On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami's curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.
While protecting his village from rampaging boar-god/demon, a confident young warrior, Ashitaka, is stricken by a deadly curse. To save his life, he must journey to the forests of the west. Once there, he's embroiled in a fierce campaign that humans were waging on the forest. The ambitious Lady Eboshi and her loyal clan use their guns against the gods of the forest and a brave young woman, Princess Mononoke, who was raised by a wolf-god. Ashitaka sees the good in both sides and tries to stem the flood of blood. This is met be animosity by both sides as they each see him as supporting the enemy. Written by
When Ashitaka first visits the Forest Spirits home, he spots the Spirit's traces (shape of his hooves) underneath the water surface. But later in the movie, it proves that the Spirit only walks on the water surface. See more »
In ancient times, the land lay covered in forests, where, from ages long past, dwelt the spirits of the gods. Back then, man and beast lived in harmony, but as time went by, most of the great forests were destroyed. Those that remained were guarded by gigantic beasts who owed their allegiances to the Great Forest Spirit. For those were the days of gods and of demons...
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This seems to be Miyazake's most personal work, clearly a serious design. It is set in an imaginary time which blends the time of the ancient gods (Shinto style, gods of place and nature) with the settlement of humans and the coming of metalworking and war. The world is not in balance, and a distant conflict between industry and nature has wounded one of the gods of the forest, which is then killed by a sentry boy as it rampages into farmland he guards. The evil controlling it transfers to him, beginning a slow takeover, and he must journey to the origin of the conflict to find a way to cure himself and incidentally, as he will learn, to try to restore balance. But this is not a simplistic tale, he finds there are other characters in play, and there is good and evil in everyone, and no easy balance. The Princess (Hime) of the story is a mysterious human who has been raised by wolves (which are themselves powerful forest gods, a little reminiscent of the Amerindian Coyote myth), who becomes both his ally and his enemy. The story is not easy to understand. It has many Japanese mythic elements but even then, it is a work of Miyazake's unique imagination, and is not intended to be simple or to have a clean resolution.
The animation is spectacular, and unusual, with new elements even for Miyazake and marks a new departure for style which you can see continued in his next film, Sen to Chihiro - more nature, more wild, more jamming on elements from Japanese myth and folklore. And, continuing the trend to be more personal, concerned with ethics and character, and less sci-fi. There are at least half a dozen well developed characters threaded through the story, and their animation is wonderful in displaying subtle character.
The original Japanese soundtrack has some amazing singing and draws upon some of the best talent available for voices - in Japan, Miyazake is universally known and this was a masterpiece carefully crafted. Japanese television documented a lot of the production. The English translation drew on some good talent but they seem not to have "gotten it" quite so intensely as the Japanese crew.
If you haven't seen Miyazake, give it a try (but maybe look at Sen to Chihiro first, or even Laputa or Kiki's Delivery Service, for easier and lighter introduction to his work). Some say he is the Japanese Disney, but I don't like that. His work has a depth and sophistication that goes beyond Disney cute. There is no other animation like it. This is truly an adult work: children might like some of the visuals, but I doubt that many kids below teen age will have any idea what it is all about, and even adults will get more out of this each time you see it again.
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