Princess Mononoke

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!

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18 commentaires:

Chris M said...

I thoroughly enjoyed Princess Mononoke and its characters, particularly Lady Eboshi. The soundtrack is also worth getting imo. I'd also recommend Nausicaä, which has a similar theme though is more futuristic. :)

Unknown said...

Yes, Nausicaa and Mononoke are the best Miyazaki movies. Other than those two and Howl's, I feel like they are all a bit childish.

Some other good movies (though more confusing, kinda like Malazan books) are Appleseed, Karas, and of course Akira and Ghost in the Shell.

And Sword of the Stranger has the best fight sequences of all time.

Jeff said...

Watch the works of Makoto Shinkai, they are all truly wonderful.

Voices of a Distant Star

The Place Promised in Our Early Days

5 Centimeters Per Second

You are going to love these. I know you will.

Anonymous said...

Agreeing with Jeff here, although not so much on Voices of a Distant Star.

5 Centimetres per Second is the most beautiful film I have seen in any medium. Every single frame in that movie could be hung on a wall.

As for Miyazaki, all his films are great. I'd probably have to go with My Neighbour Totoro though as his greatest. It may sound like (and it is) a children's film but it is a total joy and absolutely magical. If you have young children then you owe it to them to get this film.

Anonymous said...

He may be showing his best skills at making an epic in his seven volume manga of Nausicaa. I only own three, but the complexity is really impressive and his battle scenes couldn't be any better choreographed in a novel (or a movie). One criticism is that Nausicaa and Mononoke are based on the same archetypes (which shows that his priority is not in being a writer).

Anonymous said...

Nausicaa, even if the manga is really betteri.
Nearly all of miyazaki are fantastic ( spirited away, castle in the sky, totoro....)
and yes i will too recommend karas, even if it's an anime, I will strongly recommend KARAS in four episodes.
And also another anime, Macross ZERO

Anonymous said...

While you're at modern Japanese masters: Takeshi Kitano ("Hana-bi" and "Zatoichi - The Blind Samurai" I know and are really excellent, though a little depressive). He sometimes used Joe Hisaishi as composer, e.g. in Hana-bi, so the recommendation might not be entirely off-track, although he makes live-action.

Unknown said...

You can't go wrong with any of the Miyazaki productions, or anything by Studio Ghibli for that matter. They're all wonderful. But my favourites are probably Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and Castle in the Sky. Epic and beautiful. And if you can get a hold of the Nausicaä manga, do it - it's even better than the movie, which is no small feat because the movie is so great.

For other anime, there's little out there I'd really recommend except maybe Tokyo Godfathers, Cowboy Bebop, Kenshin Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal OVA (stay away from the childish TV series) and.... well, it's a bit of a guilty pleasure but I enjoy Visions of Escaflowne (unlike Kenshin, you'll want the series, NOT the movie - stay away from the movie!).

Anonymous said...

Kenshin's not bad, but I would say read the manga it was based off of. Less filler, faster pace.

Miyazaki is always good.

I know folks who don't want to have anything to do with anime, but they'll watch Cowboy Bebop. Bebop is very easy to enjoy. Sit down, watch it, be entertained. It also helps that the english dub is awesome.

Adam Skinner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Skinner said...

There's a certain jump in geek cred when you go from loving sci-fi / fantasy to anime.

No subculture worth it's salt is without an exhaustive database encompassing their sphere of interest. English speaking anime lovers have quite a few at their disposal, but the main two are AniDB and MyAnimeList. From there, you can find jumping points to plenty of other sources. MAL is probably the best single point, since it includes an American style rating system (G/PG/R, etc), recommendations for each title sourced from users, reviews, and links to other databases.

Here's the link to Princess Mononoke.

Some films and series you might enjoy as a sci-fi and fantasy guy:

Dennou Coil
Sword of the Stranger
Spirited Away
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Seirei no Moribito
Terra e...
Ga-Rei -Zero-
Jyu Oh Sei
Macross Frontier
Ergo Proxy

Almost all of these can be obtained from BakaBT, though Jyu Oh Sei is available for streaming on Hulu, and GITS:SAC is on Netflix Watch Instantly.

Unknown said...

Nausica is even better, for me that is. Although a bit stranger.

For Manga, I cannot reccomend high enough 12 kingdoms. The series is not finished translation into english. (and some say it never will), but for fans of Martin, this should be no show stopper :)

Adam Skinner said...

Richard, how is 12 Kingdoms similar to ASOIAF? It's been on my hitlist for a while, but I might have to bump it up =)

Cecrow said...

I find the anime movies really hit and miss; I'm not a fan of them per se but I'll cross the occasional one that really works for me. 'Spirited Away' I thought was strangely wonderful. 'Akira' meanwhile I just couldn't get past the first thirty minutes of. Haven't seen Mononoke, but have definitely heard of it many times.

Anonymous said...

Time of Eve on the stream of The show is as artsy as Anime gets and all free. Watching it is like visiting a jazzclub. But there are only 6 episodes so far and the plot is rather simplistic, laid-back.

Nick said...

I liked all the Miyazaki's so far. The childish ones Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky and Ponyo might be the better ones.

Anonymous said...

Of the most revered Ghibli movies that is not directed by Hayao Miyazaki (btw. don't bother for his son's version of Earthsea) is certainly "Grave of the Fireflies" by Isao Takahata, about two children in WWII. It's often called one of the best war movies and one of the saddest movies ever at once.

Another anime director that deserves the tag artist is Satoshi Kon who has made a groundbreaking psychothriller show called Paranoia Agent and some impressive movies with a unique style.

Also worth recommending are most works by Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion) and the surreal show FLCL (or Fooly Cooly) by his studio Gainax.

Greyweather said...

Yes, Satoshi Kon is the man.

Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Tokyo Godfathers are all great.

One really good movie that hasn't been mentioned yet is Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, and alternate history story where Germany took over Japan.

An excellent Miyazaki movie that hasn't been mentioned by anybody yet is The Castle of Cagliostro.

Another good older movie is They Were Eleven, basically Lord of the Flies in space.

Someone mentioned Dennou Coil and I have to say it is one hell of a TV show. A similar technological premise to Vinge's "Rainbows End" (augmented reality) but a much more compelling story.