Anime Review #7: Princess Mononoke (Spoiler-Free)

Anime Title: Princess Mononoke もののけ姫 “Mononoke Hime”
Production Studio: Studio Ghibli
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Composer: Joe Hisaishi
Release Date: July 12, 1997
Running Time: 2 Hours 14 Minutes + English Dub
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Drama

“Life is suffering. It is hard. The world is cursed. But still, you find reasons to keep living” Osa.  The story of Princess Mononoke revolves around this one quote. The movie is a coming of age story about life and death, war, abandonment, the cruelty of human nature and the ever lasting impact that it can leave on the environment.

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~Story 8/10~
The story of Princess Mononoke is a large scale and expansive one. Being about a young tribal prince who is cursed at the beginning of the movie and sets out on an adventure to find a cure, but along the way he meets a mysterious girl who is closely related to the heart spirit of the forest. War runs rampant amongst the neighboring villages and one thing leads to another as it is a race to slaughter the spirit of the forest, and it is up to the tribal prince and the mysterious girl to end the war and save the forest before it is all destroyed by the evils of humanity.

As for my personal thoughts of the story, if feels like one that I have seen many times before but is presented towards the audience in a unique yet interesting way, all while being wrapped up in a bunch of Japanese folklore & hidden messages left for the audience to find and piece together. I’m not a huge fan of plot, but I don’t have any major issues with it as well.

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~Character 6/10~
The movie focuses heavily around the two characters who go by the names of Ashitaka and San.

Ashitaka is an seventeen year old boy who is the movie’s main character. He is a prince for the Emishi tribe. As I described earlier he is cursed early on and is set off on his adventure to break the curse. He is a very determined man who won’t stop until he gets what he wants. He is not afraid to back down when in times of danger, and is not afraid to kill any human who is in his way. Ashitaka is also a very curious and kind man who wants to learn as much as he can about the mysterious San. Over the course of the movie Ashitaka plays the link between humanity and nature and wants to stop at nothing to keep them from harming one another, “what I want is for the humans and forest to live in peace”.

San is an seventeen year old girl who is the so called “princess” of the series. Early on in her life she was abandoned by her birth parents and was left to die in the wilderness until a pack of wolves decided to raise her as if they were her own. At first in the series she is a fairly tough to show her true thoughts and ideology until slowly over time Ashitaka is able to crack her and reveal her true self to both himself and the audience. San is also a very strong and proud warrior who is not afraid of death, “I’m not afraid to die! I’d do anything to get you humans out of my forest!”.

My biggest problem with the characters of this movie is how they all seem to be very flat and are more or less just used more as a plot device instead of feeling like an actual person. Ashitaka feels like someone to whom I will forget about not even a month from now; San is someone to whom seems too flat of a character to even care for them. I’m sorry for sounding a bit negative, but the fact in which all of the characters have a huge lack of character feels like a huge problem when it comes to this movie.

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~Music 8/10~
The orchestral pieces in this movie are very well crafted and fit the mood of the movie very well. Some of the pieces may be elegant and simplistic, when others may be loud and bombastic, meanwhile some of them may be quiet and mysterious. With that being said I feel as if the soundtrack all melds together and is hard to differentiate each track from one another, that is my one major complaint with the selection of songs.

If you were to ask me which track from the OST was my favorite, my immediate response would be “Ashitaka and San”.

~Art/Animation 9/10~
Being for a movie made back in the 90’s and is from an era where anime back then was still being hand drawn, I would have to applaud Studio Ghibli for making a beautiful piece of art that still holds up today. The art style is still retains the classic look that Ghibli is known for.

I love seeing how every single blade of grass, piece of fur, leaf on a tree, and every single Kodama (little white spirit ghost) were all drawn individually by hand. I love how reflective the water is and how there are some very unique character models for certain people/animals. But the one major complaint that I have with every Studio Ghibli movie is how all of the human characters retain the same facial structure as one another, this is one of my major issues with Ghibli movies is how they all look the same… none of them stick out from the rest.

But all and all, a great movie made by hand.

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~Final Thoughts~
As you could have guessed by the tone of the review, I personally did not enjoy this movie as much as most people might have. I took a moment after watching the movie and contemplated for a bit about how I realized how I have seen this movie before, and then I came to the realization in which I had watched a very similar telling of the movie before in the form of Pokemon 4Ever: Celebi – Voice of the Forest. I don’t know if it was because of that pokemon movie that made me not enjoy Princess Mononoke as much because I grew up with the movie, or if it just happened to be the case of me not feeling deeply invested with the characters.

All and all this was not my favorite Studio Ghibli movie ever. However Princess Mononoke is a good movie in terms of story telling and is one that I would recommend others to see but is not one that I would say is a “Must Watch”. I am going to be awarding this movie with an 7/10. It is one that should be watched but I would not say is high priority.

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~Similar Anime Recommendations~
Mushishi, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Parasyte, and Pokemon 4Ever… yeah I just went there.

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~Upcoming Review~
Usually I would say to be stay tuned for my review next week, however I will be quite busy with things IRL for the entirety of next week. I might release a Top 10 post or something in exchange for a long review, so don’t be expecting one even tho I might be able to find some time to write a review. Sorry to sound so unsure, but two weeks from now we will get right back on track. In the end, I wound up reviewing FLCL.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Until I read this I post thought I was the only person who wasn’t blown away by this movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I just watched it for the first time this week and I was kind of underwhelmed.

      The movie ain’t bad, but it is by no means is it my favorite Ghibli movie.

      Liked by 1 person

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