Princess Mononoke is an animated film by Studio Ghibli that follows the main protagonist Prince Ashitaka after a boar threatens to destroy his village. He kills the boar but it taints him with a curse that forces him on a journey to find a cure. His journey takes him to an ironworker town beset by enemies both human and animal. This movie is brilliant for two main reasons—the character work, and the themes.
The characterizations in Princess Mononoke are brilliant because nearly every single character isn’t inherently good or bad. Ashitaka starts out trying to find the Great Forest Spirit to cure him but is dragged into a conflict between two sides: San along with the nature spirits of the forest and Lady Eboshi and the Inhabitants of Iron Town. Ashitaki doesn’t pick a side and tries to dissuade both sides from destroying the other. Lady Eboshi, who is relentless in her attacks on the forest for iron, is also shown to be compassionate. She takes in the rejects of society—prostitutes and lepers—and gives them a second chance in Iron Town.
“In a lesser film, Eboshi would be the primary antagonist. Instead, she is this: a nuanced symptom of a larger problem, and a terrific character in her own right,” said Simon Jimenez, a writer for Tor.com. Similarly, San is raised by the wolves and cares deeply about them. But the humans threaten their existence, and that puts her in direct conflict with Lady Eboshi.
Besides the amazing animation, the theme of man versus nature is explored not in a black and white perspective that’s common in children’s movies, but with nuance just like the characters. As a result, this movie can be enjoyed by every age group. The environmental message that’s present all over the film is particularly important with the way climate change continues to affect the world. If you’re looking for a visually stunning animated masterpiece with good characters, great storytelling, and a captivating message then give Princess Monokoe a watch.
By Alpha Bah