Monday, September 30, 2013

Anime Review: Princess Mononoke

PRINCESS MONONOKE: Amazing in almost all departments

Princess Mononoke tells the story of Ashitaka, a boy who is inflicted with a deadly curse upon saving his village from a demon-god. In his search for a cure, he embarks on a journey to the forests inhabited by animal gods. There, he finds himself in the middle of a looming war between gods and men.

From the mere premise, it is clear that Princess Mononoke is one of those stories that will require tremendous amount of world building. This is very crucial, because this kind of story is often victim of too much information dumping in the beginnings. But this is not the case for Princess Mononoke. The establishing of the world is perfectly interwoven with the main plotline, making the flow of the story very natural. Aside from that, this gives the viewers an impression that the world of Princess Mononoke is so vast that not even the story is able to grasp some of its aspects. This makes the viewers exercise their imagination and fill in the other details of the world.

The storytelling is also worth praising. It doesn’t dwell on random details, and every sequence drives the story to the right direction. However, in the middle of the film, the direction of the story seems to have a shift.

In the beginning of the story, it is established that the goal is to find the cure for the curse. But half way through, the goal changes into convincing the people and animal gods to live in peace with each other. Don’t get me wrong. This is incredible storytelling. The shifting of goals is a good way to move from one story arc to another. In truth, it doesn’t feel like a transition of story arcs; the film itself feels like an overarching story. But the problem I have with it is the lack of focus on the original goal, as if it is just set aside to make the story more plot-oriented and less character-driven.

Speaking of characters, Princess Mononoke has its fair share of interesting ones. What I really like about the characterization is the fact that it doesn’t create a clear line between good and evil. This makes the characters more human and believable, and tells the viewers that nothing is purely evil just for the sake of it.

The best example of this is Lady Eboshi, the one responsible for sparking the war between the animal gods and men. She shows sympathy to fellow humans, and she has goals that are noble and admirable. It just turns out that her ideals don’t coincide with that of the animal gods. San, the girl who the title is paying homage to, is also a worth-noting character. Her background is established but not portrayed, adding a sense of mystery in her identity. But this doesn’t make her a bland character, as many mysterious character in stories are bland. Her actions and relationship with Ashitaka clearly shows the depth of her character.

Aside from the story and characterization, Princess Mononoke is also excellent in the department of themes and symbolisms.  To put it simply, the film is a huge allegory of the battle between nature and humankind. The amazing thing about this is that it is not spoon-fed to the viewers. The underlying concepts are there for the viewers to dissect on their own.

Overall, Princess Mononoke is an excellent film. It strives in story, storytelling, characterization, character development, and theme. These departments are all done so well that seeing them interwoven in a singular plot makes them more powerful and influential. Layered with incredible musical soundtracks and detailed animation, they become even more powerful and influential! This is a must-watch for both anime enthusiast and not. I couldn’t recommend it more.


  1. 100% agree with your review. Princess Mononoke is an excellent film, and it is right there as possibly my animated film ever made. Compared to the other three Miyazaki films I have seen, this is definitely the most mature and more specifically for an older audience, which I really liked about the film. The world the film created was very engrossing and engaging, and I also agree that the world building was very well executed.
    Thanks again for recommending this, I think I have been a Miyazaki fans now.


    1. It's also my personal favorite! As much as I like Spirited Away, I'll choose Princess Mononoke and Castle in the Sky any day. I'm looking forward to your reviews of the films too! I'm also looking forward to your take on Code Geass! That was an interesting watch.