Worth A Look: Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is another film from Studio Ghibli, that excellent source of family friendly viewing. There's violence, but not the splatter fest of some anime movies.

Ashitaka is a young man who is injured while protecting his village from an enraged boar god who has been taken over by a demon. During the struggle, he is touched by the demon and so will be taken over by it himself. Because of this, he must leave the village and never return.

Deciding to meet his fate, he goes east to find the source of the damage that has been done by the demon. His adventure leads him to two remarkable women at the centre of an ecological war between humans who need to mine and process iron, and the great forest which is the source of life.

One of the women is Princess Mononoke. As a child she was taken by the wolf god and raised to fight for that clan instead of the humans. It's fairly easy to understand this kind of character. She's a savage child with a wolfish nature because that's what she's been trained for. The wolf god, though, is not entirely savage and although she speaks of biting people's heads off is actually kind and brave.

More interesting is the Lady Eboshi. Lady Eboshi is responsible for running Iron Town. Under her direction the forest is being cleared and the iron is being processed in the town to send to the Emperor. The Emperor never appears in the film, but his power is a driving force behind the actions of the characters, giving another layer to the idea of evil behind the film.

Lady Eboshi cares nothing for the life of the forest or the gods. She has firearms with which to kill the gods and put an end to the problems they present, and her iron bullets are poisonous to them. On the other hand, she has provided a good life for the Humans around her. The factory workers are women who have been taken out of brothels and been given a chance of a better life. They are very happy and grateful for this, and loyal to Lady Eboshi because of it. Other workers are lepers whom she bandages and talks with. They have no life at all anywhere else. Lady Eboshi is a cool customer, quite clear in her goals, and lets nothing stand in her way. However, she is completely unable to see the harm she is doing to the world around her or apply the same mercy to the forest that she applies to her people.

A cynic might suggest that she merely chose her workers because they were cheap, but this idea is never mentioned in the film.

Princess Mononoke was made in 1997 and, according to Rotten Tomatoes, became the highest grossing Japanese film in Japan of all time. Wikipedia tells us that the DVD released by Disney did less well but that an utter lack of promotion for it may have been the reason. Nevertheless, some money was put into re-dubbing with English speaking actors such as Gillian Anderson and Minnie Driver. It's interesting to note Neil Gaiman among the credits for adapting parts of the movie into English.

Besides all this, Princess Monoke is wonderful to look at. I loved the forest best, and the little forest spirits, the kodamu, that live in it. Having blue-ray to watch old DVDs on is certainly a treat, although its producer, Myazaki, would like us to think about his movies and e go out and enjoy nature rather than sit around watching repeats again. It has in M 15+ rating. Check it out. Enjoy.