Friday, February 8, 2013

Hayao Miyazaki Favorites Part Five: Princess Mononoke

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:

NOTE: I have not personally seen Porco Rosso, but I'm told it's wonderful.

Honorable mentions from Studio Ghibli:


And all in all, that's it. I hope you enjoyed this series, and were exposed to some new things. Have a great weekend!


Tonja Drecker said...

I completely enjoyed this week's posts. Yep, I'm a total Miyazaki fan, and can't wait to go back and watch a lot of these.. Thanks for the fun :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Saw this one in the theater. Very cool flick! I'd probably give the edge to Akira, but then I really dig science fiction. Another notable is Battle Angel. At one time I think Cameron was considering directing a live action film of Battle Angel: Alita.

Miranda Hardy said...

She looks fierce and scary. I like her already.

Weaver said...

And this one was the favorite of my sons.

Elise Fallson said...

"Now watch closely everyone, I'm going to show you how to kill a God."

L. Diane Wolfe said...

It was a pretty amazing film.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Saw this in theaters and it was so so great. The beginning is so amazing and tense. When i was younger i was always so sad about what happens in the end, but now i can appreciate it from a more realistic POV.

mshatch said...

Well, this wasn't the film I thought might be your number 5, it's the other film I though might be your number 5 :)

I love this film, too, especially the end, which surprised me a little. As for the one I thought you might choose, it was Howl's Moving Castle, which I also love. Hmm, I seem to use that word a lot when speaking of Miyazaki films.

Great choices, Matt :)

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I've seen all of the movies you list, even Porco Rosso. Miyazaki is such a great storyteller.

One minor point, Secret Life of Arrietty is actually based on the book "The Borrowers" b Mary Norton. And is great.

Eliza Tilton said...

Woot! Awesome movie. I recently put this on to watch with my son then remembered it wasn't age appropiate since he's three....

Hmm, I don't like the animation style of Akira. If I had to choose my top movies: Ninja Scroll, Princess Mononoke and Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust. Oh and Sword of The Stranger! One of the few newer ones.

Andrew Leon said...

I haven't seen Mononoke in a long time. I need to see it again.

And, sorry, but I can;t get behind Akira. It's the ending. It's great until the ending, and the ending blows it. Like the The Watchmen (not the movie).

Porco Rosso is excellent. Man, now, I want to see that again, too. He's such a cool character.

Earthsea was done by his son. Have you seen it?

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I love love love this film.

Ciara said...

I'm the only loser who hasn't seen it.

Steve MC said...

Dang - I had to shut off the trailer halfway through 'cause I didn't want to know any more before I saw it.

dolorah said...

I love the settings and philosophy of Japanese anime. Not sure I like the characterization; but this stuff appeals to my philosophical nature. I'm a fan of epic fantasy; the extensive world building and how the characters interact with the world. I don't approve of the age scheme; but love the overall concepts.


Kristen Wixted said...

When I was in elementary school my bff was from Japan. She used to draw like this all the time, and now when I see Japanese anime art, I always think of her.

funny--I put a passcode on my iphone over the snowy weekend so my kids would stop stealing my phone to play games. The passcode was QQQE.
When they found out (the passcode was too much of a pain for me), they were like, "Why was it QQQE?"
heh heh

Alexandra Shostak said...

So Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away are two of my FAVORITE movies ever.

*sigh* I love Miyazaki

Alexandra Shostak said...

Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away are two of my favorite movies ever. I love Miyazaki.