Princess Mononoke -- An Allegorical Anime Classic

                                  For years, Disney, Pixar and most recently Dream Works have dominated the world market for feature-length animation, bringing forth many unforgettable classics. Apart from giving us profound entertainment, they have also made us oblivious to the existence of an animated product beyond that of Hollywood and its competitors' clones. But, there is a force out there (in Asia), whose stories mixes the gentle soul of a poet to the vigorous plots of Tolkien. He is "Japanese National Treasure" (Roger Ebert called him like that), Mr. Hayao Miyazaki. His Studio Ghibli is an cohesive unit which has produced epic fantasies, historical romances, intimate character studies, broad comedies, and it has enjoyed immense domestic success. 

                                   Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke" (1997) was one of the most successful box-office hit. It is a mythological tale set in the medieval Japan. The narrative is deeply committed to the integration of Japanese history, ideology, mythology, ecology and faith into an epic fantasy. This movie is a classic quest allegory about a prince named Ashitaka. 

                                   Prince Ashitaka is wounded or cursed in a battle (to save his town) with a worm-infested boar god. His village Oracle asks him to travel to the west, to plead the forest's spirit, in order to have the curse lifted.With Yakul -- an antelope like steed -- Ashitaka departs  to discover what set off the boar-god, which is crawling with hosts of flapping scarlet worms. He goes through the beautiful virgin forest and soon finds out what's annoying off the magical forces of the forest: The Tatara Clan. The clan is reached the industrial age, lead by an steely Lady Ebloshi. 

                                   She has built the Iron town with the group of country men, imperial guards, ex-whores and lepers. The town looks modern and is facilitated with the help of extraction and transformation of the land's huge iron supply. To build the town, they have cut down numerous trees which results to a war with the Boar Gods and other Gods of the Mountains. The town is also constantly under siege from samurais. Eboshi's most challenging rivals are San aka "Princess Mononoke", the Wolf God, Moro and her two sons. San was raised by the wolves and is determined to stop the humans from destroying the forest. From here, the story gets a little complex, with San and Ashitaka caught between warring humans and forest creatures, heading towards a disaster for everyone involved.  

                                     Miyazaki's style is so different from the mundane Hollywood plots and there's such attention to detail that it's easy to lose oneself in the animation. In brief, Miyazaki's movies have a texture that is absent even from some of the most technically adept CG animated motion pictures. Over the years, Hollywood has recognized Miyazaki, for the talent he is. Disney and Miramax has bought American distribution rights to all of his films. Princess Mononoke was the first Studio Ghibli movie to have a theatrical run in America and later, he got an Oscar for his work in "Spirited Away" (2001).

                                     Miyazaki, who also wrote the film, raises all sorts of questions while remaining viscerally accessible to all kinds of audiences. In "Mononoke", he uses animation neither for cutesy entertainment nor for sexploitative cyber-junk. The animation, here, is mature, complex, gripping and looks like the only possible way to fit Miyazaki's vision. Drawn by hand, but no landscape has been this indelible and dimensionally alive. The plot might appeal mostly to the adults. Although  there is no overt sexuality, the violence is reasonably graphic(decapitations and hacked limbs) and a child couldn't easily follow up the events unfolding in the screen. Even young and matured audiences will most likely miss the plot's many subtleties.  

                                    The narrative is closely welded to the multi-fold spiritual / ecological questions about the future. It portrays the ferocity and the beauty of the animal realm, the vitality of frontier communities, and the challenges faced by peacemakers who seek harmony in a world divided by conflict. "Princess Mononoke" may seem a bit long (135 minutes) but it opens a vast world of romance, fantasy, and excitement that is unlike anything to emerge from a Hollywood studio.     


Princess Mononoke -- IMDb 


Elixir of life (dr_nidhi) said...

I feel Miyazaki's work is unique ... not influenced by the western animation.. I have seen Kiki's delivery service and Spirited away by him... Princess Mononoke sounds pretty interesting..

quetzalcoatl said...

Mononoke is a masterpiece beyond imagination... In fact when I watched Avatar, I felt it was heavily influenced by Mononoke, both thematically and visually...