Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor
From Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki comes the 25th anniversary of the epic masterpiece that has amazed audiences from all around the world – "Princess Mononoke". The story follows a young, confident warrior prince Ashitaka. While defending his village from a crazed demon beast, he becomes stricken with a deadly curse. Now Ashitaka must journey to the forests of the west to find a cure. During his time there he soon becomes caught in the middle of an intense conflict between humans and the gods of the forests.
"Princess Mononoke" was released in Japan on July 12, 1997, and in the United States on October 29, 1999. It soon became the highest-grossing film in Japan of 1997 and held Japan's box office record for domestic films until 2001's "Spirited Away".
My first exposure to this film was back in 2006, thanks to a little television event known as A Month of Miyazaki. A Month of Miyazaki was a four-week marathon of celebrated cinema from Hayao Miyazaki. It began airing on Cartoon Network's Toonami block on Saturday, March 18, 2006. "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind", "Spirited Away", "Princess Mononoke", and "Castle in the Sky'' were among those acclaimed films I was fortunate enough to watch on TV as a teeanger. As an adult – I was even more impressed by how splendidly well the film holds up even today. The themes of war, prejudice, belonging, courage and the beauty of nature are as prominent as ever. Impressive still is that it can even go beyond that.
"Princess Mononoke" is a movie about compassion and understanding towards the environment and its creatures. Yes, these creatures are represented by gargantuan violent beasts, but the message is there all the same. Not only do we get a perspective on the humans and their headstrong influence, we are also learning about the animals and their outlook, sense, and behaviorism. Unlike "Fern Gully", "Avatar", and "Pocohantas", which makes the humans are evil, nature is a good message so blatantly preachy – there are no real villains or sides considered evil. That’s what is so amazing about this film on a personal level for me.
Warrior prince Ashitaka is the type of tragic hero, though with one clear sight amid the chaos on the two sides he encounters; peace and coexistence. Despite a heated war between the humans and animals, Ashitaka strives to remain neutral, having seen the good in both sides. Lady Eboshi, an industrial leader of the humans, is also likable as she longs for her people to prosper and thrive. She is helping to cure the sick. She motivates and strengthens a community of people who all want to survive and live comfortably. There are also a few other side characters who might be as villainous but they are also doing what they can to live, which is a humane and animalistic trait that both sides of the violent campaign share. Ironically enough, the same trait that makes both the humans and the animals go against each other.
"Princess Mononoke" is a breathtakingly painted tale of a man on a quest to balance two opposite ends of a war filled with hatred, greed, and violence. The conflict of siding between two teams is quite apparent in the film. The resolutions are as beautiful as they are significantly important in the real world throughout human history and especially today.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the film will be released in select theaters at a limited time from April 3rd, April 4th, and April 6th.