Princess Mononoke (1997) IMDb


Suzuki Toshio (producer), Miyazaki Hayao (writer-director).


A boar god poisoned by hate threatens a village and infects a young man. Ostracized and dying, the man journeys to find a cure. He stumbles upon human plans to take the head of the god of life and death.


An epic fantasy, nominally set in Muromachi-period Japan (14th-16th century), but the setting owes a bit to far-flung fantasies like The Journey of Shuna (1983), of which this is partly an adaptation. The name of Ashitaka’s red elk, Yakkul, is from Shuna, as is much of the structure.

Realistic, amoral, complicated, imaginative, beautiful and serious, Mononoke lacks the sentimentality that tinges so much of Miyazaki’s other work. This is despite the stag god looking like Miyazaki’s tribute to the senior prince in Bambi (1942). The boars remind me of the tusked ogre Humbaba in The Epic of Gilgamesh (ca. 2100–1100 BCE), another doomed and fearsome guardian of threatened nature. Some of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1982) is reflected here, and there is also a form of reference back to The Adventures of Hols, Prince of the Sun (1968), where the seed of Ghibli was sown: Ashitaka’s people is the Emishi, a small pocket of an old ethnic group marginalized long ago by the immigrating Yamato Japanese who have been totally dominant for many centuries. Takahata wanted the Hols project to be about the plight of the Emishi, but the studio refused. After 29 years, Miyazaki had the power.

References here: Ghibli movie titles, The title of Princess Mononoke, On the wall of Tataraba, The hand of a princess?, Legend of the Millennium Dragon (2011).

animation fiction Ghibli Japanese production moving picture