Review by pygospa

Princess Mononoke 1997

As a kid and young adult I was never into Manga or Anime or Japanese culture, so I believe that I've actually never seen a Japanese Anime before this one. I did watch the Last Airbender series, though, but even though they use the typical Japanese Anime style I'd feel like cheating if I'd list that as an Anime, because it's a US production.

However, as someone that is interested in movies and talks to other movie enthusiasts, there are certain Anime movies that you will simply hear popping up. Director Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli productions for instance, and Princess Mononoke as one of his works is - according to many - something you should have seen. His works are celebrated as classics, even among non Anime-enthusiasts, his movie Spirited Away is listed in Steven Jay Schneider's !1001 movies to see before you die", and in the IMDB Top 250 movies you'll even find 6 of his movies, one of them being Princess Mononoke. This is just one reason why I always planned on giving those movies a try - I just never came around. Another one was just added recently as I started learning Japanese and saw it a good practice to watch movies in Japanese. And a third reason was a recent special in a YouTube format I like to watch (for the German readers: "Rocket Beans TV's Kino+"), where the guests talked about their Top 20 anime movies.

So finally I got myself the Blu-ray to もののけ姫. I actually really wanted to get the Japanese releases on Blu-ray but as they are extremely expensive, I settled for the German Steelbook releases which look fine as well (but unfortunately don't feature the Japanese Titles). Mononoke was the first I got, because it was the one with the lowest availability. It wasn't the movie that I was interested most in (that is actually "Spirited Away" but that is already out of print :( ), but it became the first I watched.

As someone who isn't that deep into Japanese Anime Culture the movie was somewhat confusing at the beginning. There where a few things I did not pick up, and this might have also been due to the fact that I watched it with original soundtrack and German subtitles - I feel like it's much harder to read subtitles on animated movies than it is on live action movies. But even though I was sometimes a bit confused about the behaviors, I generally enjoyed the movie. It had a few really cute ideas, e.g. I enjoyed the "Kodamas" as they are called - the wood spirits. And I liked the general idea of the Shishigami - the forest spirit. I did expect this movie to be much more about the girl (called San, not Mononoke - also she is not really a princess - so the title is a bit puzzling) though. However it is told entirely from the perspective of prince Ashitaka, who is actually a prince who got attacked by a vengeful spirit and tries to find a cure/and or the cause of the demons existence and finds it in Lady Eboshi and her Iron Town, who seek to destroy the forest and by doing so defeat all the Gods and spirits that dwell in it.

As you might already have heard out of the small plot summary, this movie bears a deeper meaning, and it is really strange from any western movie, because even though we get a typical antagonist, we actually never ever really get a showdown with her. She is still treated as someone who is good and protected by our protagonist, even though her actions are pure evil and threaten the world and are the cause of curses and wild demons savaging the nearby villages.

All in all, it's an interesting movie, it has a deep meaning that we should all think about, yet it is also really strange and at times confusing. I feel like I'll have to watch it a second time, and maybe at least once with German dubbings.

I was excited though. The art is beautifully done, and there are really creative ideas that went into this movie. I am probably still not an Anime/Manga guy - yet even I can realize that it is worth a watch.

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