This week we’ve struggled through the fearsome heat in our ‘recording studio’ to bring you a podcast about, by our reckoning, the best animé ever made: Princess Mononoke. Admittedly, I somehow ended up saying it’s ‘definitely probably the best animé ever made’ in the podcast (which, let’s face it, doesn’t even make sense), but in retrospect I feel we can upgrade that rather wishy washy statement to ‘definitely’. And if you disagree… well, you’re welcome to, it’s a free society after all.
I saw Princess Mononoke for the first time around 10 years ago, and it was this film that inspired me to hunt out and watch the entire output of Studio Ghibli, which, if you’re not familar with it, is sort of like the Japanese Disney, but with more violence and general weirdness. It seems natural to compare Studio Ghibli to Disney in the sense that they’re both exceptionally important and well-respected animation companies in their home countries, but beyond that their films really have very little in common: I doubt you’d see someone having both their arms shot off in a Disney film, for example.
But aside from the violence, the major difference between Princess Mononoke and the output of Disney is the sheer weight of story. The director and writer Hayao Miyazaki (if you will, the Walt Disney of Japan) doesn’t shy away from introducing ambiguity into the characters, and we end up with a complex web of character interactions in which it’s difficult to clearly delineate the ‘good’ characters from the ‘bad’. It’s quite a refreshing change from dumbed down Hollywood tales of the lone hero wreaking ‘justice’ on his one-dimensional ‘evil’ foes.
Visually too, the film is a cut above your usual animation, and there are some truly breathtaking sequences involving the gods of the forest, along with some epic battle scenes. It’s one of those films that really sticks in your mind for years afterwards. If you haven’t seen it, rectify this oversight immediately.
Thanks to Lara and Sam for recommending the film, and thanks to everyone who’s written in with their recommendations so far – we’ll make sure to read them all out in our upcoming podcasts. Ian’s away next week, meaning we’ll be back in a couple of weeks’ time, so until then we’ll leave you with this week’s feature presentation:
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Director: Hayao Miyazaki Year of release: 1997 Studio/Distributor: Studio Ghibli Country: Japan