Princess Mononoke ★★★★★

Princess Mononoke is Hayao Miyazaki's epic, his greatest work. It is profound and complex, and dense in mythology and history. For a man whose career was solidified by the soft and sweet nature of My Neighbour Totoro, it was bold and ambitious to make a film this long, grim, and nihilistic. Princess Mononoke is Studio Ghibli's most thematically sophisticated work. It is also the finest original animated film in history. It is one of the most perfect films ever made and the greatest a fantasy film can be.

Princess Mononoke represents Miyazaki's response to war (coming after the then recent Bosnian War) and his firm belief in mankind's failure to protect our planet as we advanced. It is the darkest phase of his career, leading to a film of despairingly grim imagery and utter heartbreak at the state of mankind. Mass graves, pouring blood, and traumatised men fill the human world. Brown water, lifeless forests, and damaged creatures fill the natural world. There is no harmony nor respect. There is just a world of desperation.

Princess Mononoke is a film with no answer. It presents an odd kind of nowhere place and time, but then has so many ways to look at human interactions with each other and our planet. Each character is so richly defined, from Lady Eboshi who represents progressive views on women and the sick (and so shows us that progress doesn't mean we leave the planet unharmed and conflict avoided), to Ashitaka who is perhaps the Miyazaki protagonist that most represents pure good. Princess Mononoke is about the cost of change. Humans are selfish, but the world is not. The planet functions as a whole ecosystem, we do not need to develop new ways to destroy it. The weapon advancement in Princess Mononoke is no doubt analogous to the nuclear age we live in. And so this deeply powerful film becomes utterly beautiful as an anti-hate parable. This is about how far we have gone astray. Princess Mononoke is one of the conceptually greatest works of animation ever, as its metaphors and messages are perfect. Only we can save our planet, but only hate seems to unify us.

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