Princess Mononoke

A Rich, Complex Adventure

Main Voice Cast: Yoji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yuko Tanaka, Kaoru Kobayashi

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Plot Summary: A young man, defending his small village from an evil spirit, is cursed during the battle. Hoping to find a cure, he sets out into the unknown lands to the west. There the humans and nature are at war and he must choose his path carefully while hunting for his antidote.

A beautifully structured tale of human technology vs. nature, wrapped up in a gripping chase between a young man’s life and an evil curse. The animation is superb, drawing on lush visuals and careful details, hallmarks of Master Miyazaki’s work. The young man is not typical of the genre: Ashitaka (Matsuda) is careful and solemn beyond his young years. He watches everything and everyone carefully, and measures his words and deeds. He does not run off rashly, and possesses great wisdom.

He needs every ounce of wisdom as the situation he is thrown into is very complex. A woman named Eboshi (Tanaka) owns and operates an ironworks near a peaceful lake, pulling minerals from the land and churning smoke into the air. This does not sit well with San (Ishida), a young girl raised by the wolf-god. She wishes to drive the humans off and save the forest and mountain. But the humans of the mines are not presented harshly, which would make things easy. Then you’d know who to “root for.” Things aren’t that simple, here or in real life.

Ashitaka tries to step a balance between the two factions, rescuing a few miners at first, and then rescuing San when she makes a foolish attack. He learns of the nature-gods, with the Deer God revered above all.

Enough of the plot. This is a rich, lush adventure, complex and detailed. The story is gripping and the characters well-designed and fleshed out. I very much enjoyed its thoughtful ways, despite the action (and there is plenty of that!). A great balance between the two. I can recommend this movie with high praise.

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