All this week I'll be blogging about my five favorite animated feature films written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is a Japanese film director, animator, manga artist and screenwriter. He also co-founded Studio Ghibli, one of Japan's most well known animation film studios.
1997's Princess Mononoke is probably the greatest animated film ever made, with the possible exception of Akira, which is a topic I could debate for hours, even by myself. If I was pressed I would probably say Princess Mononoke is the best fantasy animated feature, and Akira is the best Sci-Fi. That way, they can both be best. Here's the summary, from IMDB:
On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami's 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.
Where do I even start with this movie? Well, for one thing, Spirited Away may have won an Academy Award, but keep in mind, Best Animated Feature only became an Oscar after 2001. If it had existed when Mononoke came out? The Princess would have won hands down. Or bows down, whatever.
I don't want to even say too much about this movie. It's ... it's that awesome. I'll just say this: the setting is probably the coolest world I've ever encountered outside of perhaps Middle Earth. Technically, the film is supposedly set in the Muromachi Period of feudal Japan, but that's never made clear, and there is no question that other than having a contemporary technology level for that period in Nippon's history, the setting isn't even close to realistic.
Or is it? If you're Japanese, and Shinto, or even Buddhist, you have some very interesting beliefs. You believe in Kami. You believe in Oni. You believe inanimate objects have souls (Obake).You believe gods and spirits walk the earth every day, just an humans do. It's this rich spiritual tradition in Japan that makes movies like Princess Mononoke so deep. The mythology, while original and unique, is still based on a complicated and entrenched system of spiritual history (think how The Lord of the Rings is made so much stronger by the mythology of The Silmarillion).
Anyway, look, like all Miyazaki films, I could go on about this one forever. The bottom line is that this movie is a must-see, especially for any writer of speculative fiction, in which building entire living, breathing worlds is key.
And now that this series is done, let me point you to some related entertainment:
Honorable mentions by Hayao Miyazaki:
- Howl's Moving Castle (based on the book, by Diana Wynne Jones)
- Castle in the Sky (AKA Laputa, NOTE: I'm unclear how, or if, this relates to Gulliver's Travels)
NOTE: I have not personally seen Porco Rosso, but I'm told it's wonderful.
Honorable mentions from Studio Ghibli:
- Whisper of the Heart (Miyazaki wrote but did not direct--and this is a fabulous film for any creative type person to see--I'm serious, all writers MUST see this film)
- The Secret World of Arrietty (another Miyazaki wrote the screenplay for, adapted from the book The Borrowers, by Mary Norton)
- Tales from Earthsea (loosely based on the fantastic series, by Ursula K. Le Guin)
- Grave of the Fireflies (Trigger Warning - this is literally the saddest animated film ever made)
And all in all, that's it. I hope you enjoyed this series, and were exposed to some new things. Have a great weekend!