Princess Mononoke (1997): A Fairy Tale about Humanity and Nature

Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke

“He is life itself. He isn’t dead, San. He is here with us now, telling us, it’s time for both of us to live.”

-Prince Ashitaka “Princess Mononoke”

First, I have to admit that Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favorite directors. He tends to choose great themes for his movies that always answer the “So what?” Question as well as being beautifully animated with fully realized characters. This one is truly one of his classics for a reason. Now to go into the reasons why.

Pros – The characters are all fully realized…even those who would be viewed as Antagonists like the leader of Irontown, the Hunter or the Wolves. All of them have motivations that are realistic and are following the basic tenant of survival while dealing with their own flaws of character.

Another pro is the animation which is flawless and beautiful. It is fairy tale like in how surreal it is which plays into the narrator’s introduction which says this is a world of Gods and Demons living with man. It is a mythical place and the animation style captures it perfectly.

The story is another pro, the dialogue is real and everything that happens has consequences. There is no magic reset button and all characters who do not perish grow from the events they experienced. It also turns a romance trope of the main protagonists must hook up on it’s head. It shows that you can be of opposite genders, be attracted to one another and still remain friends without it becoming romantic. The message the story tells is also one that is still real today. If we destroy the Earth we will destroy ourselves. We need it to live and without it we will be destroyed.

Okay – The soundtrack. I thought “Spirited Away” and “Porco Rosso” (the other Miyazaki films I’ve watched, had better soundtracks. The soundtrack worked, it just wasn’t memorable, which is why it is in the okay area.

Con – The story actually. The movie starts out pretty slow and I found myself wishing Miyazaki had made this a mini-series. There are so many different characters and factions that even though they were explored as well as they could be with the time restraints of a film, were not explored enough. I wanted to see more of the politics of Irontown vs The Emperor and the how the factions of spirits interacted with one another and the relationship between forests and Mononoke’s adopted family vs biological family, and what about the Prince’s village…they were destroyed by the Emperor in the past but survived? Tell me more. This is the only con I really found since both the Prince and Princess save one another throughout the film. It isn’t sexist and treats all the characters with respect.

I would highly recommend this film. I give a 8.75 / 10. Not my favorite Miyazaki film, but definitely one of my favorite films after today.

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