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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Month of Studio Ghibli Part 2 - by Counter Monkey Steve the Animeniac

A Month of Studio Ghibli Part 2

By Counter Monkey Steve the Animeniac

My first exposure to any of Studio Ghibli's works was with Princess Mononoke, and to this day, it remains one of my features, animated or otherwise. It's unique amongst all of Ghibli's other films in that it caters to a more mature audience, at least by American standards. There are scenes of violence and the occasional use of explicit language. This does not in any way detract from the enjoyment of the film and instead helps relay the story and the message with a stronger emphasis. Let me explain by giving you a small detailing of the film's plot.

Princess Mononoke is set during the Muromachi period in Japan, which ran from the mid-14th century until the mid-15th century. It begins with an attack on a small village by a demon. The prince of the village, Ashitaka, is able to slay the demon but at the cost of the curse of the demon being transferred to him. For a time, the curse will endow him with supernatural strength, but it will eventually kill him. Upon finding that the demon was originally a boargod named Nago  that had been shot with an iron ball ad not wanting to risk his presence endangering the rest of the village, Ashitaka goes off in search of the source of the iron ball. A short time after he begins his journey, he is informed by a monk that the Forest Spirit may cure what ails him, giving him hope.

As Ashitaka continues his journey, viewers are introduced to more  of the principal players. A woman named Lady Eboshi finds herself and her town, Tataraba, under attack from a wolf goddess named Moro, her wolf clan, and her human daughter San. Eboshi is able to ward off the attack, but she is unable to do so without casualties. Ashitaka encounters wounded from Eboshi's town, and after glimpsing San and Moro in the distance and finding himself the subject of scrutiny from the many spirits of the forest and the Forest Spirit itself, He manages to carry the wounded to their home and discovers thatTatabara, translated as Iron Town in the English language dub of the film, has been provided hospice to lepers and former prostitutes and gifting them with jobs. Much of the work in the town involves manufacturing weapons to defend against constant attacks from the many spirits and gods surrounding villages and towns that wish to progress in their way of life at the cost of damaging nature.

Although he is initially treated well and gains the trust of the town's inhabitants, an attack from San in an attempt to assassinate Lady Eboshi results in Ashitaka intervening to prevent bloodshed on both sides. In the process, Ashitaka and San are knocked unconscious but manage to escape the town, with Ashitaka receiving a bullet wound, Despite having been rescued by Ashitaka, San is unwilling to trust him until he tells her how beautiful she is and finds himself healed by the Forest Spirit, who also removes the curse of the demon,

Eboshi prepares for war against the spirits of the forest as Moro and the leader of the boar tribe, Okkoto, also gather their forces. The monk who has suggested using the Forest Spirit as a cure to Ashitaka reveals himself to be a mercenary in search of immortality, which the head of the spirit is said to provide anyone who holds it. He encourages the war between the two forces in order to receive a chance to obtain the head. War does break out, as it inevitably does in most films where it is a possibility, and it is up to San and Ashitaka to find a way to end it.

You'll just have to watch the film yourselves if you want to know what happens. I highly recommend Princess Mononoke to anyone old enough to enjoy it, The bloodshed and violence is not extreme or excessive, blood is to be expected in a film featuring demons and war, but this film is pretty tame compared to many others. The message this feature wants to deliver is clear: there must be harmony between man and nature. This is a message that a previous film worked upon by the Studio Ghibli team had delivered before Ghibli was officially founded: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. However, I think the  Princess Mononoke does a better job of relaying the message and is an altogether superior film. Both the original Japanese language and the English dub are very well done. The animation, as always with a Studio Ghibli film, is absolutely beautiful and is accompanied by an equally beautiful score.

This film comes highly recommended.

I'll see you again next week for yet another installment in my Month of Studio Ghibli blog posts!



At 2/13/2013 5:52 PM, Blogger tom said...

For whatever adding my voice is worth, I completely agree and highly recommend "Princess Mononoke." It was my absolute favorite until "Spirited Away" came out, which I admit I like just a tiny bit more.

At 2/13/2013 6:04 PM, Blogger Animeniac Ellis said...

You opinion counts, and I hold Spirited Away in high regard. It was worthy of the award granted by the Academy, and it still stands tall as one of Ghibli's best features.


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