Movie Review: Princess Mononoke (1997)

Details: Over two hours long. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

After watching When Marnie Was There and the disappointment that came with it, I decided to go back and watch some of the old Ghibli movies again. I started off with Princess Mononoke and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Princess Mononoke was released back in 1997. It seems to take place in feudal Japan (or further back) and tells the story of a young boy poisoned by a demon. The boy leaves his village to learn more about the affliction and meets a girl (Princess Mononoke) raised by the Wolf god.

The art is lovely as are most animation from Studio Ghibli. The music was fantastic with sweeping orchestral music. Although I prefer Japanese with English subtitles, I watched an English dub and found the voice acting just fine. It did not distract as English dubs often do and if you look it up on imdb.com, you’ll see a lot of familiar voices in the cast. I always appreciate when translations are done with competent or talented voice actors.

The film is told and structured like a fairy tale and has many themes running through the story. The primary theme is one about protecting the environment, which I think is a good message no matter your age. Might not be true if your the CEO of a company that mines, deforests, fracks, etc. Aside from the environmental theme, it is a magical story with talking animals, demons (Asian variety, not Western so more like monsters than biblical demons), princesses, and a heroic peace-seeking protagonist.

Of note is the violence. There is some limb tearing, blood letting, and decapitating going on. I’m sure there are more censored versions which omit those things if they concern you. However, keeping that kind of violence is part of the story in my opinion. The cruelty and danger humans pose to other humans and to the natural world are a core theme in this story. The protagonists constant effort to protect everyone reinforces the idea that a true hero desires to hurt no one. But the protagonist does inflict pain and this is because he is also human being. Despite his efforts, he is not an outside observer, but a participant. The violence helps express this conundrum.

Score: 7/10 It’s a good story and I think expresses a lot of good ideas to children. Whether you want to watch the original version or a censored version is up to you. I prefer to watch it in its entirety, but parents may feel otherwise.

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