There, I have uttered two Names of some of the most profound and breathtaking anime films ever to exist in the history of forever. I dare not speak the third, lest it summon forth a being so powerful only a Joestar could hope to defeat them.
As for the movie itself, Princess Mononoke is a 1997 film from the previously mentioned studio and director, respectively. Neil Gaiman handled the somewhat controversial English dub do certain directional visions.
Princess Mononoke takes place in the rural borders of Japan during the late Muromachi period, sometime around the 15th or 16 centuries. The story follows the bitter struggle between the aboriginals native to Japan, known as Ainu, the forest spirits protecting the last of the mighty forest grove’s remaining in the wake of human expansions, and the expanding Japanese themselves. What follows is a tale of wonder, adventure, and a lesson in the dangers of heedless expansion and exploitation of natural resources and your fellow man. This film shows the evils and horror of wanton destruction in the name of war and greed, two lessons humanity seems to constantly struggle with as they seem set on setting their planet ablaze.
The moral against war and environmental exploitation are admittedly extremely heavy-handed in this movie. Despite this, or perhaps even because of how strongly these morals remain relevant to human society and survival, the film still resonates with any audience.
Besides all that, it’s still a Miyazaki film. That alone is reason enough to give the movie a watch. Fair warning for those familiar with his work and not familiar with this one, however. Princess Mononoke is one of his grittiest and most violent films, and is in fact the first Miyazaki film to receive a PG-13 rating. Naturally it would be difficult if not impossible to properly explore the dangers of war and natural destruction without such a higher rating, but it is still important to keep in mind this is one of Miyazaki’s darkest films.
Though grittier and not as subtle as his other works, the film is still a beautiful, intricately woven story of various characters, creatures, and factions. The movie explores the desire for peace between them all even as they pursue war to suit their own ends. Some, of course, revel in the death and destruction, while others strive to find a peaceful solution. Such a conflagration of conflicts creates a stunning feature that is an absolute joy to watch.
In my opinion, there is no such thing as a bad Miyazaki film. It’s impossible. Though Princess Mononoke is not my favorite –that title goes to Kiki’s Delivery Service (rest in peace Phil Hartman)- it is still one of his finest works, and certainly one of his darkest. The themes explored within this film are as old as time itself, and as a result they still continue to ring true across the gulf of oceans, centuries, and cultures. Even if you’re not a fan of anime, this film is definitely not be missed, for those who dare to discover how truly little humanity has changed through the years.