is a 1997 Japanese anime film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. It was first released in Japan on July 12, 1997 and in the United States on October 29, 1999 in select cities and on November 26, 1999.
It is a jidaigeki (period drama) set in the late Muromachi period of Japan, and centers on the struggle between the supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans who consume its resources, as seen by the outsider Ashitaka. is not a name, but a general term in Japanese for a spirit or monster.
Roger Ebert placed the movie sixth on his top ten movies of 1999. Mononoke also became the highest grossing movie in Japan until Titanic took over the spot several months later. Overall, Mononoke is the third most popular anime movie in Japan, next to 2001's Spirited Away and 2004's Howl's Moving Castle, both also by Miyazaki.
The film begins with Ashitaka saving his village from a vicious assault by killing a demon who is actually the giant boar god Nago corrupted by rage and hate. During the fight, Ashitaka receives a demon mark on his right arm, and he is cursed by the Boar God's hatred and pain. Ashitaka is told that the mark will spread throughout his body, killing him. A ball of iron is found inside Nago's corpse which is somehow connected to the curse. Ashitaka resolves to journey to Nago's origin, the lands to the West, to try and find a cure for his curse. He cuts his hair, signifying his permanent departure from his village, and rides out with his steed Yakul, his loyal red elk. Since it is considered taboo to see off one who is banished, only one person dares to say goodbye to Ashitaka: his 'little sister,' Kaya (according to Miyazaki, actually his bride-to-be; calling herself his 'little sister' was a term of affection), who gives him her crystal dagger so that he will not forget her.
On his journey, Ashitaka passes by a village suffering a samurai attack. Some samurai attack him, and Ashitaka fights back, decapitating one and shooting off the other's arms with the supernatural strength his curse grants him. In a nearby town he meets Jigo, a wandering monk impressed by his feats of arms; they encamp overnight near a ruined village, during which Jigo provides Ashitaka important information related to the source of his curse.
Irontown continually clears a nearby forest to get to more iron ore, causing many battles as the animals attempt to protect their diminishing forest. It was during one of these battles that Irontown's leader, Lady Eboshi Gozen, shot Nago. In another battle, a pack of wolves, led by the wolf god Moro and accompanied by San (whom the people of Irontown call, 'Princess Mononoke'), a human girl adopted by the wolves, attack villagers transporting rice. Ashitaka first encounters San treating Moro's wounds by a river, then finds several wounded villagers nearby. While taking them home, Ashitaka passes through a forest full of animal gods, including diminutive sprites called kodama. Also in the forest is the Shishigami (Forest Spirit in English), described as a "god of life and death", which takes the form of a deer during the day and a large shadowy "night-walker" at night.
Ashitaka is given a warm welcome in Irontown, but as he learns more about Eboshi's aggressive, destructive tactics, he is filled with rage (aided by his curse) and must restrain himself from killing her. He is dissuaded from doing so by lepers whom Eboshi has taken under her care and employed as gunmakers. She also runs her famous ironworks with ex-prostitutes.
Irontown is then attacked by San. Ashitaka intervenes to stop the two sides' fighting and takes San back to the forest, but is mortally wounded when he is shot through the chest by one of the villagers, whose husband had been killed by San, for trying to stop the fight between Eboshi and San. With his curse's power, he manages to open the gate and leave the town, but collapses soon after. With San's intervention, he is healed of his wounds — but not his curse — by the Forest Spirit.
San soon learns that the boars, under the leadership of the boar god Okkoto, are planning another attack on Irontown. Eboshi prepares for the assault and sets out to destroy the Forest Spirit. The head of the Forest Spirit is believed to grant immortality. Jigo, who is now revealed to be a mercenary-hunter, plans to give the head to the emperor; in return the emperor promises to give Irontown legal protection against the envious daimyos (in particular Lord Asano) coveting the town's prosperity. Eboshi, however, suspects (rightly) that the emperor's agents are also assigned to take control of Irontown at the most opportune moment. Meanwhile, Ashitaka recovers and falls in love with San, something she has difficulty accepting due to her lifelong hatred of other humans.
In the ensuing battle, Irontown successfully sets a trap for the boars, devastating their army. While Eboshi is away, Asano attacks Irontown, whose women resist the siege. Ashitaka runs from faction to faction, attempting to negotiate peace despite being mistrusted (and even attacked) by most of the characters. Jigo's hunters also succeed in corrupting Okkoto in the same way as Nago, and San becomes entangled in Okkoto's demonic tentacles. Moro, also badly wounded, saves San, and then is killed, along with Okkoto, by the Forest Spirit. Eboshi then succeeds in shooting off the Forest Spirit's head while it is transforming into the night-walker. Jigo collects the head while the body is transformed into a god of death; as a result the land becomes covered with a lethal black ooze that completely destroys all life and turns the land barren. Asano's men scatter before the ooze and the population of Irontown moves into the surrounding lake, leaving Irontown to destruction. Ashitaka and San manage to take the head from Jigo and by returning the head to the Forest Spirit, the land becomes green again. Ashitaka and San part, vowing to see each other occasionally while Ashitaka helps Irontown rebuild. Eboshi survives, albeit without an arm (thanks to a posthumous attack from Moro's head), and vows to rebuild Irontown along more harmonious lines.
After arriving at Irontown, Ashitaka is caught up in the town’s war against the mountain gods. Amidst the battle at Irontown, Ashitaka meets San and soon becomes enamored with her. Ashitaka takes San back to Moro and attempts to negotiate a ceasefire between the warring sides. He is unsuccessful. Throughout the film, Ashitaka develops deep feelings for San and eventually falls in love with her. It is stated by Moro that he wanted to share his life with her. At the end of the film, Ashitaka’s curse is eventually removed and, though San and Ashitaka have grown close, they go their separate ways: to the forest and to Irontown respectively. However, Ashitaka promises to visit San in the forest whenever he can.
The director Miyazaki wanted Ashitaka to not be a typical hero. "Ashitaka is not a cheerful, worry-free boy. He is a melancholy boy who has a fate. I feel that I am that way myself, but until now, I have not made a film with such a character. Ashitaka was cursed for a very absurd reason. Sure, Ashitaka did something he should not have done - killing Tatari Gami. But there was enough reason to do so from the humans' viewpoint. Nevertheless, he received a deadly curse. I think that is similar to the lives of people today. I think this is a very absurd thing that is part of life itself.
San’s primary concern is protecting the forest and the animals she lives with. San rejects her own humanity and even thinks of herself as a wolf. She has attempted to assassinate Eboshi of Irontown many times, as San believes that Eboshi’s death will result in the end of Irontown and human growth into the surrounding forest. It is only by Ashitaka's affection to her that she slowly comes to acknowledge her human side as well. After the battle for the Forest Spirit's head, San tells Ashitaka that he is very dear to her, but since she cannot forgive the human race for what they have done to the forest, she will continue to live apart from the humans. San returns to the forest and Ashitaka remains in Irontown.
Eboshi has many enemies, including San, men, and the animal gods. Eboshi and her ishibiya troops are responsible for the cursed iron bullet in Nago which eventually affects Ashitaka. She shoots Shishigami's head off, causing him to turn into a God of death and send forth a dark liquid that kills anything it touches. The liquid falls on Moro's body, separating the head from it. After Eboshi throws Shishigami's head to Jigo, Moro's head resurrects long enough to bite off Eboshi's right arm. This event redeems her, and she decides to rebuild Irontown not as an industrial center, but as a modest settlement.
According to the producer Hayao Miyazaki the character of Lady Eboshi was supposed to have a traumatic past. Whether she herself was a prostitute or if she got married to a Japanesse pirate. She has a strong will, enough so that Prince Ashitakas situation doesn't bother her at all. She should also be viewed slightly as a revolutionary. If she were a man it wouldn't have the same effect. She was also a typical 20 century woman in the fact that she wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice herself or those around her for her dreams.
When director Miyazaki was working on creating Jigo at first he wasn't sure what he was going to do. Jigo could have been any number of things from a spy to an assassin to a religious fanatic or even just a good guy. In the end it turns out that this character had all of those qualities and then some.
At sunset, Shishigami becomes Daidarabocchi (translated to the Nightwalker in the English version), a huge god in a humanoid form that appears to be made out of stars, with a long pointed face and tentacle-like spikes on the back. When Eboshi shoots off Shishigami's head whilst it is transforming into Daidarabocchi, it becomes a raging god of death and his starry appearance changes to a dark tar-like liquid, searching for his head, that brings death to all it touches.
Princess Mononoke is mostly hand-drawn, but incorporates some use of computer animation.
When released, Mononoke was the most expensive Japanese anime ever made , with production of the film cost ¥2.4 billion (approximately US$20 million) . Miyazaki personally checked each of the 144,000 cels in the film, and is estimated to have redrawn parts of 80,000 of them.
Computer animation was used during 5 minutes of footage throughout the film, and a further 10 minutes used digital paint, a technique which is used throughout all subsequent Studio Ghibli films. The computer animated parts are designed to blend in and support the traditional animation, and are mainly used in images consisting of a mixture of CGI and traditional drawing.
Ashitaka comes from a tribe called the Emishi, which used to be natives of northern Honshū, that had been resisting subjugation by the Japanese emperor for centuries. However, the Emishi were defeated by the samurai of the Yamato clan, which proceeded to become the rulers and government of the Empire. The Emishi thus went into hiding, around the Northeast part of Honshū, Japan's largest island. By A.D. 1300, the Emishi were becoming integrated into Japanese society. However, Ashitaka supposedly comes from a tribe of the Emishi that had resisted integration and still lived in exile.
The film was extremely successful in Japan and with both anime fans and "arthouse" moviegoers in English-speaking countries. In those countries, it was widely interpreted as a film about the environment told in the form of Japanese mythology. Disney's Miramax subsidiary purchased U.S. distribution rights, but wanted to cut the film for American audiences (and for a PG-rating). However, Miyazaki balked at this, and the film was instead released uncut with a rating of PG-13. Miramax also chose to put a lot of money into creating the English dub of the movie with famous actors and actresses, yet when they released it in theatres there was little or no advertising and it was given a very limited run, showing in only a few theatres and for a very short time. Disney later complained about the fact that the movie did not do well at the box office. In September of 2000, the film was supposed to be released on DVD in the U.S., but Miramax announced that only the English dub would be included on the disc. Outraged fans demanded the Japanese track be put on the disc as well, and the threat of poor sales prompted Miramax to hire translators for the subtitles, which held the DVD release back by almost three months. When the film was finally released on DVD it sold very well, due to no limitation in availability. According to Ultimate Disney, the film is due for a two-disc Special Edition treatment in the near future.
The film was promoted with the tagline , inflected in the imperative.
At Miyazaki's insistence, the film was uncut for the English release, so that only the soundtrack was altered. The English dub of Princess Mononoke is a translation with some adaptation by Neil Gaiman, author of The Sandman. The main changes from the Japanese version are to provide a cultural context for phrases and actions which those outside of Asia may not be familiar with. Such alterations include references to mythology and specific names for groups, such as Jibashiri and Shishigami, that appear in the Japanese version, that are changed to more general terms, such as Mercenary and Forest Spirit, in the English version. The rationale for such changes is that the majority of non-Japanese viewers would not understand the mythological references and that the English language simply has no words for the Jibashiri, Shishigami and other terms. However, some critics (Michael Atkinson, Mr. Showbiz) have said that the translation from Japanese to English and the alterations in which it has resulted have weakened the film somewhat.
The English dub received mixed reviews from critics. While most of the reaction was positive, others criticized the dub for most of its casting choices, notably Billy Bob Thornton as Jigo and Claire Danes as San, claiming that they detracted from the experience. Despite this love-hate atmosphere, the dub has been hailed as one of the best ever done alongside Spirited Away, which has been met with the same criticism.
The film has also been recently dubbed in Mandarin as well. There are not a great number of differences, and the translations seem to be accurate enough. Still, there are three translations mentioned of 'Princess Mononoke/ Mononoke Hime', while most of the other names use either Chinese or sound translations.
|Character||Japanese voice||English voice|
|Ashitaka||Yōji Matsuda||Billy Crudup|
|San||Yuriko Ishida||Claire Danes|
|Moro||Akihiro Miwa||Gillian Anderson|
|Lady Eboshi||Yūko Tanaka||Minnie Driver|
|Jigo/Jiko Bou||Kaoru Kobayashi||Billy Bob Thornton|
|Toki||Sumi Shimamoto||Jada Pinkett Smith|
|Okkoto/Okkotonushi||Hisaya Morishige||Keith David|
|Gonza||Tsunehiko Kamijō||John DiMaggio|
|Kohroku||Masahiko Nishimura||John DeMita|
|Kaya||Yuriko Ishida||Tara Strong|