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Film Review: With wonderful art and diverse characters, ‘Princess Mononoke’ is best Studio Ghibli movie

Kassidy Biss
Oxford Stories
knbiss@go.olemiss.edu

Imagine watching a film with the sounds of a babbling creek, a baby blue sky and the gentle breeze tickling the flowers.

No it is not a nature documentary, it is a Studio Ghibli movie. Studio Ghibli movies star various sounds of nature with colorful watercolor backgrounds and vibrant characters.

Not familiar with Studio Ghibli?

Studio Ghibli is a is a Japanese animation film studio based in Koganei, Tokyo, Japan. The studio is best known for its anime feature films like “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Windand many more.

The name Studio Ghibli was given by Hayao Miyazaki from the Italian noun ghibli, the idea that the studio would “blow a new wind through the anime industry.”

It’s more like blow a storm. Six of Studio Ghibli’s films are among the 10 highest-grossing anime films made in Japan, with “Spirited Away,” released in 2001, the highest grossing, taking in more than $290 million worldwide.

Princess Mononoke” is the best due to its nature vs. man archetype. The film was released in 1997 and was the highest grossing film in Japan that year. It is set in the late Muromachi period (approximately 1336 to 1573) of Japan with fantasy elements like giant beasts and curses.

The story follows the young Prince Ashitaka’s involvement in a struggle between the gods of a forest and the humans who consume its resources. I would share more of the plot, but a good movie must not reveal it’s spoilers.

The movie is all about nature and its awe-inspiring power, and the clashes nature has with human evolution and industrialization. The main struggle is the rocks and iron in the Great Forest are needed by the human characters of Irontown to make guns to defend themselves from attacking samurai, and the Giant Beasts of the Great Forest rebel against the human’s use of their resources. The iron in the bullets the humans fire at the Giant Beasts slowly corrupts them and turns them into “devils” that also attack the humans.

The female characters in this Japanese film are multifaceted and complex. Princess Mononoke is first seen helping an injured giant white wolf while doused in blood, and rather than talk to the protagonist, Ashitaka, she tries to attack him.

It’s not because she’s evil like the humans of Irontown characterize her. She is San, the girl raised by the wolf goddess and protector of the forest named Moro, so it’s in Princess Mononoke’s nature to protect her pack like a wolf would, fiercely and loyally, but not cruelly.

The film has a 92 percent rating on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, making it a “certified fresh” movie and a 94 percent audience score, a high rating on the website. Rotten Tomatoes is an American review-aggregation website for film and television.

According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, the film was produced with an estimated budget of $2.35 billion yen, or about $23.5 million American dollars. The film was mostly hand-drawn, but incorporates some computer animation during five minutes of footage.

The computer animated parts are designed to blend and support the traditional cel animation, and are mainly used in images that are a mixture of computer-generated graphics and traditional drawing.

Another 10 minutes uses inked-and-painted, a technique used in all Studio Ghibli films before “Princess Monoke.” Most of the film is colored with traditional paint, based on the color schemes designed by Miyazaki and Michiyo Yasuda. Producers agreed on the computer installation to successfully complete the film prior to the Japanese premiere date. TMS Kyokuichi Corporation helped animate the film and DR Movie helped with the painting process.

A tale from the American voice dub of the movie is American producer Harvey Weinstein wanted to shorten the run time of the 134 minute film. But Miyazaki did not want even one frame changed in his masterpiece, so he sent a samurai sword to Weinstein’s office with a two-word message: “No cuts.” So Weinstein made NO CUTS.

With its wonderful art, diverse characters and compelling story line, Princess Mononoke is the best Studio Ghibli movie.

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