Mar 26, 2010

[Movies] Princess Mononoke / Mononoke-hime (1997)

Princess Mononoke / Mononoke-him (1997)It's been a while since my last Ghibli session and I still have a LOT of catching up to do. It's pretty weird how I've gotten through most of my life without catching these amazing animated pieces by Hayao Miyazaki. So I'm doing my best to play catch up and really get somewhere in terms of the wonderful creations of this studio.

I've really grown to like what Studio Ghibli has to offer - perhaps the better term is love and not just like. It's just that really enjoying a Ghibli movie requires a significant amount of time that I can entirely dedicate to the movie. You can't just watch them in passing - these movies tend to demonstrate an amazing attention to detail and if you really want to make the most of it, you need to watch closely.

Well, there's all that amazing stuff plus the fact that I tend to watch them with subtitles. So yeah, it becomes a book of sorts as well.

And I love books.

Princess Mononoke / Mononoke-hime is yet another striking Studio Ghibli movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki . To summarize this movie is no simple task, but then that's just how Ghibli movies go.

Princess Mononoke was the first Miyazaki film ...Image via Wikipedia

Things start out startlingly enough - a giant boar afflicted with some evil curses starts storming through the forests, putting a nearby town at risk. The beast is eventually killed by Ashitaka but in the battle he too gets infected by the curse. In an effort to find a cure and learn the reason for the boar's wild attack, he journeys into the West to where the boar came from.

He eventually comes across a mining town that creates ironsand which is used in weapons. The movie has a quasi-historical setting given it tries to capture the tone of the Muromachi period of Japan's history when the rise of gunpowder has led to the decline of the samurai. This small town has to defend itself against constant skirmishes with the samurai and the harrying attacks of the local forest creatures. They are led in battle by a group of mountain dogs and a mysterious wild girl who appears to have been adopted by the wolves for some reason.

And thus the stage is set for another epic Miyazaki piece.

It's amazing what the animators were able to achieve primarily through what is now considered "traditional" hand-drawn animation techniques. The scenes throughout the movie are amazingly breathtaking and stunning. It doesn't matter if its a lush forest or the cold steel walls of a factory - the animators did an stellar job of bringing this world to life.

The story was thought-provoking as well, which is to be expected from Miyazaki movies when you get down to it. Familiar themes of environmentalism and working with nature truly came to the forefront here and the entire epic was presented in a manner that strikes at anyone's heart strings.

Don't get me wrong though - it's not an easy movie to understand. The themes are rather complex and the manner things are presented is not your typical way either. Plus it relies on a lot of prior knowledge of Japanese culture and history. Without that, a lot of the of plot involving the animal spirits of the forest won't make as much sense once things come together.

Princess Mononoke is a striking piece about living in peace and harmony with the natural world. This is no simple feat in any time period but a noble message that everyone should keep in mind. It deserves a full 4 creepy head-shaking kodama out of 5.

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