This last month I have come to the stunning realization that Ghibli studio has created many more films than I was originally aware of, which has led to a series of beautiful nights alone spent discovering all the lovely worlds they have imagined.
I was first introduced to Ghibli through their great work Princess Mononoke.
Now to start off, I do have some gripes with this movie, some trivial, some serious.
Probably the most trivial is the fact that one of my favorite aspects of Ghibli films is that generally they have a female lead, usually young, and very sweetly are able to show the young girls development, a coming of age story in many ways.
But the star of this movie is Ashitaka, a young man from a cast out tribe who is stricken by the curse of a Boar God(although the concept of what exactly makes these creatures Gods considering they die from a bullet rather easily is a bit sketchy) who has gone mad and turned into a demon, leading Ashitaka to go on a journey to find out what caused the Boar Gods change and hopefully find a cure for the curse. I absolutely adore Ashitaka, he is everything sorely lacking in many anime series featuring male leads; strong, resolute, intelligent, caring and open to differing ideas. And yet this film is called Princess Mononoke! To this moment her presence in the film as some sort of central focus is just a waste to me, she has barely any development, is not needed in any sense to advance the story and the fact that her name adorns the title just irritates me to no end. Kind of like how the Zelda games are 98 percent about Link but are all named after a princess who barely plays a part in most of the games, except maybe breath of the wild(possibly some of the old nintendo titles).
Trivial I know, but annoying. Her name is in the title I think simply because Ghibli is habituated to making their leads female, although I could be wrong, who knows.
This leads to something more serious though, which is that Princess Mononoke SHOULD HAVE BEEN A SERIES. It annoys me to no end that Ghibli refuses to break out of it’s mold of just doing movies. The world built up in Princess Mononoke is wonderful, Ashitakas tribe background of being cast out and him being a Prince could have been fascinating, the development of the worlds animal Gods and their connection to the land and people, exploring how people interact with them, getting more imaginative with how the curse could affect Ashitaka and make him even stronger and have his actions reverberate more throughout the land , even seeing how the humans would deal with things after the death of Shishigami would have been cool.
Obviously none of this will ever happen(unless someone begged Ghibli for the rights to reboot it as a series so long as Ghibli liked the general direction? ANYONE!? PLEASE?!).
Regardless of all that, the film is visually stunning, it’s use of light and color, especially the scenes of transition when Shishigami went from his daytime form to night form were exquisite, and the changing of the land from life to death and back to life as Shishigamis head was restored to his body was breathtaking.
Ashitaka was a wonderful character and it hurts my poor little heart that more anime developers these days do not develop their male leads more along this line, instead we are continuously subjected to the most idiotic of characters.
San could have been very interesting if she had been given more time to develop with backstory, and not been subjected to this weird love story with Ashitaka that just felt tacked on.
Lady Eboshi, although there were attempts to humanize her with her deeds of helping the lepers and helping prostitutes, just seemed like a complete ass to me and was completely devoid of any logic or emotion for anyone outside of her circle. The story just went, well, these miners wanted to mine, and the animals( who we know are conscious beings just like humans)were in the way, so we massacred them all, but we are nice to lepers so we’re allowed, solid reasoning right there folks.
This may seem like I am hating on quite a bit of the film but in reality it’s the fact that regardless of these irritations the film is still beautiful, the characters are brought to life wonderfully, even those not central to the story, the humor and seriousness are used perfectly, and the conflict between nature and progress was shown very well.
Overall though I think Ghibli did a wonderful job trying to balance so many different viewpoints and aspects to the story in such a short timeframe and as always pushed the bounds of what the meaning of quality art is.
NOW GET ME A SERIES PEOPLE!
With love, your friendly neighborhood Otaku.