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[ café reviews ]

[ Mononoke Hime, San ]

Mononoke Hime
(Princess Mononoke)

Copyright: © 1997 Tokuma Shoten Publishing
Length: 135 minutes
Genre: fantasy / drama
Rating: NR, Violence, parental guidance suggested
Format: Original Japanese Dialog (VHS/LD)

Original story by: Miyazaki Hayao Written and Directed by: Miyazaki Hayao (Studio Ghibli)

[ rated m ]

intense situations

Recommended for Mature Audiences - Several intense, violent and bloody battle scenes. Several scenes of decapitation and loss of limbs -- but without the spurting geysers of blood that have befallen so many anime titles. The movie is rather long, and will challenge younger audiences to sit still.

[ plot summary ]

Ashitaka is expected to be the next leader of his clan. However, a possessed Nagonomori terrorizes the land and attacks three girls on their way back to the village and Ashitaka has no choice but to attack the creature. Essentially attacking Tatari-gami however is never a wise idea and as punishment by Tatari-gami, Ashitaka is marked and fated to die. Determined to meet his fate and spare his village any potential harm, Ashitaka sets out on a journey with Yakuru (his mount) to determine the source of the unusual lump discovered in the disintegrated remains of Nagonomori.

Tatara village is an unusual place where primitive fire arms are being developed. The surrounding land's trees have all been cut down to make space for further development. However, Shishigami's creatures by their very nature are trying to replant the trees which were lost. Eboshi, leader of Tatara however uses her firearms to scare away the Shojou from performing their duty and replanting the trees.

San, a young girl who was raised by Moro-no-kimi is outraged by the destruction of the land by Eboshi and is determined to kill her. With the help of Moronokimi and two Moronoko, San attacks the village in an effort to kill Eboshi. Ashitaka, currently in the village which was also the source of the unusual metal lump (primitive iron slug) in Nagonomori's body interferes in the fight between Eboshi and San and claims San's life as his in exchange for sparing Eboshi. Ashitaka is mortally wounded when saving San, who in return takes him to the place where Shishigami comes down to the earth during the new moon. Shishigami heals Ashitaka of his wound but does nothing about the tatari or curse infecting Ashitaka.

Eboshi, determined to go ahead with her village's continued industrialization determines to kill Shishigami in an effort to show the people that the God has no true power, and in order to get rid of Shishigami's servants from working against her plans. Aided by Jiko?? who wants Shishigami's head for personal reasons, Eboshi learns the location where Shishigami walks on the earth. Stripping her village of the warriors, Eboshi leaves a group of determined women to guard the town while she tries to kill Shishigami. However, a group of Samurai from a neighboring town attack and Tatara is in dire straits...

[ capsule review ]

[ A possessed Nago-no-mori threatens the safety of Ashitaka's village ]

[ Ashitaka's arm is cursed by the tatari-gami ]

[ San tends to the injuries of Moro-no-kimi ]

[ The enigmatic and playful kodama, or spirit of the forests ]

[ Ashitaka, saved by the healing powers of the forest, spies his savior in its elk-like state ]

[ Lady Eboshi, the strong leader of the Tatara ]

[ Ashitaka is determined to stop an all-out war from destroying everything he cares about ]

[ Ashitaka, his arm cursed by the Tatari-gami ]

[ The true price of conflict is in lives... ]

[ Shishigami, the God of the forests ]

This isn't something I'd call easy to understand. It took two viewings to get a decent idea of the overall story with any confidence. The animation was a mix between the typical Studio Ghibli style colours with watercolour style background scenes. These watercolours were seen primarily in the first half of the movie. Typical of Studio Ghibli, the animation quality was very good with a great deal of detail, although personally I found that the watercolour backgrounds clashed a bit with the character colours typical of Ghibli's work. The soundtrack is also very good and rather moving at times. Somewhat minor in key the overall feel of the movie is a bit subdued and depressed.

Apparently Miyazaki considers this movie to be the best he has written and produced, however, personally I didn't find this to be the case. While the voice acting was very good, I found the characters to be a bit less developed than typical for Miyazaki. People's motives are much less clear adding a certain feel of ambivalence to the movie. While some of the characters were very grey being neither evil nor good (more blind - which is closer to real life), I found San's character to be rather two-dimensional. The overall theme of the movie was pretty basic dealing with society's desires to cut down wild areas to make more space for development. Since the creatures which follow/support Shishigami were essentially opposing the village of Tatara, Shishigami therefore had to die. I found the length of the movie somewhat difficult to reconcile. 2 1/4 hours of which the first half seemed a bit too long and the end was far too short almost as if the ending was rushed for production. Indeed the finale with Shishigami was a bit disappointing due to the rushed feel of the story.

Perhaps most disappointing were the battle scenes some of which were a bit gratuitously violent. Certainly it didn't seem entirely necessary to portray them the way they were, yet at the same time, this movie really isn't for anyone less than 13 years of age. Indeed it's aimed at a more mature audience. The movie still had its moments and there's plenty of marketable commodities associated with the production but the most difficult part to reconcile was the ambivalent relationships between various characters. The relationships between various parties were not very clear cut. There was infighting and disputes happening which cast doubt on character inter-relations. Even so, the film itself was excellent and makes one pause and think about the environment and ecology in general.

Shishigami's death and the resulting effects on the lands are a mixed blessing. While the movie ends on a slightly upbeat note, there is still that feel of ambivalence with respect to the future despite some peoples verbalized will to reform. Character development was rather interesting from the Shojou's wish to eat human flesh to gain human strong traits to the interactions between Moro and Okkotonushi. Perhaps the most disappointing was the lack of development in San's character. While a strong-willed female character, she is not like the typical Miyazaki film female. Her overall character is fairly simple. Ashitaka's character is however, very strong willed and more typical of the female character in films like Nausicaa and Kiki's. - JYN

[ café rating ]

Original: Subbed: Dubbed:
Story: 5 stars N/A N/A
Direction: 4 stars N/A N/A
Acting: 4 stars N/A N/A
Animation: 4 stars N/A N/A
Music: 4 stars N/A N/A
Translation: N/A N/A N/A
Overall Rating: 4 stars N/A N/A

[ see also ]

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