It is not a complete shock or surprise that this film is so high on the list because it is a piece of film making genius. I am above and beyond excited and elated that this film is so high on the list. It is one of my favourite films of all time not just my favourite Studio Ghibli film. It is as captivating as it is intriguing although not a clear choice for Christmas viewing but it is a clear choice for “alternative” Christmas viewing.
What is probably one of Studio Ghibli’s more famous films Princess Mononoke was released to Japanese cinemas on July 12th 1997 with a US release in October 1999 a good two years after its initial release. As I said it is one of the more popular films now and was the first film released by Studio Ghibli that was a major hit worldwide receiving international praise and appreciation.
Title: Princess Mononoke
Release date: July 12th 1997
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Princess Mononoke is a historical drama which is set in the late Muromachi period of Japan; this is approximately between 1337 and 1573 just with many elements of fantasy intertwined. The narrative follows our protagonist a young warrior called Ashitaka is ripped away from his quiet hometown when he is cursed by a mythical forest being. He begins his journey in search of a cure to his curse in the western lands where the creature originated. It is in these lands that Ashitaka discovers and becomes involved in the ongoing struggle between the magical creatures who dwell in the forestand the humans who live in the town called “Irontown”, consuming the resources of the forest and the mountains. Within this struggle Ashitaka encounters a young woman called San known as Princess Mononoke; raised by wolves and shares their hatred for all mankind. San and Ashitaka team up in order to save the forest and humankind while ready to sacrifice themselves in the meantime.
[pulledquote]“I haven’t seen them all, but my two favourites so far are Princess Mononoke and Grave of the Fireflies. Why? Maybe because they were more mature audience oriented than the rest.” – Andrius Anilionis[/pulledquote]It is one of the most iconic films in the Studio Ghibli pot, what it is not mind you is a classic choice for a Christmas film.
This film makes you think and really think not just about the characters but the true message behind the story which is clearly the environment and especially how we treat it. The message is subtle, it isn’t shoved in our faces. The film manages to have so much depth to it while still keeping it in the younger age category, it can really be watched on two levels, as a spectacular and entertaining animation or as a loud and frank statement on the nature of human consumption, the move from traditional values and beliefs to a new age. Younger ages can be mystified and wondered by all the magic and mythical creatures that this film has while the older viewers can be captivated by the detailed narrative and imagery, while also being mystified by all the magic. We are all children at heart.
This film is the depiction of beauty; it is a piece of art to watch. The historic look and feel to the whole thing matches and embraces the narrative amazingly. With the film being set in a piece of Japanese history it was essential for the film to be as close visually to that period as possible and it is done excellently in this film. Just the look of the period costumes of the characters, the samurai, the monks and even just how the women dress in Iron Town. Along with this there is the magical aspect of the film that takes it to a whole new level of beauty visually. This is seen mainly in the magic and bright lights of the forest in particular when the forest spirit is roaming about, to the dark metallic tones of Iron Town and in particularly the darkness of the curse. This is done in an unbelievably creative way from the wiggling and writhing sludge worms that covered the Boar God who attacked Ashitaka to the symbolised writhing of Ashitaka’s arm after being touched by the boar. This imagery is incredibly dark but works extremely well because it takes most literally the idea of hate will eat you alive and makes it a clear visually. Ashitaka’s curse is most literally eating him alive much like the Boars hatred and resentment cursed and ate him alive. Powerful imagery for such a simply notion that could truly only be done through the medium of animation.
What is very refreshing about this film also is the animation of the animals and characters, in other anime they are made out to be friendly and comic book style pals not the animals they are. In Princess Mononoke the animals are drawn with power and not romanticized, this is seen especially in the wolf clan of Moro and her cubs, they are visually powerful and when they pose to attack and bare their fangs you know they are animals.
Princess Mononoke is my favourite Ghibli film of all time and I am delighted that it has made it this far up the list. Every time I watch this film it feels like the first time because it is as magical and as heart-warming every time. It deserves it’s spot on the list and with only a few days until Christmas we will have our number one to go.
All I can say is the best has most definitely been saved for last but for now Princess Mononoke is our runner up at number 2.