In part three of my tribute to late Japanese animator Makiko Futaki we look at epic historical fantasy anime Princess Mononoke (1997). 

Princess Mononoke was the highest grossing film in Japan for 1997 and the highest grossing of all time until it was sunk by Hollywood titan Titanic. And if you watch it you will understand why.

The story follows young warrior Ashitaka as he gets in the middle of a battle between humans seeking to use a forest to produce iron and forest gods and San, a girl raised by a wolf god. It is a tale of industrialisation versus nature but it is not a preachy one and calls for a balance between both.

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Dire wolf? What’s a Dire Wolf?

The English voice cast includes actors like Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver, Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, Jada Pinkett Smith and Gillian Anderson, and they all do a fantastic job. Anderson as wolf god and San’s adoptive mother Moro is particularly impressive.

The characters are wonderfully drawn, especially the fantastical animals, and the setting with its idyllic streams, lush forests and mists upon mountains, is breathtaking.

Our hero Ashitaka is brave and noble and his troubled romance with San, who is almost feral and hates humans, is touching and heartwarming. It was great that the refined Lady Eboshi, the leader of Irontown, is not really a villain but is seeking the best for her men and the prostitutes and lepers which she rescued.

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Hey girl. How you doin?

As a viewer you cannot really bring yourself to hate Lady Eboshi or any other main characters, but you identify with the moderate Ashitaka. As he is told by his village leader he must learn “to see with eyes unclouded by hate”. The film shows good and evil, wisdom and folly, in both the humans and the animals.

In the first scene Ashitaka atop his trusty red elk battles and kills the boar god turned demon Nago but becomes infected by squirming demon tentacles. These are as creepy as I remember but not as eerie as those weird rattling white forest spirits. This fantastical and intriguing world is inhabited by ferocious huge white wolves, stubborn boars, grim ape and the magnificent Great Forest Spirit. You will have a wonderful time exploring it.

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To war!

The battles between man and animal grows to a grand crescendo aided by a superb score that reminded of the epic music of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are not many action scenes but they are brutal and have a strong impact. One scene where animals and humans are strewn across a battlefield is particularly poignant.

The film ends on a hopeful note that humans and animals/environment can co-exist in peace, and that is a message that is as timeless as this film.

Rating: Princess Mononoke gets four 4/4 feral wolf girls.

So have you seen Princess Mononoke? What did you think of it? Feel free to comment below.

For part two of 5 from Futaki, where we reviewed iconic anime Akira, you can click here and for part 4, Spirited Away, you can click here. For more fantastical movie posts you can follow me on Twitter @suprememango012 for updates. Got  your back like a chiropractor. l8rs.