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A Month of Miyazaki: Week 2 – “Princess Mononoke”

I am back with Week 2 of “Month of Miyazaki”, (which is paying homage to both my childhood memories of  watching Toonami after school and the man–whose name is half of the title–and creator of these awesome films.

I must admit, I am ultra-pleased at the amount of views the previous post got as well as the results of last week’s poll, “which Miyazaki film deserves to be reviewed”. The poll is still open below as there are 2 weeks left; so stay votin’.

 

Holey Moley.

Let me just say that this movie is nothing like I remembered.

Halfway through it, I started questioning myself and asking myself “did I really ever ‘watch’ the damn movie”. Then, I came to the conclusion, “Prolly not.” Or…I did and I just didn’t understand any of what was going on. And this theory is very likely given that I am the same person that gave Finding Nemo an entirely new plot.

One of these days, I am going to do a lost footage thing where I post some of the sound bites or videos because my responses were not correct.

“The animation is nice…What the complete f*ck! What is that?!”

A.J. Parker, minutes into the film

Watching this, I felt completely and totally swindled. I was not prepared in any way for what happened in this movie. After sitting down and actually watching it, this movie is dark as sh*t. The animation was so nice and intriguing (it was the lush grass and forest that did it), then it came through like “nope, you thought you were gonna get happy bunnies”.

Why??!!!

  While protecting his village from rampaging boar-god/demon, a confident young warrior, Ashitaka, is stricken by a deadly curse. To save his life, he must journey to the forests of the west. Once there, he’s embroiled in a fierce campaign that humans were waging on the forest. The ambitious Lady Eboshi and her loyal clan use their guns against the gods of the forest and a brave young woman, Princess Mononoke, who was raised by a wolf-god. Ashitaka sees the good in both sides and tries to stem the flood of blood. This is met be animosity by both sides as they each see him as supporting the enemy.

Written by Christopher Taguchi, another random guy on IMDb

 

 

I obviously did not read the back of the DVD at the movie rental place.

So, yeah.

First, I want to discuss what I was too lazy to in the previous post in this series. Confession, it wasn’t all laziness because I did want to keep the post semi-simple given the fact that it was the first Studio Ghibli film I had ever seen and I was a child. If you are an avid fan of Miyazaki or have just seen enough of his films, you know that he has a certain tendency to stick a certain “format”.

The movie seems to be like most of Miyazaki’s films and has many of the typical things that can be found in them:

  1. Conflict is usually “man v.s. nature”
  2. Flight is somehow involved or thrown in there
  3. Next level Heroines
  4. The villains are never just villains

And Princess Mononoke sticks pretty darn close to that format.

The movie’s main conflict is centered around humans coming through and f*cking sh*t up as we have a tendency to do. FernGully: The Last Rainforest, anyone? And so, the spirits are pissed and want to kick the humans’ asses.

What?

While the story seems like a simple tale of humankind versus nature, there are many layers which complicate things.

For starters, keeping with #4, there are no outright evil people in this movie. There is San, whose relentless drive to protect the forest leads her into conflict with the humans and is the basis for her disdain for them. Yet, while she is an enemy of the humans, her intent is merely to save her own homeland. On the flipside, Eboshi,  the ruler of Irontown, want’s pretty much the same thing. Hell, even though she is the person most responsible for the source of conflict in the movie, it is shown that she is as compassionate about the people who live in Irontown as San is about the forest. Lady Eboshi isn’t truly villainous but just on the opposing side of San.

And she is very clearly about it

And quite truthfully, Lady Eboshi may just be among my favorite Studio Ghibli characters.

True, she may be largely responsible for the destruction of the forest and the mining, but it was all done in order to protect the people within her village which she clearly very deeply cares about, (even the lepers and former prostitutes get some love).

For the time period this movie set in, I am pretty certain having gun-toting village-leading females was not the norm. And I love the treatment of her as a whole. Her goals are the same as San’s, just carried out in a different, not necessarily wrong, way. Lady Eboshi is probably one of the most complex characters in any of Studio Ghibli’s films.

I like to think that many of Miyazaki’s film’s feature a certain type woman or girl. Last week’s pick, Kiki’s Delivery Service was the story of a girl coming of age and tackling some of the things that come along with that. The film is filled with incredibly complex female characters that play a far more important role in the narrative than any of the males, including main character Ashitaka. Between San and Lady Eboshi, (though neither one is really the protagonist of the film), they are both women of action. This extends even to Moro, the wolf god that raised San, and even the townswomen of Irontown.

Even after re-watching it as an adult, I feel that I can’t do this movie justice. I think it’s one of those movies that you can’t just roughly explain and hope that others understand. Like, no, just go watch it. Since the plot was better and more engaging than the last one and the characters in it are beyond great, I give this movie… an 8.8

3

Check out some other posts in the series!

A Month of Miyazaki

Week 1: Kiki’s Delivery Service

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Image(s): ladyeboshigozen.tumblr.com,  giphy.com, bethanypowell.com, wikipedia.com

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One thought on “A Month of Miyazaki: Week 2 – “Princess Mononoke”

  1. I watched this movie with my niece last month. She’s nine ad we got into a very interesting discussion of good and bad people where I attempted to explain to her that sometimes good people do bad things for a good reason. You can guess that it was Lady Eboshi who inspired this conversation.
    We also ended up discussing the human vs. nature, ecology and conservation themes, as well.
    I hope our conversation, about human complexity, is remembered well into her adulthood

    Liked by 2 people

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