a.k.a. Mononoke Hime
Ashitaka is the young leader of a reclusive Japanese tribe. He is called to protect his village from a stampeding Tatari Gami, a cursed animal god. While victorious, Ashitaka’s arm becomes consumed by the same curse. Without a known cure, the warrior is declared dead and ostracized from his people. Sent on a quest to find a cure, he learns of how the Tatari Gami came into being. Along the way he encounters a girl raised by wolves named San, known to outsiders as Mononoke Hime. Can the two prevent more atrocities against nature before Ashitaka finally succumbs to the curse?
summary by Kain
Highs: Realistic animation; pacing never left me bored; has an epic feel
Lows: Personalities not fleshed out adequately; the romance felt forced and unnatural; abrupt ending
Studio Ghibli is fast becoming my favorite anime production company. They continually pump out touching and humanistic movies year after year. Princess Mononoke continues that tradition, but adds a side of fiercely captivating action that I wouldn’t have expected from the legendary company.
The artwork is very reminiscent of Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind and Grave of the Fireflies. Surprise, surprise. Studio Ghibli likes to start off their movies with an action sequence to immediately immerse their viewers, and it works very well here. The tone is set from the beginning and continues at a comfortable pace, weaving in and out of CGI-assisted, medieval action and moments of tranquil revelation.
Animating guru Miyazaki Hayao seemed more than happy to put on display the fantastic environs and creatures, but I was left hungry for some character background. Even though we are made aware of San’s past, a few flashback scenes of both her and Ashitaka would have been appreciated. Because we know little about them, their romance doesn’t feel authentic and inevitably hurts the story in the end.
While a financial success, this is not Studio Ghibli’s crowning achievement. That distinction falls to Grave of the Fireflies. Nevertheless, Princess Mononoke will forever be known as one of anime’s most important contributions to the art, because it introduced a typically closed-minded Western society to what real anime is. That’s good enough for me.
Princess Mononoke can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.