“Princess Mononoke is the greatest animated movie I have ever seen. Everything about this film is great.”
If I had to summarize this movie in a few words, I would say – Breathtaking, Magnificent, and Brilliant. I knew it would be good because after all, Hayao Miyazaki directed it but I did not know that it was going to end up in the list of my favorite animated films. It is also one of my top ten favorite films. Miyazaki was a genius and everyone who is familiar with his name knows it, he has directed some of my favorite animated films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away etc. He is one of the most respected figures in the history of cinema and one of the greatest directors of all time even though he has not made a live action film. He co-founded Studio Ghibli – Arguably the second best Animation Studio in the world which produced masterpieces such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and Grave of The Fireflies.
Story and Plot Structure
One of the many things that make this film great is the story. The film is set up in the Iron Age in ancient Japan when the humans used to live in harmony with nature. But the discovery of Iron and selfish nature of humans led to the mass production of weapons which altered this balance. Princess Mononoke is a movie about Nature versus Humans. It also takes elements from Japanese myths and folklore and shows us the great ancient Japanese culture.
The opening scene of Princess Mononoke is jaw-dropping. In the beginning, we see a strange creature and thousands of snakes (or whatever it was) coming out of his whole body. This strange creature goes berserk and tries to wreak havoc upon a nearby village. A young lad named Ashitaka tries to stop him from going to the village and send him back to the forest but things go wrong and Ashitaka kills the Creature. The strange snakes grab Ashitaka’s hand and leave a mark before vanishing into thin air. It turns out that the creature was a giant Boar who turned into a Demon God. He was cursed and the curse of the Demon God was now transferred to Ashitaka.
They find a metal piece in the remains of the Boar and come to know that someone shot the boar with a gun and that is why his agony and hate for humans turned him into a Demon God. Ashitaka, knowing that he has only a few days to live, goes out on a journey to find the person who shot the Boar and was responsible for this heinous act. This journey leads him to the west. There he meets Lady Eboshi who rules a piece of land called Ironworks and was responsible for the Boar’s death and Ashitaka’s curse. She has thousands of workers working under her. She knows how to make gunpowder and weapons which were responsible for the Boar’s death. She does not hesitate to kill anyone who tries to stop her. She wants to rule the forest but is she a bad person? You will have to decide for yourselves because Miyazaki does not let you judge the characters easily.
Ashitaka also meets Princess Mononoke or Mononokehime – a wolf-girl, born human and raised by wolves. She despises humans because she thinks that humans are filthy, selfish and pathetic creatures. She has vowed to kill the humans and take back the land of Ironworks that once belonged to the forest. She is always looking for the ways to kill Lady Eboshi and her people. Now what happens, you will have to watch that for yourselves. I am not going to spoil the film for you.
This is just the basic plot of the film and let me tell you that the storyline is much more complex than this. There are so many characters and subplots and all the characters are well developed. Ashitaka’s character has the proper depth, warmth, kindness, wisdom and courage whereas San’s character is developed as an angry soul who just wants revenge. Lady Eboshi’s character is given different personalities so you won’t be able to judge her. You will also get to see the Deer God AKA the Forest God, The Spirits of the Forest, Humans, Wolves, Villagers, Boars, Apes and other creatures.
Princess Mononoke is a story about how messing up with nature can lead to devastating results and it delivers the message successfully. The story is epic and the scale is huge, but the storytelling is what makes it brilliant. Miyazaki takes you to this great journey where you can feel everything. Any other director would not be able to achieve such depth and beauty. Miyazaki had a great understanding of animated films and that is why the people at Pixar and Disney worship him and see him as their idol.
The animation work in Princess Mononoke is hand drawn and the result is breathtaking. The animation is hands down the best animation I have ever seen in a 2D film with 3D rendering. The handmade drawings are spectacular.
The transformation scene in the beginning will leave your jaws open in awe. Snakes coming out of all over the boar’s body and those were all handmade drawings.
The scenes that take place in the forest are outstanding. Each and every frame is having great details and beautiful colors. They pop out of the screen and make you want to live in the world you are seeing. The Demon God, the Deer God, Forest Spirits, Wolves, Princess Mononoke, The Iron Works is beautifully and carefully drawn. At the top of that, the 3D rendering adds more depth and beauty to the handmade drawings. Hayao Miyazaki manually checked and corrected each of the 144,000 drawings that were made for the film. This tells us about his dedication for the quality of the animation. You don’t just see the world of Princess Mononoke, you experience it and live in it during the whole runtime.
The score of Princess Mononoke is one of the best scores I have ever heard in a film (The Lord of The Rings and Princess Mononoke are my favorite). The track that plays during the transformation scene is both dark and haunting. The track that plays during the scene when we see the spirit of the forests is totally different and beautiful. The track that plays when Prince Ashitaka travels through the forest is peaceful and gives you eargasm. The track that plays when Ashitaka and Sen (Princess Mononoke) are together is heart-wrenching and will definitely make you cry, it is also the theme song of the film. It gives me shivers every time I listen to it. The song “Nobody knows your heart” is brilliant and melancholic. I have embedded a YouTube video, just play it and tell me you don’t feel something. The music adds more emotions to the film and makes it 200% better. I have seen this film more than 5 times and I cry every time I listen to the Theme. Joe Hisaishi, you are a genius.
Overall, Princess Mononoke is a once in a lifetime experience. I loved it the first time I watched it. Then I listened to the OST and watched it again and loved it even more. I love it more and more everytime I watch it. So it is a kind of movie that grows on you after multiple viewings. I was not a lucky guy because I couldn’t watch it on big screen but I seriously want to watch this in theaters even if it costs a hefty amount. You cannot go wrong with Miyazaki, can you? May his soul Rest in Peace.