Thursday, November 21, 2013

Princess Mononoke Anime Movie Review

Princess Mononoke
Mononoke-hime
Miramax Films
Movie - 134 minutes - 1 disc
$32.99 (2000)
$22.99 (2000)
ISBN 717951007414
Japanese/English/French Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Hayao Miyazaki
Studio - Studio Ghibli

Synopsis: A monstrous creature descends upon a village tucked away in the hidden wilderness.  The creature writhes with evil and wishes to destroy all in its path.  One brave, young warrior rises to meet the horror and protect his village.  Yoshitaka riding his faithful red elk, Yakul, manages to fell the beast and reveal it's true form - a massive, decaying boar god.  During his struggle, Yoshitaka's right arm is caught in its foul grasp and becomes infected with the same evil corruption.  The wise woman of the village pronounces sentence on Yoshitaka after he returns to the village - his arm is poisoned and it will eventually kill him once it reaches his heart.  An iron ball is recovered from the boar god's body and Yoshitaka vows to discover its origins to protect others from befalling a similar fate.  He leaves his village behind and begins his journey with Yakul.
Yoshitaka riding Yakul takes aim at the monster attacking his village
During his journey, Yoshitaka, encounters many interesting people and creatures.  They include Jigo, a wandering monk who may have ties to the government and a secret agenda.  Yoshitaka passes by war-torn villages and the evil in his right arm responds to the chaos being wrought by the soldiers.  The right arm gives Yoshitaka power, but makes his attempts at self-defense turn deadly.  Fleeing further west, he enters an ancient forest and experiences the incredible.  A great forest spirit watches over these lands and giant creatures roam the hills as gods.  Among them are a group of massive wolves and a ferocious girl who rides with them.  She is known as San and despises humans.
Yoshitaka's right arm is injured during the confrontation
The humans under the leadership of Lady Eboshi have established Irontown near the forest and begun a fierce conflict with the native creatures.  Irontown makes weapons of war in great furnaces that pollute the air and water.  The forest gods rail against the humans and San sides with her wolf clan.  Yoshitaka becomes embroiled in the brutal conflict between man and nature, but which side will he choose?  He is captivated by San's wild beauty, but how can he betray humanity to animals?  Lady Eboshi vows to destroy the forest spirit and Jigo lurks in the shadows.  Can Yoshitaka make a difference amidst these relentless forces before his poisoned right arm claims his life?
During his journey Yoshitaka meets the wandering monk, Jigo
Pros: Amazing animation with meticulous attention to detail, lush backgrounds, incredible creature designs, compelling characters, relevant environmental message which embraces the constant state of change in the world, perhaps the greatest film by Miyazaki, won scores of awards and was the highest grossing film in Japan when it was first released, Neil Gaiman worked on the English dub - which had excellent voice acting (included a bunch of Hollywood stars - Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Crudup, and Claire Danes)
These little guys are Kodama, harmless little tree sprites in the deep forest
Cons: English dub script is different than the original Japanese script (subtitles are based on the dub script), no Blu-Ray version has been released yet and the image quality from the DVD release is showing its age, not necessarily a con, but this movie is not family-friendly like most Studio Ghibli films (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle) due to violence and wolf-head, ending is not absolute
Lady Eboshi and her men from Irontown prepare to defend against giant wolves
Mike Tells It Straight: Princess Mononoke is quite possibly the greatest Miyazaki film ever produced.  It embodies all of his main themes from across his lengthy career - environmentalism, man's opposition with nature, strong female characters, anti-war, morally ambiguous villains, a sense of the wonder with the unseen spiritual world.  Some really amazing and dramatic scenes are in this movie starting with the intense confrontation at the beginning with the corrupted boar god, Nago.  The creature design is truly creepy and really sets the tone as far apart from previous Ghibli films as possible.
San rides on the back of a giant wolf and opposes Lady Eboshi
Yoshitaka's poisoned arm makes for some exciting situations.  It gives him superhuman strength which comes in handy against regular humans and puts him somewhat in league with the lesser animal gods.  I found San to be somewhat one-dimensional - all-consuming hate and anger against the humans.  She was a fierce combatant, but Yoshitaka was truly the protagonist in the film.  His personality was extremely noble although it was supposed to be somewhat melancholy.  I didn't see that at all and maybe the English dub had something to do with altering his original portrayal.
San attempts to kill Lady Eboshi!
The other characters were interesting, but not very likable.  Jigo and Lady Eboshi were both complex, but I couldn't help disliking them since they opposed the forest gods.  They both had excellent martial skills and weren't all bad since Yoshitaka befriended them.  So many scenes were epic during the movie and my particular favorites were the opening scene with Nago, the first appearance of the little forest sprites, and the assassination attempt of Lady Eboshi by San in Irontown.  Truly epic stuff and I give my highest recommendation possible to this film.  I love Miyazaki's other films, but this one is more mature and quite possibly my favorite.
The Forest Spirit is a wondrous and mysterious creature

TO BUY and Recommendations: