Princess Mononoke (1997) Poster

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10/10
Allegory on the balance between humans and nature
TanjBennett15 April 2003
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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10/10
A true work of art that takes animation to an entirely new level
alvaradj1 February 2000
I saw Mononoke Hime on its USA release back in late December 1999 under its U.S. title Princess Mononoke. I had read quite a bit about this film and its director but was still totally overwhelmed by the beauty and brutality of this movie. The complexity of this movie is something never seen in the United States in an animated movie and even exceeds that of most live action movies as well. It combines love and hate, war and romance, nobility and deception in ways rarely seen in movies today. Lines of good and evil are anything but clear cut and in the end is hope but no guarantees, no promises. This is truly an adult movie but my children, ages 12 to 15 all loved it and talked about it for days later. Even my wife who holds a strong prejudice against Japanese animation enjoyed this movie.

Go and see this movie. You won't be disappointed.
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10/10
Very touching movie!
misty676714 August 2004
The first time I saw Princess Mononoke I was completely moved and surprised. Since it was a Studio Ghibli film dubbed by Disney I liked the fact that it wasn't a "they all lived naively ever after" film. There were no complete "good" or "bad" guys. Even Lady Eboshi the most antagonist character in the movie had a reasonable motive for trying to get rid of the animal gods and cutting down the forest. Although it her actions were environmentally damaging and wrong in general, she did it to help her people survive which is what all the species on Earth strive for. Another wonderful aspect of the plot is that it sends a message - Protect the Earth and all will survive in peace - a message either discreetly or strongly portrayed in many of Miyazaki's films. Perhaps the portrayal of this message (and the tiny hint of San and Ashitaka's romance and Moro's views on nature) was what made the film so touching to me.

Like many Miyazaki movies, the animation (as always) is wonderful and nicely detailed which is also another quality that genuine Disney films lack (thank goodness for Studio Ghibli). The music was beautiful and well suited to the movie.

The only predicament to the movie is that it is a bit downbeat and does not contain much happy laughter (oh well, I can watch My Neighbor Totoro - also a good movie - for happy laughter.).

10/10 - And my favourite movie of all time.
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10/10
one of the best films i've ever had the chance to see
zetes7 November 1999
Princess Mononoke is, without a doubt, one of the best films I have ever witnessed. There has never been an animated film even close to this -- I kept thinking after I left the theater, how can Disney even have the guts to make another film after seeing this? Even live action movies pale in comparison to Princess Mononoke. There has never been a film to pay such close attention to details. Watch for the magnificent and subtle flying insects throughout the film, especially in the ancient forest, where bioluminescent dragonflies glide gently around the screen. There are thousands of subtleties such as this. You'd have to see it a dozen times to appreciate this film fully. Aside from it being the most beautiful film I've ever seen, it also has an enormously powerful script. The characters are some of the the most well rounded in all film. Ashitaka especially, the main character of the film, is so nuanced that he has become in my mind one of the great characters in film, up there with Charles Foster Kane and Jake LaMotta. I would compare him to Freder, the main character of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. His role in the film is a mediator between the forces of humans and the gods of nature. Both sides comment several times that Ashitaka must be on the other side, when he is trying desperately to convince everyone that there are no sides. Peace is the way. There is a little to be desired in the American voice talent. Claire Daines was certainly a wrong choice for San (Princess Mononoke), and Billy Bob Thornton just could not hide his southern accent, which made the character of Jigo seem more comical than he was probably supposed to be. Gillian Anderson's voice clashed with her character, the wolf god Moro, a bit. It hardly affected my passion. The film was so spectacular and beautiful that James Earl Jones could have voiced San and it would have detracted little. Definitely, though, I'm praying that they release the DVD with subtitle options. Anyway, Princess Mononoke is the best film of 1999, the best film of the 1990's, and, in my personal top ten list, no lower than #5, but closer to #2. 12 hours later and my heart is still beating with the power of Princess Mononoke! America: SEE IT!
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10/10
Stunning and sharp (in any language)
seamas11 January 1999
I saw this film in Japan, in Japanese with no sub-titles, I don't speak a word of the language and I was still enthralled! It is Miyazaki most visually intense (surpassing, at long last, Nausicaa) and is alive with color and movement the like not yet seen in anime.

The story is complex, and after talking with Japanese friends, it is clear that much of it went over my head (particularly that relating to specific Japanese myths), but the important elements came through. Miyazaki's long infatuation with technology verses nature and man's relation to God (or gods) weave throughout the film as does his trend for strong women characters.

Even with the language barrier, the film is of such intense emotion that it caries you through to the end. The change in dynamic between the crashing fight scenes and the quiet scenes of healing by the lake is so broad and so well paced that I can't remember a film where my emotional state was so expertly varied.

If you have a chance to see this film, in any language, I recommend you do.
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10/10
Japanese JEWEL
belis_kikyo16 February 2005
Fantastic film! It makes me speechlessly. Good dialogs, beautiful soundtrack,incredible animation effects (take a look at the rain, at the movement of the grass, hear the sounds of the steps) and interesting characters,who are everything but ordinary. Ashitaka is captivating (what a strength, what a heart, what a soul!); San (the Princess Mononoke herself) is intriguing; and Lady Eboshi is ambiguous -is she the villain? I don't think so. After all, who can blame her? Don't let the over exploration of themes related to ecology discourage you. Go ahead and watch Mononoke. It's a totally new way of treating the conflict between men and nature, which is far from its ending. Definitely, a jewel among the predictable animations of Disney and Pixar's also predictable jokes. There are no jokes here. TAKE A LOOK AT IT!
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10/10
This film has "raised the bar" in the world of animation.
HeyMrPiccolo24 July 2000
I have seen many many animated features, but none compare to the talent that is shown in this anime. After seeing this for the first time, I could see why so many animators (especially disney animators) consider Mr. Miazaki a GOD! His animation style has the best "flowing motion" I have ever seen.

The American dubbing team, whoever they are did an excellent job picking voices, they got top notch actors to do the job right (unlike most animes today). They even took on the hair-pulling task of RE-ANIMATING the mouth movements to match!

This is by far one of the best films I have ever seen.
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10/10
Yet another 10 for Miyazaki
aprisoneroftoday29 January 2007
Im a Big fan of Miyazaki... This movie is Definitely in his top 3...

Princess Mononoke's story is very in depth and it grabs your attention. Time after time. You may have to watch it a couple times to catch everything but you will fall in love with the characters and story every time you sit down to watch it

As for the art... Its Visually stunning yet again. Everything is depicted so well in Miyazaki's artwork from the humans to the Forest gods and everything in between

this definitely worth watching.

And if you like it you should definitely check out some of his others like Castle In The Sky, Howls Moving Castle and Spirited Away
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10/10
Breathtaking. Watch with "eyes unclouded."
JTurner8220 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In its theatrical Japanese release of 1997, PRINCESS MONONOKE was the hugest box office grossing movie of all time in the land of the Rising Sun until it was overtaken by James Cameron's TITANIC, and, four years later, director Hayao Miyazaki's own SPIRITED AWAY. No wonder. This movie, like an earlier project of Miyazaki's, NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, explores man's relationship with nature, hatred causing destruction, and, more importantly, real characters (in other words, no real "hero" or "villain") trying to get by in a world continually torn by war.

This is not a movie for young children, as there are disturbing shots of decapitations, amputations, and occasional blood spurts. Sometimes these elements of violence turn squeamish viewers away from Anime (especially when they're done gratuitously), but Hayao Miyazaki presents it not to sicken people but to show it for the horror that it is (plus, in this film, the violence is not overdone). Take, for example, the scene where the protagonist, Prince Ashitaka of the Emishi Tribe, possessed by a curse he received from killing a Demon God (in trying to protect his village), tries to stop samurai attacking innocent people, and in doing so shoots the arms off of one man, and, later, takes off a man's head with two arrows. The sight is horrifying to see, but the deed also increases Ashitaka's demon mark on his arm, which is slowly preparing to take his life. This is a truly horrible depiction about the dangers of violence.

Also worth noting is Princess Mononoke herself, a human girl named San raised by the Animal Gods, and her struggle against Lady Eboshi of Iron Town, who is destroying the forest merely for her people's own good (the folks are outcasts, including lepers and prostitutes). San distrusts and despises all humans, and is especially determined to destroy them all (particularly Eboshi)... or die trying. When she's rescued by Ashitaka, however, a conflict within her begins to surface: are *all* humans evil, or is there at least one who is trustworthy? If there is any character who could be considered a villain, it would be the monk, Jigo, who wants the head of the Spirit of the Forest to bring to the Emperor. Such a deed would destroy the entire forest (as we find out in the film's chilling climactic scenes) but even Jigo has his own motives, too. He is not so much evil as much as he is just "trying to get by". This pretty much sums up the conflicts between all our characters here.

PRINCESS MONONOKE may not have enjoyed similar box office success here in America, but at least a lot of work and care went into the translation. As with Disney's other English language tracks for Miyazaki's films, this one is very, very well done. Acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman worked on the script, rewording it only to a) fit the mouth flaps, and b) make it understandable to a non-Japanese audience who would probably not comprehend a lot of the cultural nuances found in this film. Added to which, the voice cast includes a commendable list of stars; Billy Crudup is perfect as Ashitaka, eliciting just the right amount of warmth, kindness, compassion, wisdom, and courage, while Claire Danes delivers passionately angry, conflicted turmoil to San. (Folks said she was miscast, but I beg to differ; her character is *required* to be outraged and aggressive, and Danes does have a strong voice to carry such emotions.) The rest of the cast includes Billy Bob Thornton as Jigo (a grossly underrated performance; his Southern drawl adds to the character), Minnie Driver (elegant choice!) as Lady Eboshi, Gillian Anderson as the Wolf-Goddess Moro, and Jada Pinkett-Smith as the friendly (if no-nonsense style) worker Toki. The translation flows smoothly to those who are not familiar with Japanese folk tales, and the story succeeds in making its point, too.

This movie may not be for everybody, as it is the kind of film that may disturb young children, but older audiences will find themselves absorbed in the artwork, which showcases gorgeous, unmatched imagination, from the finely detailed forests to the cute little Tree Spirits who appear and disappear at will to the Forest Spirit itself -- a huge deer who makes plants grow with each step he takes. And at night he becomes a ghostly specter known as the Nightwalker, traveling higher than the trees. Such images warrant the purchase of this film. Better yet, its message is not too preachy, and rarely do animated movies (save those from Japan) showcase characters portrayed as, well, human beings.
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8/10
An extremely good movie that superseded my preconceptions about the animation style it is presented in.
beardyfriesen21 April 2007
A few years ago I would have tossed this film into a collection of movies I like to call the rubbish pile. Recently, however, I have forced myself, with great difficulty, to open my mind and look at the entire picture. Instead of focusing on one or two aspects of the movie I do not like and formulating a biased opinion based on my hasty and clouded notions, I can now decipher both the good and bad points of a given flick. Upon watching Princess Mononoke, I must say I first thought it would be very difficult to look past the animation style and see it for what it was- a dynamic film directed be the highly acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki. After about ten minutes of dwelling on the follies (and there are, in my opinion, many) of the "anime" style of art, I became enthralled with the quickly unfolding plot and the subsequently dire fate bestowed upon Ashitaka, the protagonist of the film. After Ashitaka leaves his village to search for a treatment to remedy his affliction, I no longer cared that this was an animated feature; I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. I no longer disliked that every character had abnormally large eyes (though not over-sized to the point of utter absurdity) or that the English overdubbing was a little choppy. In fact, I even began to enjoy the accomplished yet subtle computer generated effects interspersed throughout. By the last half hour I was hooked to the screen, eagerly awaiting the conclusion I wanted so badly to end the bitter conflict of the plot. By the end, I realized that this movie carried a powerful moral with it: man's continuous tampering with nature brings about as much savagery as it does progress, as much suffering as it does good, and that a sound compromise must be struck between nature and civilization. I do not harbor any negative feelings towards those who rated this movie poorly, as I used to be one of those people. All I have to say to them is this: look at a both the visual and symbolic attributes of a movie before rating it harshly. If, after observing all these features and idiosyncrasies, you still wholeheartedly hate the film, then by all means give it a one. After all, what would the world be like if we were all did not criticize or question our surroundings?
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10/10
Enthralling and Artistic
morphion27 January 2006
Studio Ghibli has been Japan's leading anime Production Company since the 1980's, when legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki released his first feature film "Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind" (1984). From the very beginning, it was clear that the Japanese director had a fantastic flair for animated film, and the uncanny ability to engross his audiences beyond the normal movie-experience that makes him the King of Escapism. Over ten years later, it seems that Miyazaki is still just as good, if not better, as he invites the world into his latest visionary fantasy, the cult classic "Princess Mononoke".

The film is set in Japan, during the Muromachi Era, and begins in the quiet peaceful township of the Emishi tribe, when young Prince Ashitaka (Yôji Matsuda), the last of the Emishi royalty, is wounded slaying a demon in an unexpected attack. When the tribe's wise-woman tells Ashitaka that the wound is a curse of hatred that will eventually kill him, he sets out on a journey to the west to discover the origins of the demon. What he finds is a war being waged between the villagers of Iron town, an industrious Iron-works fort led by the ruthless Lady Eboshi (Yûko Tanaka), and the beasts of the forest, represented by the beautiful Princess Mononoke (Yuriko Ishida), a human girl raised by wolves, with whom the cursed prince falls in love. Soon Ashitaka's efforts to make peace are put to the test by each side's bid for allegiance.

"Princess Mononoke" is a fantastic work of art on many fronts, and arguably Miyazaki's best film to date. While some of his other projects have had the same enchantment and excitement, "Mononoke" has an intriguingly dark and infinitely more mature feel, established by the bloody battle-scenes and sensitive color treatment, and solidified by a complex plot and rich, interesting characters. The most obvious illustrative trait of the film is the ambiguity of the characters' nature; the lack of distinction between good and bad. The ruthless lady Eboshi, while caring nothing for the forest or its inhabitants, is very compassionate towards the underdogs of her own community, such as the brothel girls and the lepers. And the wild wolf-princess, while desperate to defend her fellow forest-dwellers and protect the forest spirit, has a deep-seated mistrust of humans that even steeps into self-loathing at times. These interesting character traits make the film a lot more rewarding than many of Ghibli's other works, which were aimed mostly at children.

Of course, all these intriguing themes and characters are only a part of the film's wonder, because Miyazaki's true gift lies in imagery. The detailed animation of "Princess Mononoke" is astounding, drawing its audience into its environments, from lush forest to open fields to crowded marketplace and more; the team of animators that poured their hearts and souls into this film should take utmost pride in their accomplishments. Using minimal and tasteful CGI, the movie stays very warm and inviting even when the subject matter and mood is less-than-friendly. This is also owed to the audio aspects of the picture; the voice talents involved are highly engaging and enjoyable, even in the English dubbed version, which features such big western names as Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, Billy Crudup, Clare Danes and Gillian Anderson. Joe Hisaishi's music is also a rather splendid complement to the film.

Overwhelming success of the anime production in Japan alone stands as a testament to its fine quality. Breaking a 15 year record held by Spielberg's "E.T.", "Princess Mononoke" became Japan's No. 1 movie of all time in the year of its release, as well as taking the title of best-selling video/DVD of all time. It is also the most expensive animated Japanese feature in history, reaching a budget of 2.4 billion. Outside of its home-country, however, the film continues to inspire and engage audiences from all corners of the globe, taking a well-deserved place in the list of cult-favorites for film-lovers everywhere.
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8/10
Riveting and marvelous cartoon movie by the genius Hayao Miyazaki
ma-cortes12 October 2007
This magnificent cartoon movie concerns Japanese legends , it begins when Ashikata, a prince warrior is wounded by a cursed giant boar . He attempts to encounter some way to heal incurable curse inflicted . Ashikata saddled in his red deer goes to the east, where finds the Iron Town , ruled by Lady Ebosi confronting Sam , the princess Mononoke, a human girl raised by wolves . Ashikata encounters in the middle of fighting among the forest animals : large wolves, giant boars and humans : emperor Mikado soldiers , Lady Ebosi soldiers and Shogun army . Furthermore, in the forest finds the deer god and spirits called Kodamas .

This wonderful film is plenty of fantasy , adventures, drama, spectacular combats and with ecological message . The picture is narrated with sensibility and sense of wonder and quite entertaining, though isn't apt for small kids but contains graphic violence . It's a deep critical about nature exploiting and killing the forests for the encroaching civilization represented by an iron mining town that cause a damage environment . This stunning film, though a bit too long, converted the first of any kind to gross over the box office in Japan and around the world. The motion picture was splendidly realized by Hayao Miyazaki , he personally corrected or redrew more than 80,000 of the film's 144,000 animation cels . Being accompanied by sensitive music score composed by his usual musician , Joe Hisaishi. Miyazaki also directed other excellent cartoon movies as ¨Howl's moving castle¨ , ¨Chihiro¨ , ¨Porco Rosso¨ and ¨My neighbour Tororo¨ . Rating : Sensational and fantastic , it's a masterpiece cartoon movie.
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10/10
So breathing taking and so meaningful in this animated movie
koh13200118 January 2006
I just thought its just the another kid stuff before I saw that movie. But I am really in shock and all my attention sink to the movie when I watch it . I drop my mouth down and I really can't speak while I was watching this Mononoke and Ashitaka nightmare adventures until the end.

After enjoy watching the movie, I got many thoughts, philos and knowledge of what we are living for and what we believe in. In this movie, for my point of view, nobody is a bad guy and a good guy.

Everyone live on what they believe in and express on they are living for. All the characters have different strength and different way of living but they all are same in just one thing, its called "HOPE".

They live what they hope for and eager on what they believe. I would nearly cry as the climax is on way too high and after that this story of all meanings is about war and peace, love and hate, positive and negative. Its totally what its called "master-piece of ART" and many appreciate to everyone who create this.
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6/10
I'm sure you're very good at what you do, Doctor Fell
Spleen14 June 2001
Disney animation has linear detail, economical drawing, and extremely sophisticated motion. In a word, it's classical. Japanese animation has vertical detail, heavily etched backdrops that verge on being overdesigned, but rudimentary motion. Japanese animation is baroque. (Disney cartoons tend to have better draftsmanship, but this is inessential to the difference in style.) The styles could hardly be more fundamentally opposed, and you like either one or the other. It's hard to have a strong taste for both. To lay my cards on the table, I like the Disney style: I consider it more subtle and versatile, and at its best it lives and breathes like no other kind of animated image. Still, the Japanese style has its strengths.

It's essentially a static art: silence and stillness are what it conveys best. It's interesting to compare "Mononoke" with "The Emperor's New Groove". The latter film is unusual for Disney in that silence and stillness are used with surprising frequency, but the effect is always unstable: stillness is a kind of dissonance, something requiring resolution. The moments of silence and stillness in "Mononoke" are consonant and complete in themselves. There are some lovely static tableaux in which the dialogue - if there is any - has as much time as it needs to breathe.

The Japanese style is also good at conveying a sense of place. (Disney can do this also, but neither as quickly nor as economically.) Usually it's an urban place. Think of definitive anime, and most Westerners think of "Akira" and "Ghost in the Shell", which are very urban indeed. (My personal favourite in the genre is "The Crimson Pig", which, if not quite so urban, is heavily technological.) "Mononoke" is different. Most of the action takes place in the untamed, and I mean untamed, wilderness; now and then we enter a village. Surprisingly, even these settings are solidly realised. A single drop of water falls from a pine tree and lands on someone's face, and at once we feel that we are in the middle of a dense, damp, green forest.

The story is deeply weird, in the best Japanese tradition - in particular, in the tradition of this particular director - and intensely sad. The hero's quest is fulfilled, in a sort of a way, but the film does not end in triumph. Instead of thinking "good, X happened", we think, "oh well, at least X happened". -I must admit I was surprisingly unmoved. Something about "Mononoke" distanced me; it may have been the facelessness of the central hero, it may have been the overall style; if the latter, it may have been entirely my fault, which is why I'm unwilling to commit myself to any kind of criticism. All I know is that, much as I admired parts of "Mononoke", I am unable to love it.
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4/10
Starts off great but loses its way
Leofwine_draca14 January 2011
I'm not a huge fan of anime, so I'm not the best person to review this film. Nonetheless I found myself watching it to find out what all the fuss was about.

Initially, I found the film gripping. The old-fashioned animation felt fresh and I loved watching the colourful panoramas play out on screen. The early scenes involving the terrible forest monster chasing the film's hero were vivid and exciting; then Princess Mononoke is introduced.

Gradually, I lost interest in the film. I found the story far too slim to support the lengthy running time. Myriad characters are introduced and underdeveloped, and the emphasis seems to be on repetitive action involving the different factions battling each other. Certain sequences are certainly captivating on the animation front - especially the huge, translucent forest god creature - but the story just didn't keep my attention.
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10/10
A masterpiece Warning: Spoilers
Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated by animation, I watched way too many cartoons and would often drawn them myself. I never thought of animation as "real art" or anything fancy, just one of life's simple pleasures. Sure Disney had made some ground-breaking animated features, and technology was allowing for more and more detailed and intricate animation techniques, but no animated film had ever moved me as much as a Godfather or Unforgiven or Dr. Strangelove, that is until one fine day in 1999. I was in high school, and Princess Mononoke was premiering at the Coolidge Theater in Brookline, I was pumped as I really enjoyed Castle in the Sky and Totoro, so I went to the theater with a few friends and was absolutely clown away for this. This film is so spectacular in almost every way and every piece comes together perfectly. The animation is top-notch, not that shoddy 1980's anime style, but the mind-blowing animation techniques that made Miyazaki the maestro his is today. The score by Joe Hisaishi is tremendous, though at times it may seem a bit overly dramatic (I mean this is an animated feature, not Lawrence of Arabia), but this is the ultimate animated epic, so it fits in well. The plot is dense and the characters are well-developed, there are no true "good" or "bad" guys in this film...and Miyazaki includes his favorite underlying theme of Man vs. Nature throughout. Some may argue that Spirited Away was Miyazaki's crowning achievement, but I believe that Mononoke Hime is his true Masterpiece.
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7/10
One to convert the sceptics, a rich, thoughtful and charming animation
Jeremy-9311 February 2003
If, like me, your heart sinks at the prospect of another pious, sanctimonious, tub-thumping eco-fable, give "Mononoke Hime" a chance all the same. It does have a distinct, and far from subtle, ecological message, of the "can't we just live together?" variety, but on the other hand it's far from clear that the answer the film suggests is "yes", and there are plenty of nuances and subtleties along the way. More to the point, there's a proper story, well-conceived and well told, there's a memorable, beautiful and violent world, credible characters and a good deal of charm.

The animation is mostly very fluent and careful, though not flashy in the way we're getting used to in this CG age. ("Mononoke" uses cgi, but subtly and with restraint, so that the feel remains that of a group of traditional craftsmen under one guiding hand). Quite often one finds that there are more static elements in a tableaux than you'd expect in a Disney animated feature, but I think this is an aesthetic choice rather than a mere economy: it stylizes and formalizes, while focussing attention on the important elements in the frame. But there is occasional jerkiness, though not enough to detract seriously, and perhaps it wouldn't trouble audiences whose frame of reference isn't so western as mine - I'm not sure.

Talking of the western and eastern sensibilities, the Region 2 DVD which I'm reviewing gives you a choice of English and Japanese dialogue, and though I watched the American dub first, I'd generally prefer the Japanese version, for the key roles of Ashitaka and San. Billy Crudup is appealing but too low-key, and Clare Danes strikes me as badly miscast: she sounds a bit too old, and altogether too urban to bring out the core of wildness or the steely sense of loyalty to her world. Like other reviewers, I have trouble with the Texas drawl of Billy Bob Thornton, which is just too regionally specific to match the look of the character (please understand that I'm not suggesting the cast should all have done fake Japanese accents!). On the other hand, it's pretty much a toss-up between Yuko Tanaka and Minnie Driver (who's very closely attuned to the aesthetic of the original) as Eboshi, and Gillian Anderson and Jada Pinkett Smith are just right. Still, overall you get more vividness and conviction from the original voice cast. Oddly, the lip-sync seems more approximate in the Japanese version, perhaps a fault in the synchronization on the R2 DVD. The subtitles unfortunately but understandably come from Neil Gaiman's adaptation of the screenplay rather than re-translating the Japanese - one's aware, for example, that Gaiman has added bits of extra, explanatory dialogue.

With all that out of the way, let's concentrate on what makes the film work: it delineates a world that's at once mythological and believable, and refuses to sentimentalize or simplify (even if it occasionally allows itself to preach). There are feuds and failures of trust not just between the humans and the animals, but within each world - and the animals seem as ready as the humans to exclude the other from their world. Indeed the conceit of the film seems to be that language, rather than being a product of distinctly human evolution, was originally shared among mammals at least, and it's as the war with the humans goes on that the animal kingdom becomes more brutish and less coherent. For all the prince's idealism and the delicate rapprochement some of the characters inch towards, one gets the impression that the logic of conflict will be hard to resist.

Perhaps the most appealing and intriguing element in this world is the kodoma: the little, voiceless tree-spirits seem to be a cross-between a mushroom, a toddler and a rattle, and I defy anyone not to be captivated by them.
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4/10
Maybe I just don't "get" Mononoke.
anthony6249010 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I would never say that I hate anime, but I am usually bored and confused by it. So much anime acts thoughtful and deep, but ends up being fairly shallow and simple (see: Neon Genesis and Death Note). Miyazaki has always been a person I could turn to for anime that is both fun AND thought-provoking. Please understand that I am as surprised as you are when I say that I really didn't like this movie.

Now, I don't hate Mononoke. I enjoyed the spectacle, and I recognize that it is very well-made. The story is competently told and the setting is interesting.

My problem is with the characters. No one in Mononoke acts like a human being. The prince is a perfect angel who isn't affected by human emotions like fear and greed. He is utterly flawless and boring. I mean sure, he's been cursed, but it doesn't really seem to do much to him. In fact, it only appears to make him stronger. What's he complaining about?

The women of Irontown are the most hateful people I could possibly imagine. After the attack, one of them joked, "If you hadn't been there, we'd all have to find ourselves new husbands." That's really funny, except to all of the women whose husbands are actually DEAD. What sort of callous, spiteful monster would say something like that? And worse, who would laugh at such an inappropriate joke? That same lady's husband was pushed off a cliff, almost died, and struggled for days to return home to his wife. When he finally makes it back home, what does she do? He calls him a dumbass and berates him in front of everyone. "I wish the wolves had eaten you! Then maybe I could've found a real husband." What a heartless bitch! There is no sense of love or camaraderie from anyone. I don't believe that these two have ever actually loved each other.

I could understand this if the animals were portrayed sympathetically. They are not. All of the animals are rather dickish about eating and destroying everything in their path. The people of Irontown are only trying to defend themselves and they are made out to be the villains. Sure, they're destroying the forest, but it doesn't appear like the rest of the world is all that bad; just this place.

In fact, the only person in the movie who I actually liked was Lady Obashi, the evil gun-toting power-hungry psychopath. Sure, she wanted to rule the world, but she felt like a human being. She was kind to the lepers, took pity on the whores and gave them all new and rewarding jobs. She loved her people and wanted to protect them. But she's supposed to be the villain? I don't buy it.

And what about the pig? I understand that the first pig turned into a demon because he was filled with rage, but what about the old pig? The last thing he felt was hope that all of his warriors were still alive. Why did he become a demon when he wasn't full of hate? For that matter, all of the other animals WERE full of hate. All of the wolves, the monkeys, and most of the pigs were hateful, vengeful bastards. Why didn't they turn into demons? It doesn't make any sense.

Perhaps the depth of this movie has been lost on me. Perhaps Miyazaki is trying to say that war can make a monster out of anyone, no matter how noble his cause. I suppose that would make for an interesting film, but I don't feel like that's what Miyazaki was trying to say. As it currently stands, I think that this is Miyazaki's weakest film.
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9/10
Wonderful!
derlith7 January 2005
I have never been a big fan of anime, but two weeks ago i saw Spirited Away on television. I can admit that i was stunned. It was so much more beautiful then the Disney/Pixar movies. After i had seen Spirited Away i tried frantically to find Princess Mononoke on the internet.

Princess Mononoke is a story about a prince named Ashitaka. He goes on a journey to find a cure for Tatarigami's curse. On the journey he finds himself in the middle of a war between a human Iron-town and the gods of the woods. He also meets Princess Mononoke, a girl who is raised by wolves and is filled with hate against humans.

I think Princess Mononoke was even better than Spirited Away. It outclasses its Hollywood-synonym, Lord Of The Rings. The plot is very good. The soundtrack is amazing, it's a shame that the Academy Award didn't notice it. The animation is beautiful, especially the characters. The only thing i can complain about is the English dubbing. Billy Crudup does a splendid job as the voice of Ashitaka, but they could really have chosen a better alternative than Billy Bob Thornton as Jigo.

Overall i give this movie 9 out of 10.
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10/10
Yet another job well done!
Drow_Woods1 November 2006
This is one the best movies Hayao Miyazaki has ever made. Absolutely wonderful job. The plot was at first a bit confusing, this is a movie that you have to watch more than twice: Its hard to get at first.

With beautiful backgrounds, carefully chosen seiyuus, Mononkoe Hime entertains both adults and kids.

The first time I watched Princess Mononoke, I was a bit confused about the characters. I wasn't sure what was going on, and who was this movie about again, who is this "Mononoke Hime". But as I watched this movie over and over again, the plot started opening, and I began to understand and realize things I didn't notice before.

I have always loved the way Miyazaki draws his characters expressions. Unlike some other anime movies I've seen, Miyazakis characters are more easier to read. And this is where the difference of reality and cartoons steps in. Its easy to overdo your characters expressions, and so spoil the movie, and make it look stupid, even childish. This isn't a mistake that Miyazaki would do. A big bonus for that!

Mononkoe Hime surpasses even the famous "Nausicaa, the valley of the wind". Im totally impressed!
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Not perfect but still wonderful
bob the moo20 January 2004
When he is touching by a demon while defending his village, Ashitaka is sent out to the West, from where the crazed demon originated, seeking a cure for the demon infection that will otherwise kill him. However, in seeking the domain of the gods he walks into the middle of a three-way battle between the samurai, who want Iron Town's iron deposits; Lady Eboshi who rules Iron Town and is stripping the forest of it's trees to mine it out; and finally the animals and spirits of the forest who must defend their homes, fighting for them is the human Mononoke, a young woman raised by the wolves.

It is hard to top Spirited Away, and it is maybe unfair of me to come to this film after I had seen that. This film cannot match the sheer wonder that I felt when I saw that film but this is still an accomplished film who's story is it's strength and weakness. The story is a pretty good tale that paints a reasonably good picture of this far off land, although some elements of the plot are a little thinner than I would have liked (namely the samurai). However it still manages to be engaging despite this - although of course it was never going to be as personal a story as Spirited Away. The obvious message of peace between man/industry and nature is more than just the usual one; where Lord Of The Rings was very much nature good, iron bad; this film is a lot more balanced and doesn't look at either badly.

While this runs in the background everything is fine but, when the film has to tie everything up it doesn't quite manage it. The ending is strangely very fast in happening and it ends on a morally good solution but one that I found to be emotionally quite unsatisfying. I must admit that the final 5 minutes left me feeling a little abandoned by the characters. However other than this the story is pretty exciting and the two hours go by pretty quickly.

The characters are interesting but I never managed to really get behind anyone other than Ashitaka. Eboshi was too unpleasant to relate to while Mononoke herself was too distant despite the occasional times where I felt for her. Part of this may be down to the voice cast in the US version. In Spirited Away the US cast fitted the film really well, here it is less the cast. Crudup is, ironically, one of the best voices in the cast. I say ironically because I couldn't place him in comparison to the more famous cast. Driver is OK but her character wasn't. Danes is pretty good and I felt that her character improved due to her good voice work. Anderson was miscast and her voice simply didn't fit her character at all (even with the echo added). Thornton was good for the more comedic role but slightly took away from the dramatic impact of the samurai. Pinkett-Smith brings her attitude to the role well and both she and Keith David are funny.

Visually it is as impressive as you would expect from Miyazaki. It all looks great, the whole land is filled with detail and it flows so freely. The spirits and gods are imaginative and very well drawn and the people show up just how basic stuff like Pokemon really is! It is a little too gory to be for kids (even though it is rated pg in the UK) but the vast majority of it is as detailed as you wished more kids' animation was.

Overall I really enjoyed this film but occasionally found it difficult to get past some of it's weaknesses. The characters are not all as strong as I would have liked and some of their voices aren't that good. The ending is a bit of a letdown as I was hoping for a more emotionally satisfying conclusion to the story. Despite this, it is still a wonderful film and easily one of the best animations I have seen.
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10/10
One of Miyazaki's best
goc62833 November 2014
Fun info: This is Miyazaki's first forgo into computer animation, used in the dark "snakes" near the beginning and a few other scenes and is also one of his most violent films. It also has a solid English dub.

It concentrates on a different type of character than most of his films, a young man, Ashitaka, rather than a young woman. His quest does not change him like in many other films but rather he changes many others. The film leans just enough on environmental issues to show a cause while allowing the graphics and story you desire from a Miyazaki film. Special note to the soundtrack which is one Ghibli's best. It concentrates on an iron-works and the battle between various factions of humans, the beasts, and others.

I don't plan on spoiling much else as the films plot speaks for itself. My only complaint is that certain scenes drag a bit too long and if anything a bit too much blood spills at a certain part of the film. Otherwise, this film is excellent and one of his best.

9.5/10
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10/10
mind-shattering anime; my favorite of Miyazaki's films
MisterWhiplash11 June 2006
Some might watch Princess Mononoke and find ambiguity at times. It's goes beyond formula into something that challenged me, the interplay between the forces of nature where sometimes the seemingly 'good' side is not what it seems, until the bigger, darker picture comes into view. It's a purely imaginative effort, with a level of dramatic- more over cinematic- power that I'd compare with Kurosawa on a level. Princess Mononoke, in its uncompromising way, details the violence without pulling away while also being rather anti-violent in the process. It is also hard to pinpoint on any one level.

Visually it's got so much going on to practically experience the abstractions that Hayao Miyazaki folds up into the rest of the story. The story itself trails along with the best of epic fantasy, with this crucial, earth-shattering quest that works on that level of action-adventure (possibly more for adults despite the PG-13 rating here in the States) as well as the mythological side of things. Some have written that it is a bit of a complex film in structure and storytelling, bordering on confusing. I would disagree, though I can see what they mean- you have to pay closer attention than usual of more American films. But on a more profound level, if one could call it such, it's really not hard to follow.

The hero of the film, interesting enough, is the type of tragic hero, though with one clear sight amid the chaos on the two sides he encounters- peace. He is cursed by a sort of wormy-jelly demon that runs unyielding in the darker recesses of the world. He searches for something to rid him of his scars while on the human side at some points (mostly dominated by the women impressed- or against- his skills), and with those of the wolves on the other side. The title character is part of the latter, though also human, bringing a little more of the underlying symbolism with a character. Then there are also the boars ready to destroy the humans, even to their demise. Amid the battles that rage on, leading to the significance of a certain 'Deer God' as the centerpiece of the balance of the forests and civilizations, not too much is made explicit. At the same time, the side taken by the cursed hero is even questioned by one character, and with that part connected with the others the story trumps what could have been a kind of smothering over-symbolic representation into what is necessary and spectacular about the film.

In fact, I would estimate on just the near bravery of what Miyazaki is achieving in the film, it's one of the best films of its kind. And 'of its kind' in this case is the animated film that breaks conventions and the typical 'good vs. evil' logic. Many times the suddenness of things had me wide-eyed, and each creature or little variance on the creations- both good and evil- are elaborated with out compromise. The digitally-animated worm-Jelly type monsters are some of the more memorable ones, to be sure, as they book-end the picture in different extraordinary ways (the climax in particular probably ranks with the best of the last decade or so). The tiny bobble-headed alien creatures are also a delight as they rattle and gather and multiply and flee all around; this is the kind of scene that is dream-like to a truly weird and bright sensibility. And many scenes that have more of that samurai-movie quality to them (again, Kurosawa) are extremely well-done on their own as then they become mixed around again with the fantasy elements.

To say that the film is really a 'family' film might be not entirely accurate, as some of the battle and attack footage is pretty graphic in its own ways, if not as much as other more adult anime like Fist of the North Star or Ninja Scroll. There are even moments I would say that, had I been little and watching some of the more twisted and macabre scenes, I might have cried from it. But this is a credit to Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli; for older kids this could mark as something that is, indeed, foreign to their expectations, at least American ones. It is a work of art, not just animation, that takes chances and isn't afraid to go for the right twists and leaps of creation and at the same time keeping its message noticeable but not overbearing. It's a film I can't wait to see again, and likely my favorite of the filmmaker's too, with the same cinematic drive as in the other works I've seen but reaching the ambitious heights it intends.
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8/10
excellent animation
rebeljenn3 February 2006
This animated Japanese-style film follows a young boy through the forest to rid himself of a curse. The film is about Nature and humans and the gods of all things. The young boy tracks down Princess Mononoke to help him. The film is beautifully animated and enjoyable. It also has some good insights about the culture and showing the important balance (or imbalance) between humans and Nature. It has some good lessons to learn here. This is a film that can be enjoyed and sets itself above many of the other animations coming out these days. It's serious, yet it is refined; it does have a refined sense of humour in a couple of places. I recommend it.
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10/10
A completely underrated masterclass
samosorio8 January 2018
Up until a certain point i regarded spirited away as Miyazaki's masterwork and my favorite of his filmography; Spirited Away is still his best and Miyazaki at his peak, but Princess Mononoke has resonated with me like a film never has. From the opening narration provided by Keith David to the final shot of San and Ashitaka in the field together, the film is perfect in every sense of the word. The soundtrack alone, composed by the immensely talented Joe Hisaishi, is completely cinematic and transportive. What adds to the greatness of this movie is how un-miyazaki it is, considering how, for lack of a better term, family friendly the rest of his films are; this one is a sharp, but welcomed departure. With thematic elements of war and conflict between the preservation of nature and the advancement of human civilization, Miyazaki does not downplay the severity and importance of these elements and injects his genius into it as he does. The characters are nothing to laugh at either as they are layered as you'd expect a studio Ghibli character to be, you have an exiled prince looking to relieve himself of a curse cast onto him by a demon while trying to act as a peace keeper between man and nature, a girl who was abandoned at birth that was adopted by a forest deity and acts as a primary point of interaction between the humans and nature, and a well intentioned matriarch who saves women in this world from brothels and is a pioneer in the advancement of human civilization, and the list goes on. I would be remiss if i did not talk about how gorgeous this film is animated, there are stills in this that if i just took it out of the film, framed it, and placed it in the middle of a prestigious art museum it would not look out of place. I've lost count at the amount of times I've seen this film and i am still enamored by it.
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