Princess Mononoke (1997)

princess mononoke poster 1997 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great animation and with a good story to back it up


Movie Info

Movie Name: Princess Mononoke

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Genre(s): Animated/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): July 12, 1997

MPAA Rating: PG-13

princess mononoke ashitaka yakul vs demon boar nago

I saw this and was hooked

In a small Japanese village, a darkness has come in the form of possessed boar god cursed by a demon.  The village’s prince Ashitaka manages to slay the demon but not before contracting the curse.  Forced to leave his home forever, Ashitaka and his red elk steed Yakul are seeking the origin of the curse which leads them to a town called Irontown which is battling the forest spirits for control of the mountain.  Lady Eboshi is menaced by the wolf-god Moro and her children which includes a human girl named San.  Ashitaka seeks to stop the fighting and save the forest while sparing Irontown…but a decree from the Emperor to claim the Forest Spirit’s head could jeopardize not only the forest but Irontown itself.

Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫 or Mononoke-hime) is a Japanese animated action-adventure film.  Following Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso in 1992, the film received a wide international release and was a critical and box office success.

princess mononoke san costume

She’s not a Disney princess

I first saw clips of Princess Mononoke when it was released in Japan on a TV show I was watching.  I wasn’t a very big anime fan, but something about the visuals (where Ashitaka battles the possessed boar in his village) clicked and I had to see it.  When the newly dubbed U.S. version received a full release (and was a bit anglicized to help some of the concepts be understood), I got to see it…and it quickly became not only one of my favorite animated films but also in my top films of all time.

Princess Mononoke could easily have coasted by on its visuals, but the story for the film also is strong.  It is the story of man-vs-nature with no clear winners.  Lady Eboshi’s actions are cold and calculated, but she also has good in her heart providing for her people and being a place of acceptance even for the sick and weak.  Likewise, San’s vengeful nature is what the forest needs for protection, but she is too overwhelmed by hate and anger.  Ashitaka provides a balance for the two groups and realizes that it doesn’t have to be one or another…though the age presented at the beginning of the film has ended by the end.  Nature “lost”, but humanity realized nature’s survival is in their hands.

princess mononoke san vs lady eboshi

Can’t we all just get along?

The cast is good.  The original cast consisted of Yōji Matsuda (Ashitaka), Yuriko Ishida (San), Yūko Tanaka (Lady Eboshi), Kaoru Kobayashi (Jiko-bō), Tsunehiko Kamijō (Gonza), Akihiro Miwa (Moro), Hisaya Morishige (Okkoto-nushi), and  Sumi Shimamoto (Toki) and the American cast was correspondingly cast as Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thorton, John DiMaggio, Gillian Anderson, Keith David, and Jada Pinkett Smith.  Often, dubs are pretty poor but the all-star American cast helped the film translate in general and provided a bigger audience.

The real star of Princess Mononoke is the animation.  The film was the last major film to be animated on plastic animation cels, and the whole film has a real richness to it that resembles films like Akira Kurosawa’s Ran.  The creatures created for the movie not only provide a sense of wonder, but there is a real sense of horror surrounding them to.  It is mystery and magic, and Princess Mononoke also doesn’t sugar coat the film which is loaded with violence as well (but not up to the level of some anime).  The movie also seemed to have a bit of a ripple effect on animation in general with the style and look carrying over to more international films.

princess mononoke forest spirit

The Forest Spirit is terrifying

Princess Mononoke is a slick, powerful movie that is easy to love and hard to criticize.  The film is a great action film, has a good and complex nature message that is not simply “save the world”, and stands up against many similar live-action counterparts.  The movie also shows that Disney might have its place, but it is not always king.  If you haven’t ever been able to get into anime movies, give Princess Mononoke a try…you won’t regret it.  Hayao Miyazaki followed Princess Mononoke with the even more successful and acclaimed Spirited Away in 2001 (though my Princess Mononoke always holds the spot of my favorite of his film).

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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