‘Princess Mononoke’ movie review
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke is among the most revered Hayao Miyazaki films (alongside classics such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro).It follows a young prince named Ashitaka on his quest to cure his demon wound and bring peace to both forest spirits and humans during their war.
Personally, the character I connected to most was Ashitaka since he personifies most of my values. While he was suffering and trying to be cured by the Forest Spirit, he never failed to help out either human or forest spirit. He had no stance against the two parties, nor was he ever the main enemy of either. This led to him being distrusted by both sides. He kind of drifted between the groups—allowing the viewers to see that both sides had good (and bad) reasons for their actions. The story is written so that you can fairly understand the plights of all characters. It is interesting to know all sides of the story; it allows for the creation of an informed personal opinion. Most stories are told exclusively from the perspective of the lead character, and that leads to predictable bias.
However, this movie is far gorier than most Ghibli movies I’ve seen. The only comparable one (in organic ambience and war plot) would be Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Or even Ponyo on the Cliff, in reference to the war between the earth and the humans harvesting resources while disrespecting the ecosystem.
Despite Princess Mononoke being an animated film, the violence is rather unpleasant. There are countless severed limbs, beheadings, and humans killed by animal attacks. These beast attacks are often just throwaway moments, even when entire armies are attacked. Dozens of deaths occurred and the army leader just continued their trek. If this hasn’t made my point, there’s even a scene where Ashitaka is seen pulling potential corpses lying in a river.
In great contrast, the cutest little characters were Kodamas: forest spirits which dwell in the trees. The art and the characters are beautifully done—as all Ghibli movies are—and in Princess Mononoke I especially enjoyed the dialogue as well. When villager monk Jigo was partnered with Ashitaka in finding the cure for the damned arm said: “So you say you’re under a curse? So what? So is the whole damn world.”
The same villager is later revealed to be an opportunist hunting down the forest Gods. As Jigo and his comrades follow Eboshi—who is also hunting the Forest Spirit—Jigo tells his one of his companions, “When you’re going to kill a God, let someone else do your dirty work.” I couldn’t agree more.
Yet my favourite aspect of Ghibli movies—the mystical atmosphere—is lacking. Overall though, Princess Mononoke is a fantastically written story of war, love, adventure, and fighting for what you believe is right.