Hopefully, I can finally watch and review it with eyes unclouded.
It’s been more than 10 years since the last time I watched Princess Mononoke back in my school days. This was one of the first Ghibli films I was exposed to. I remember that I did not love this anime all that much. I didn’t really get it and was puzzled by the critical acclaims the movie gathered. Was it the decapitation by arrow scene or the music? It must be the music. Yeah, I was kind of thick-headed back then.
So ten years had passed and my anime experience became much stronger. I decided to watch Princess Mononoke again. It turned out that I did not love it more than I used to but I admired the anime immensely more than I did in those days. Here’s the review from the guy who can finally watch Princess Mononoke with eyes unclouded (at least that’s what I was trying to do).
Since there’re already countless of brilliantly written reviews of this anime from both anime and movie critics, there’s no use for me to repeat about the same old topics like plot summary, feminism or the timeless music of Joe Hisaishi again. Instead, I’ll raise five points that I deem significant and unique. They are something that only few (if any) other anime could capture, even after a decade had passed.
1. Being green is not as easy as it seems
Of course, trees and forest and eco system are essential for keeping our blue planet alive. We all know how important nature is and we should all help preserve and restore it. But most of the stories in all media almost always tell stories from one side; the green side. It’s all about evil men trying to destroy nature for some greedy reason. In Princess Mononoke, half of the movie focused on the human faction who was cutting down the forest and hunting for gods. They were not evil. They were just like the rest of us who lived under our own complex conditions that drove us to do what we did. Princess Mononoke told the story from both sides in a non-judgmental way. I sympathized with human in this movie. It’s not enough to only care about the green. There’re endless details to consider and that’s very hard.
2. We are not made to fit into the world or even each other
After watching this anime, it occurred to me that human were having trouble getting along with everything else, even among ourselves. In the anime, Lady Eboshi’s ironwork fortress was full of outcasts; women seeking freedom from oppressive society, lepers who were shun by people, the fortress itself was built to withstand the invasion from the greedy government. The presence of human fortress disrupted the long standing harmony of the forest along with the gods and animals. Everywhere human went, they fight with the ones who were there before and they fought with each other. What’s more, human also suffered from internal struggle and conflict as shown by San’s character. She was human but was raised by wolves. When she met Ashitaka, she found herself in difficult situation; she was human but she also hated them as much as she loved them.
3. You may be able to defeat the gods but you will probably not survive the aftermath
This was like an analogy of the world nowadays. We are arguably the most powerful faction on the planet. With fire and steel, we conquer all, even the old gods of the forest, the sea and the sky. But we forget that we cannot survive just on our own. We are actually part of something bigger than ourselves and once we destroy everything else, we find ourselves in trouble. Yes, I am referring to the global warming, among many things. In Princess Mononoke, Eboshi and her host did not have much difficulty in killing the Deer God. But the aftermath of that event left lots of men dead, the survivors homeless and the land completely drained of life. Luckily, Ashitaka and San managed to return the severed head back to the angry god and restored life. In reality, we do not have the same kind of opportunity like that.
4. The governments are not to be trust, never!
This one was probably a no-brainer. Anyone in the position of power is never to be trusted. There’s always hidden agenda to look for. In the anime, Lady Eboshi was used by the government who gave her the intelligence on the location of the Deer God. Once she left the ironworks’ fortress, the government sent his samurai to lay siege to Eboshi’s fortress in an attempt to take over the ironworks and the ability to produce powerful firearms. Why was I not surprised?
5. Watching anime at the right time is as important as watching the right anime
The thing is. I wasn’t ready for Princess Mononoke when I first saw it. I was too young, too ignorant and inexperienced to truly appreciate it. I could feel that this was a great anime but I didn’t understand why. Now I do and I am grateful to myself for giving the anime another chance.
A masterpiece tells the story from the eyes unclouded. Princess Mononoke was that kind of anime which displayed the views from all sides. It showed the bitterness, the tenderness and weakness of human lives and how our fate intertwined with the world. Though the anime utilized surreal objects like the Boar God or the Kodama, its concept was very real; an epic fantasy at its best.
For most of you, my friends, I urge you to watch this anime again if you are free. And for some of you who have not watched Princess Mononoke, you must watch it now. I cannot guarantee that you’ll love it but at least you’ll have some idea on how far an anime can go, what one anime can achieve.
Title: Princess Mononoke (aka Mononoke Hime)
Genre: historical, fantasy
Released date: July 12, 1997
Running time: 134 minutes
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Animated by: Studio Ghibli