Princess Mononoke (1997)


Link: Princess Mononoke

Summary: After getting attacked by a giant pig-demon, a young man goes off in search of a cure for his demon-related injury, and winds up centering himself in a deadly conflict between a village of industrial workers and the spirits of the nearby forest that they are gradually destroying with their industry.

Thoughts: While I enjoyed the eccentric fantasy elements of this famous film from Studio Ghibli and legendary director Hayao Miyazaki, the overall story confused me a bit too much for me to get emotionally invested in it.  I may just have a bias against forest spirits, as they remind me of the preachy environmentalist animated films of my youth, Once Upon a Forest, FernGully: The Last Rainforest, and the original traditionally animated short The Lorax from the 70’s, each dramatized as if every child will one day face the question of whether to chop down some trees or live peacefully with them, encouraged to do the latter with the memories of the charming animated characters of their youth.  Sorry, forest spirits, I don’t believe in you and I don’t care about you at all.  I am not an enemy of environmentalism in general, but environmentalism should be directed at preserving a balance for our sake, so that we can continue to use the resources the environment offers us.  Not for the sake of made up spirits and talking animals.  So a film that ends with the hero proclaiming: “Forest spirit, we give you back your head!  Take it and be in peace!” just doesn’t work for me.

Perhaps the real problem I had with this film is that I couldn’t understand the main conflict in the first place; the main character needs to find a cure for his demon-arm injury, but the conflict he gets sucked into seems only incidental.  It didn’t seem personal enough for him, leaving our emotional investment to depend mostly on how much we can relate to and care about the supporting characters and their problems.  Granted, it is more than possible that the manner of story exposition just didn’t work for me, leaving me confused more than anything.

This film does feature Studio Ghibli’s typical beautiful visuals and one of composer Joe Hisaishi’s most beautiful scores.