling a great tale of a great sacrifice, where our hero dies. That was a big tangent, the music is good.

I guess what the film is trying to do is be a great time and a reminder that everyone thinks they’re in the right and it’s up to us to sympathise and make things right for everyone. Here’s a summary for dumb dumbs, if you are going to start a war, don’t. If you have to start a war, you probably don’t. War is bad, why it’s bad is too complicated for you to understand. That wasn’t an insult to anyone, I’m just not a fun person.

I realise that I have to write more stuff on things I don’t like. I just can’t think of anything that I would enjoy writing a lot about. I like Avatar TLAB, but I hate The Last AirBender. I might review that next.

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