Monday, January 4, 2010

Anime Review - Princess Mononoke

"What exactly are you here for?"
"To see with eyes unclouded by hate."

Princess Mononoke, directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli, is among one of my favourite movies ever, possibly rating in the top 10. So, it's to no surpise that when I saw it with Tom Clift of Plus Trailers ( I remembered why I loved it so much. As of two days ago, I've seen the movie a total of at least 6 times, about 4 in English, twice in Japanese. Every aspect of this movie is wonderfully crafted and no detail is left untouched from the Ghibli magic. In my opinion it's one of, if not the, best movies that Miyazaki has directed, and still my favourite anime film of all time.

The plot of this film is fairly forward. Boy lives in village, boy kills demon god and is cursed, boy travels west to find cure, boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy and girl live happily ever after. Wait, that's not quite right. No, Princess Mononoke doesn't have a simple plot at all, but it's not an overly complicated one either. It works wonderfully with the universe Miyazaki has given it, and the characters interact within this story and world just as well.

On the point of characters, never have I come across characters within a movie I care so much about. The plight of Ashitaka, San’s odd position as the human daughter of a wolf god, and Eboshi’s caring, yet hard attitude for her town and the forest are all interwoven and memorable down to the last line. Even minor characters become memorable, such as Toki, the wife of a man that Ashitaka saves, or even the nameless lepers, they all remain in your mind well after you’ve finished watching the movie.

Pacing of the film is terrific, moving from serenity to action purposefully and without a hitch, but there are one or two scenes that seem amiss in the long run. One in particular involves Ashitaka talking to himself about his demon mark, a point that is bought up again at least twice later on, and since the scene is only 10 seconds long, it could well have been left out. The final climax also seems ever so slightly drawn out, but it remains a brilliant, on the edge of your seat finale.

To assist the wonderful story telling of Miyazaki, the animation is a stunning example of what can be achieved in anime. For a 1997 film, it uses tradition, computer, and 3D animation to brilliant ends, surpassing even some animation of today. Characters and backgrounds mingle seamlessly and some wonderful pans of the forest make you truly feel like you’re there with the characters. Action is never jarring and flows beautifully from the screen to your eyes. There is little else to say about the animation of this movie except that it’s beyond superb, essentially perfect.

Much the same thing can be said for the sound in this movie as well. The music in particular is possibly the best from any film, ever. I’m going outright and saying that. Nary is a single note misplaced in the film, and it sports one of the best main themes I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. The sound effects are also superb and do not go amiss on the 5.1 surround sound English and Japanese tracks. On the note of both tracks, it’s hard to distinguish which is the better. While the main leads, Ashitaka and San are both better on the Japanese dub, many of the supporting roles such as Lady Eboshi, Moro, and Jiko are easily better in English. It’s a bit of a tossup between better leads, or better supporting roles. Personally, I prefer the English dub since the voice of Moro in Japanese gets on my nerves that much, but since I saw it first in English, that may affect my choice.

This film can be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone, even non-anime fans as Tom Clift showed. I would recommend that you go see it, even if you’re not a fan, since this movie transcends anime or live action, it’s just that good, seriously.

Plot 9/10
Animation 10/10
Sound 10/10
Enjoyment 10/10
Overall 39/40
Grade A++

- Enjoyable to the nth degree
- Amazing soundtrack
- Stunning animation
- Ever so slight pacing issues


  1. Hmm, the only Miyazaki film I've seen is Spirited Away. I saw it a while a go, so I don't remember it very well - but I do remember liking it.

    But I really would like to see Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away again at some point. I've heard nothing but good things about both of them.

  2. Yeah, I'd definately recommend watching both of them. I think that Mononoke, is better, but quite a few prefer Spirited Away.