Inside us all is a story just waiting to be told. Some of us know it, some of us have yet to find it. So here’s a compromise. Happening now at the American Visual Art Museum in Baltimore is the Art of Storytelling: Lies, Enchantment, Humor & Truth. Here’s an event that lets you come out and explore the story that other people have, from fairy tales to art, cartoons to prose. Come out and perhaps find your inspiration. And speaking of Storytelling, let’s hit up this week’s review. This one is going to take it back a bit. This week, we’re doing Princess Mononoke.
Princess Mononoke is a very hard manga to pin down with a simple review. For its time, it was a very ground breaking anime. Through it, anime was seen to be more than just action cartoons like Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon. Though it wasn’t advertised with its time in theaters, it no less changed the way Americans viewed anime and allowed more people to be more receiving of other anime series and mangas. With a new year laid out before us, it felt like a fair idea to cover an anime that opened up the floodgates and inspired so many.
Princess Mononoke is the story of a small village boy, Ashitaka. One day, his village was attacked by a forest god turned into a demon boar. After trying to try and drive the demon boar god away from his home, he was forced to kill him. In the process though, Ashitaka was taken in by the curse of the boar god which threatened to consume him and kill him. Forced to leave his home and loved ones behind, he went on a journey to find the “God of the Forest”. As he traveled, he began to see the world behind his home village and how men were expanding at the expense of the existing world around them. Eventually, Ashitaka comes across the lands ruled by the wolf god, Moro. It is there he comes to first see the young girl, San, also known as Princess Mononoke. Now a mononoke refers to a spirit of a beast. This comes to make sense as you find that San is a human girl raised by the wolf god. In his first encounter with San, he find her and her wolf brethren in pitted against a group of humans from the local human town, Iron Town. In the end, it is Ashitaka who ends up saving San from their weapons. And that’s how the story begins.
What’s interesting about this story is not so much that it is about good versus evil, but rather survival of the fittest and coexistence. An old saying by Milton Friedman describes this movie very well, “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.” There is no true evil in this movie from an objective stand point. It is merely people trying to survive the best way they can, even if it’s at the expense of someone else. And while there’s a love story between Ashitaka and San, the real story is about humanity versus nature, and the nature of man. Okay, that last part may be rather bias, however, it is questioned in this production. And despite this being man versus wild, there also involves man versus man, and nature versus nature. Granted, there’s not so much a deeper meaning in the nature versus nature. Nature in itself is chaotic.
As art goes, the animation at the time was something that was said to rival Disney movies. Despite being vivid and detailed, it also had a simple yet clear line complexity to it. To say the artistry was masterful seems as if it isn’t doing it justice, for its time that is. But even in commenting on the artistry, you have to pay homage to the acting. The lip syncing, even in English was very well done. It was not something that was so off it was distracting. Adding to that, the fluid movements of even the animals, it was spectacular. The animal gods weren’t these cartoonish being, but mirrored the real thing, even when they spoke. They spoke, but not with their mouths. It was almost telepathic in a way, but so done in a way that wasn’t distracting from the story. The voice actors chosen for the animal gods portrayed their roles very empathetically.
Wrapping it up so this review doesn’t go on forever, Princess Mononoke is a very iconic film. It is a film that is already legendary. It’s not a piece on violence but almost a psychological film in the way it makes you think about the nature of things and the ever changing world the characters live in and the one we live in. Bottom line, Princess Mononoke is a film that no anime or manga fan should ever pass up seeing at least once in their life. But hey, this is just a review. Watch it for yourself and form your own opinions. Until next time, keep enjoying manga, watching those anime, and smiling.