Genre: Drama, Animation
Cast: Minnie Driver, Gillian Anderson, Claire Danes
Synopsis: A lone warrior gets cursed by a mystical boar monster. He travels to find a cure and ends up in the middle of a war between the forest Gods and the humans who consume the forest’s resources.
Princess Mononoke is something of an anomaly in the Studio Ghibli catalogue in that it’s a film that isn’t catered towards children. Although Ghibli films don’t patronize their audiences, pretty much all of the films, even the ones with dark and macabre elements, still maintain a child-like fancy to them. Princess Mononoke is one film, however, that functions as a mature drama and it definitely showcases the studio’s talents in both animation and story development.
The film follows a man by the name of Ashitaka who is a warrior in his small and rural village circa 1400 AD. After killing a demon boar he becomes infected by its curse. He then travels the land looking for a cure and becomes the centerpiece of a clash between the forest Gods and humans, who represent a more urban and wealthy Japan. The story can be complex in places but it’s never too much of a problem if you allow yourself to become absorbed in the lush animation, which is pretty much a staple of every Ghibli movie. The animation in this movie is probably the best of any Ghibli movie because it has a very surreal and detailed sense of realism to it even though the film deals with fantastical subject matter and Gods like a giant wolf or a deer with a human face on it. These Gods become frighteningly real if you’re high and at times it’s easy to forget that you’re actually watching an animated movie.
Another thing that I really appreciated about this movie is that it blurs the lines between good and evil and, because of that, there isn’t really a villain in the movie. The film presents the positives and negatives of each side. The forest is shown to be serene and beautiful, idealizing a point in Japan’s history that was rural and undeveloped, but the modern towns aren’t a hotbed of evil and sin either as Lady Eboshi, the ruler of Iron Town, is a philanthropic entrepreneur who cares about the people she helps…and she has some kick ass fashions. Lady Eboshi is easily the best character in the movie because she has a complexity to her. She is neither a hero nor a villain. She is simply an opportunist who does what she can to improve the lives of those around her. The blurred lines ultimately benefit the movie because they supply the film with its central theme: the world is filled with opposing sides whether it’s rural vs. urban, rich vs. poor, or tradition vs. adaptation but, if you look closely, the differences aren’t so stark. There is always room to compromise and learn from one another’s experiences. It’s a touching message that is perfectly conveyed through Ashitaka’s struggles.
- Beautiful animation, especially the scenes with the deer God.
- Challenging story that you can really sink your teeth into.
- The English voice actors are surprisingly well cast. Gillian Anderson is brilliant as the wolf God but Minnie Driver, Claire Danes, and Billy Crudup are also very good.
- BITCH FIGHT!!!
- The story can feel too complex at times and it is a very long movie.
This film is an excellent addition to the Ghibli catalogue and everyone should watch it at least once. It’s a very versatile movie and I believe it will work well with all sorts of different strains and highs. Those who prefer sativas can enjoy the animation whereas those who prefer indicas can allow themselves to be enveloped in the story. I’ll deduct a point because the movie does drag on for a bit but that’s the only real negative that I can think of.