My friend Émilie is an anime and comic book aficionado. While discussing animated features last night, anything by Hayao Miyazaki came with the highest possible recommendation. To my surprise, I realized that I had already seen one of his movies, Howl's Moving Castle based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones.
Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away topped the list of must-see animated features, and I had a feeling that Émilie would probably throw rotten tomatoes at me if I didn't enjoy the movies. After being ditched at the last minute by my friend last night, I ended up with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Went to the video store and was happy to discover that they had a copy of Princess Mononoke.
A little background check revealed two very interesting tidbits of information. The first was that Neil Gaiman worked on the English adaptation of the movie. The second was that Princess Mononoke was the highest grossing movie in Japan until it was beaten by Titanic. Armed with these facts, I knew it would likely be something special.
Simply put, Princess Mononoke was fantastic. I know I can be demanding where movies are concerned, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Though it lasts more than two hours, I was enthralled from start to finish. Hayao Miyazaki sets the mood perfectly, and Joe Hisaishi's sometimes haunting soundtrack reveals layers of emotions and magic. Heck, I'm thinking of buying the movie soundtrack! Visually, this was wonderful. And storywise, it was great to see an animated feature that wasn't just meant for kids or people with a 2-digit IQ.
It was pure delight to follow the adventures of Ashitaka, as the last Emishi prince decides to meet his fate before his curse kills him. The supporting cast is comprised of a number of engaging characters such as Lady Eboshi and San the wolf girl.
I really enjoyed the fact that there's no good versus evil struggle. Every theme, concept, and characters have shades of gray. Environmentalism is a recurring theme in Miyazaki's movies, or so I'm told, and it plays a very important role in Princess Mononoke. Strong female characters are said to be another staple in his repertoire, and it's definitely the case in this movie.
All in all, I basically loved everything about Princess Mononoke, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys tales of epic proportions. Émilie is supposed to write down a list of the best animated features for me, but do let me know if you have recommendations of your own.
Not to be missed!