Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Studio Ghibli Fest: Princess Mononoke (1997)

© 1997 Studio Ghibli - ND
Movie Name/Year: Princess Mononoke (1997)

Genre: Adventure, Action, Fantasy, Animation

Length:  2h 14min

Rating: PG-13

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writers: Hayao Miyazaki, Neil Gaiman (adapted by: English version)


  • Japanese Language Cast: Yôji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yûko Tanaka, Kaoru Kobayashi, Masahiko Nishimura, Tsunehiko Kamijô, Sumi Shimamoto, Tetsu Watanabe, Mitsuru Satô, Akira Nagoya, Akihiro Miwa, Mitsuko Mori, Hisaya Morishige
  • English Language Cast: Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, John DiMaggio, Claire Danes, John DeMita, Jada Pinkett Smith, Gillian Anderson, Keith David, Tara Strong, Debi Derryberry


IMDb Blurb: On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami's [mythological Japanese demon] curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime [spirit princess].
Cat’s Point of View:
Whenever cinematic anime is mentioned, more often than not someone is likely talking about a Studio Ghibli movie. Hayao Miyazaki (Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle) is a master of his craft and his body of work has become not only fairly synonymous with the anime genre itself but also legendary in its own right. I have generally adored most of the productions I’ve seen from the Ghibli Library. Some are an acquired taste and are a little odd, but most are breathtakingly beautiful and achingly well-written.

There’s even a whole cinematic “festival” every year to celebrate these wonderful films. It stretches out over a series of months, which is something I really appreciate. It’s easier on the wallet to view one movie a month in theaters rather than several in a week or so. As we approach mid-August of 2023, this year’s Ghibli Fest is well underway, having started in March, and will wrap up in early November. 

This summer, I attended the showing for Princess Mononoke, and fell in love with this movie all over again. 

Princess Mononoke was actually the first Studio Ghibli movie I ever watched and sparked my love of most things Ghibli. I’ve watched at least half of the studio’s productions and plan to expand that list in time. The story of this epic tale of forest spirits and the environmental ravages of men has not lost its impact over time, and is probably more relevant today than at the time of its release given the dramatic climate shifts occurring everywhere. 

The length of Princess Mononoke might seem on the long side for an animated feature, but I assure you that it is action-packed enough that I’ve never even really felt the passage of time while watching. I haven’t fallen prey to ADHD attention span issues, either. 
© 1997 Studio Ghibli - ND

The visuals that accompany this narrative also pull no punches. Princess Mononoke is well deserving of its PG-13 rating. This is yet another example of a film not being appropriate for small children in spite of being an animation. There are graphic depictions of war, including people losing limbs and even being decapitated. Some of the spirit creatures might appear terrifying to the very young, as well. Let’s remember the lesson my generation and our parents learned the hard way with Watership Down (1978). Just because it’s an excellent animated movie about bunnies doesn’t mean that it’s suitable for kids and won’t give them nightmares and trauma. I digress…

For the audiophiles out there, Princess Mononoke's soundtrack perfectly fits this sweeping epic tale. It soars and counterpoints the story on screen well. I felt a familiar rush when I heard the first notes at the beginning of the movie. This is the sort of story that lingers with you long after the credits have run. 
© 1997 Studio Ghibli - ND

Another thing I greatly appreciate with most of the Ghibli movies I’ve seen is that when love is portrayed in these films, it’s not the smarmy and cliched romantic mush that appears in most tales involving romance. There’s a time and place for things like that, and it was wisely approached from a different angle here. 

There’s a reason that both audience and critic scores for Princess Mononoke are so high - it’s just that good, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t experienced Studio Ghibli before. If you're already a Ghibli fan, let us know in the comments below which movie is your favorite. (Personally, I'm torn between My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Howl's Moving Castle (2004).)

If you’d like to see the Ghibli Fest 2023 schedule or want to know where to look for it when next year rolls around, you can find it easily through the Fathom Events site
© 1997 Studio Ghibli - ND
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 93%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score –94%
Metascore – 76%
Metacritic User Score – 8.7/10
IMDB Score – 8.3/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5

P.S. - Just as an extra piece of trivia in clearing up a common misconception stemming from a few of the DVD and blu-ray release editions of some of the Studio Ghibli movies - Disney does not, and has never owned Studio Ghibli. They only had a limited distribution deal with Studio Ghibli, and that expired in 2017 when GKIDS took over the distribution rights.
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