Princess Mononoke (original title: Mononoke-Hime ) was produced and released in Japan in 1997 and was released in Canada in November 1999. This ecology-themed epic was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the famous Japanese film director, animator, manga artist and screenwriter. It is in the Animation / Adventure / Fantasy genre, and the voice casts include Yôji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida and Yûko Tanaka. Princess Mononoke shows a mystical battle between Animal Gods of the forest and humans.
The story happened in an Emishi village during Japan’s Muromachi Period in the 14th century. The young Ashitaka gets cursed by a fatal infection after a demonic wild boar attacks him in the village. He then travels to the west to find the deer-like god Shishigami to get cured. Along his way, he sees the battle between the animal inhabitants of the forest and an iron mining town that is exploiting and killing the forest. The constant aggressiveness by the village has brought the rage of the Wolf God, Moro, who attacks the village along with San, a human who was raised by the wolf god.
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San can communicate with the nature spirits, so she is called Princess Mononoke (“spirits of things”). Ashitaka would like these conflicting groups to get along, and he hopes to bring peace between San and Lady Eboshi, the ironworks owner. However, he is frustrated as vicious powers plan to kill the Shishigami, and more battles erupt. Although the story looks like a simple legend of humankind versus nature, many issues complicate the plot.
To begin, there are no absolute evil people in this story. Even Lady Eboshi, the ruler of Irontown who is the most responsible person for the destruction of the forest, is quite sympathetic when confronts other humans. She takes care of lepers and poor women and provides them with a place to work and live. Even San, whose persistent intention to protect the forest leads her to be an enemy of the humans, merely wants to save her homeland, not hurting people. Nevertheless, Miyazaki has genuinely created a fantastic work in Princess Mononoke. Multiple conflicts thrive with humans against humans, humans against nature, and even nature against itself.
These conflicts are such that they are incorporated into an astonishingly deep and satisfying plot. It is very inspirational to see a movie capable of such story-telling without leading to old clichés and frustrating repetition of the same old stories. Lady Eboshi is portrayed as a bit of a radical, not changing an existing order but in the sense of humanistic point of view. She represents the improvement of technology in trying to advance human settlement and production. Yet, the social aspects of her character, in times, make even audiences who support “nature” sympathize with her.
Ashitaka, one of the few living young men of Emishi people, is to be the leader of his people. He has the nobleness of Royal blood and excellent skills as a hunter. He sacrificed himself to defend his village and received a curse of death. He does not talk so much but has a strong sense of justice. San is a weird girl who a mountain wolf raised. She hates humans who invade the forest. With a strange mask on her face, and riding a large mountain wolf, she frequently attacks the iron mining town. After meeting Ashitaka, her feelings lean between the Gods and humans.
The central theme of the movie is the environment. There are several different environmental concerns depicted within this movie. The most obvious is clear-cutting. The devastation that happens afterwards is a good representation of what could happen if humans continue to clear-cut and kill the land. The setting is in Japan sometime during the 14th century, an agricultural time before the country was unified. The general scenery and architecture are based on reality but the rest takes significant imagination with the reality of the time. The work is a fascinating animation that keeps the audience for most of the time and conveys its main messages in the context of attractive visuals and lively soundtracks.
When viewed from a simplistic perspective, Princess Mononoke is a perfectly legitimate, well-represented movie. It is a wonderful anime work. It explores themes and concepts that leave the audience wondering about it. The plot is engaging and entertaining. It nicely shows how humans interact with the environment, and how they need to preserve and protect their land by working together. It has a great ending and is overall very pleasurable to watch.
The characters are well developed and realistic. However, the story has some fundamental elements that enhance and reflect upon Japanese culture which may be unfamiliar for the Western audience. Its only problems, in my opinion, come from the personal views of the producer. The movie presents its concepts in a judgmental or biased matter. The stream of a story should be neutral so that the audience may judge content for themselves but it is the case in some instances in Princess Mononoke. Overall, I found this movie very entreating, enjoyable, and more importantly informative and an eye-opener to environmental problems that threaten our world.