Anger. Hate. Grief. Joy. I’ve felt all these while watching Princess Mononoke- another Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli masterpiece. You know a movie is that good when it affects you deeply and truthfully. Princess Mononoke is one of those great films.
A period drama set in the late Muromachi period which is approximately from 1337 to 1573 of the Japanese era with fantasy elements, Princess Mononoke’s story follows the life of a young warrior and prince, Ashitaka who got involved in the struggle and apparent feud between forest gods and humans after killing Nago, a forest god turned demon who attacked his village. As according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Mononoke, the term Mononoke is not a name, but a Japanese language word for a spirit of monster, a closer translation would be “The Spirit Princess”.
In 1997, this film became the highest grossing film earning ¥11.3 billion in distribution receipts. It was the highest grossing film in Japan until it was beaten by the Hollywood film, Titanic, a couple of months later. The film earned a domestic total of ¥14,518,798,588.39 ($148,000,000. It was also the top-selling anime in the United States in January 2001, but despite this the film did not fare as well financially in the country when released in December 1997. It grossed $2,298,191 for the first eight weeks. Although it showed more strength worldwide where it earned a total of $11 million with a total of ¥14,487,325,138 ($159,375,308). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Mononoke)
The characters who left the biggest impressions in me were, first and foremost, Prince Ashitaka the warrior, Lady Eboshi whom I refer to as the ‘Iron Lady’ and the Wolf-girl also known as San. Not to forget, the wolf, boar and the deer gods whom Hayao Miyazaki carefully crafted for the purpose of this story.
Unlike other animated films which focus on humans feelings for each other, Director Miyazaki’s masterpieces, as far as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke are concerned, delve more on humans’ relationships with the spirit world, the environment and all the other unknown entities on earth. Yet again, Hayao Miyazaki shows how genius he is in this film. How he created a fantasy themed story which revolves on humans, the gods and the environment with those clever twists and turns is definitely unsurmountable. How he injected reality amidst all those fantasies is just superb. How he puts in human values for viewers to ponder on is undoubtedly precious.
The whole 133 minutes I’ve spent watching this anime was definitely well spent. I didn’t get bored even a bit. All the scenes, all the characters, even the small and big parts fit perfectly with each other.
Prince Ashitaka caught my attention from the beginning when he selflessly defended his village against the god-turned-demon, Nago. He risked his life to save his people and in turn was cursed to death. He travelled far to the west in search of the Deer God who can possibly overturn the curse. On his way, he found out about the Iron Town ruled by Lady Eboshi. Being the one who saved two of her workers, Lady Eboshi welcomed Prince Ashitaka in her village and provided a place for him to rest. However, the latter came to realize that it was the Iron Lady who actually brought destruction to the forest and angered the gods. San then made an appearance in the village to kill Lady Eboshi but was then stopped by Prince Ashitaka.
From then on, the fate of these three characters were entangled. They met again in the woods after Lady Eboshi fearlessly shot the head of the Deer God. At first, it made me angry that Prince Ashitaka went far into saving the Iron Lady’s life but then realized that he is a man who knows how to keep a promise. He cared for the people back in the ‘iron village’ so he did his best to save their leader for them to be able to start again.
With the fate of the Deer God caused by the greed of humans, terror filled the whole forest. Good thing, Prince Ashitaka and San were able to return its head, so all went back to normal..or should I say, it was more beautiful this time around.
There were no clear villains in this film. At first, I saw a monster in Lady Eboshi, but towards the end, I came to like her character especially when she showed love to her people even after her village was destroyed by the wrath brought by the Deer God. She also showed gratitude towards Prince Ashitaka and the wolf god who saved her. My favorite line of hers was, “Let’s build a better village,” which was directed to her people. I saw her as a true leader that time…and a very compassionate human.
Prince Ashitaka and San didn’t end up together. Sad that they didn’t end the way I hoped for but I can say I am more than thankful that they were able to find a reason to live, most of all, a reason to live in peace. They will continue on with their own lives while carrying each other’s memories in their hearts. I couldn’t ask for a better ending.
The film as a whole was thought provoking and just utterly awesome. Thanks to the genius that is in Hayao Miyazaki. And thank you Studio Ghibli for continually creating authentic Japanese animated films!
I will definitely be watching more of Director Miyazaki’s films soon!
(Photos not mine, credits to their rightful owners)