Mononoke-Hime

Mononoke-Hime

(Princess Mononoke)


[Image: San stands with Moro]Mononoke-Hime carries many distinctions. This excellent film, the work of Hayao Miyazaki and his highly-influential Studio Ghibli, departs greatly from the shojo realms of their prior works (such as My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service). Most significantly, Mononoke-Hime is the top-grossing Japanese film of all time; that an animated film carries this great distinction is a true testament to the genius of Miyazaki/Ghibli and to the power of animation.

Mononoke-Hime is set in a semi-fantasy world roughly situated in fourteenth century Japan. Unlike previous Miyazaki films, there is no true "heroine" to this offering, although female characters are both prominent and troubling. San, the "shojo" character, is a Human girl raised by Moro and the Wolf clan; closely aligned with Nature, San hates Humans, and has joined the Wolf clan in its battles to save the forest from destruction. Lady Eboshi is the political and military leader of a small village where weapons and ammunition are made, and she sees San and the forest creatures as trouble which must be erradicated. The Wolf Moro has adopted San and cares for the girl, but she is a fierce warrior. Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this film is that none of these three main female characters are truly "evil..." nor are they truly "good."

[Image: San fights Lady Eboshi]The mainly-forest settings of the film and the political and military intrigues which play out in and around the forests certainly call attention to present-day environmental concerns. The exquisite details of the forests and their many creatures (including fantasy, kami figures) deeply draw the spectator into the beauty of Nature... and its fury. In fact, the opening scene of the film shows one facet of Nature's wrath, ending in an incident which sets the film's narrative into motion with the wounding of Ashitaka.

Several male characters play prominent roles in Mononoke-Hime, but none moreso than Ashitaka. This young man journeys to find a cure to his wound, and along the way becomes embroiled in the Man vs. Nature battles played out between San and Lady Eboshi and their respective forces. Further, Ashitaka becomes a pawn in an Imperial quest which has the potential to destroy everyone and everything. Finally, Ashitaka and San do manage to create a quasi-relationship in the midst of all the fighting and the conflicting loyalties surrounding them.

While Mononoke-Hime has received tremendous critical and public acclaim from people of all ages, this really is not a film for young children, despite Miyazaki's involvement. While the film's violence is not over-the-top in any way (unlike Kite, which includes severed body parts), it may still frighten young children. Further, the deeply-involved, multi-level political intrigues are so complex as to severely tax adult spectators' abilities to follow all the loyalties and backstabbings correctly.

For anyone building an anime collection, Mononoke-Hime is definitely a must-have film. Many articles and books have also been written focusing on the film itself, and/or on Hayao Miyazaki; these are also important additions to an anime library. Mononoke-Hime also sports one of the best soundtracks in anime, ranking up with the soundtracks for Ghost in the Shell and the Vampire Princess Miyu TV series.


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