Studio: Studio Ghibli (Grave of the Fireflies, Spirited Away)
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away)
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Release date: July 12, 1997
Runtime: 134 minutes
When you commit yourself to watching a movie by acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki, some things are practically guaranteed. The world will be enchantingly beautiful. The plot will be complex and meaningful enough that you won't be able to chat your way through the film. The ending will be an epic explosion of action and plot resolution. There will be some Captain Planet style environmentalism thrown in. And the whole ordeal will take a solid two hours and change.
With the exception of a trademark flying scene, Princess Mononoke fits every element of Miyazaki's formula. The film follows a guy named Ashitaka, a prince from a secluded village in the hills. As the film opens, Ashitaka, a skilled archer, defends his people against an invading demon. During the battle, Ashitaka's arm is infected with the demon's curse, forcing him into exile, where he wanders the forest in search of a spirit who can cure him before the demon's magic kills him. The "princess" of the title is not really a princess at all, but a feral child who was raised by the forest spirits named San. Much of the film is spent by Ashitaka and San playing the role of defenders of nature against an onslaught of human industrialization.
Princess Mononoke isn't one of Miyazaki's bestselling works, but it has a substantive following in the anime community. It's a little darker than most of his films, a little more mature in its feel. But for me, it wasn't fantastic. As with many of his films, I lost interest for a while during the middle of this 134 minute monster. The movie is an entertaining ride guaranteed to leave with some kind of lesson. But if you haven't seen a Miyazaki yet, start with Spirited Away.
Also, the English dub isn't too bad.