#70: Princess Mononoke (1997)

When and how did I watch this?

December 7th, 2016, on a friend’s flash drive.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

It’s another curious Miyazaki film on the list, but once again, I was stunned by its unavailability on streaming.  I was fortunate enough to have a friend with a copy, but generally it seems difficult to come across these anime.

What do I know about it now?

Once again, Miyazaki does not disappoint.  A common theme in his work is oversized creatures: some are lovely, and some are terrifying. Identifying which is which is challenged immediately when we find out the huge boar attacking a village — surrounded by a grotesque swarm of serpent-like parasites — is in fact a god of a particular animal race . Ashitaka, a skilled hunter and prince, takes down the beast, but not without being mortally wounded by the boar’s curse himself. He must find a cure for his infirmity, and so begins our adventure into another mind-tripping Miyazaki environment featuring the primal San (Mononoke herself) and her accompanying wolf gods, a metamorphosing “forest god” who is a noble deer-like creature by day and an enormous spirit by night, and these cute little white apparitions who resemble bobble heads that click erratically in order to communicate. Like the other Miyazaki animations I’ve seen, it’s the humans that are the real problem, corrupting everything with their greedy consuming ways by destroying the order of things and attempting to acquire all the power. Miyazaki’s creative genius is the winner yet again.

What are some themes in the film?

Impact of humanity on earth, trust, prejudice, violence

Did this affect me personally?

The film is very bloody at times, particularly when the snake corruption is involved.  Seeing the Forest God walking about for the first time — in both forms — is breathtaking.

Why is this ranked #70?

Miyazaki is the man.  Anime is wildly popular in Japan, moving it high into the rankings.  I read that this film was the highest grossing film of all time in Japan until Titanic was released. It’s the most violent of the animated films so far.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She missed most of this one.

Would I watch it again?

Yes.  It has excellent replay value.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

The version I watched was a dubbed edit released in 2000, featuring plenty of familiar voices.  I don’t recommend a version with any subtitles if you can help it. The copy I watched had English subtitles that were drastically different from the audio.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

I felt that the story in this film sat between Nausicaä and Howl’s Moving Castle in terms of quality, but the animation and innovation exceed the others. The theme is clearer as well, which might resonate with a wider audience and make it more accessible.  No matter how you slice it, however, this is another great film that belongs on the IMDb Top 250. It almost seems like Miyazaki can’t make a bad one.

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