In March of 2006 Toonami celebrated the master of animated movies, Miyazaki. The Month of Miyazaki featured four films: Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, Nausicaa in the Valley of the Wind, and Princess Mononoke. I caught three of the four films on TV but I ended up having to record Princess Mononoke on a VHS tape. I took the tape with me to my grandmother’s house where me and my brother set down to watch it. It wasn’t long after Ashitaka meets San that the tape turned to static. As it turns out there are special settings for recording over 2 hours on a VHS tape and I, who only recorded half hour shows, was unaware the tape that said it could record up to 6 hours needed me to change a setting in order for it to work (To be fair I was in fifth grade, how was I supposed to know? I). My brother was mad, I was upset that I didn’t get to finish the movie, and even though it is coming up on 11 years since this incident, I’ve still never finished Princess Mononoke.
This all changed January 4th when I was lucky enough to get to see the subtitled version of the film in theaters. Princess Mononoke’s main character is Ashitaka, a young man who sets out on a journey after he is infected with a curse. Ashitaka comes across the titular Princess Mononoke, a human raised by wolves named San, who is currently battling Irowntown over a large forest that is protected by the Deer God.
I could spend a lot of time telling you of the absolutely amazing animation in this film (from the iron’s curse to the plant life and beyond), how enchanting the music is, or how interesting the various characters are but Miyazaki’s movies tend to speak for themselves. They are consistently good, well made masterpieces. They are in fact works of art. You are probably already interested in seeing his works and Princess Mononoke is one of the big ones. However, Princess Mononoke is a movie worth seeing for so many more reasons than just the fact that Miyazaki created it.
Princess Mononoke reminds me a lot of the AP Environmental Science class that I took as a senior in high school. It made me hate being human. It changed my view of humanity drastically, in a way that can’t be forgotten. You see, Princess Mononoke isn’t just the story of one town in a land war against a forest instead it’s a watered down version of world. The central struggle of Princess Mononoke, a man vs nature theme that boils down to cooperation rather than war, is something the entire world is actively experiencing. Watching the way the Irontown took from the forest without caring for the consequences is just how humanity has treated animals and nature all across the world as we worry about our expansion and survival over the health of the world. This same crushing feeling of realization that humans cause so much pain and destruction in nature is a feeling I got from my AP Environmental Science class back in 2013 and was a feeling I relived watching this movie.
It should be noted that neither environmental science nor Princess Mononoke exist to make us feel bad for what the world has done. What it aims to do is make us realize that give and take, ebb and flow, are important parts of the world and we can’t simply destroy nature. It is a neutral pair of eyes just as Ashitaka aimed to be while viewing the conflict. And so, at the end of the day, I see Princess Mononoke as more than just a beautiful animated movie, I see it as a wonderful example of the reasons that humanity needs to step up and take care of the one world we have to live in before we destroy it forever.