Princess Mononoke (1999)
Princes Mononoke directed by Hayao Miyazaki is a film that shows transformation with form, content, and technology. The film depicts through a form of storytelling in which a lesson is learned in the balance between humans and nature. The content is also a type of transformation because it touches on the topic of environmentalism the issue of industrialization in a rising society versus nature. Lastly, technology is utilized as an obvious change in film from real life actors to computer generated art. Miyazaki has not only transformed a different mode of cinema throughout history, but has been successful in making even more popular anime films. Despite the lack of foreign films in America at this time, he helped to make Japanese culture stand out as a form of art and entertainment.
Princess Mononoke has a transformation in form throughout the film because the content is unlike any other films during this time. The entire plot has a spiritual view of Miyazaki’s Shinto holy religion that values the balance between humans and nature. The film was originally in Japanese but also has voice actors, Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, and Billy Bob Thornton, who are well-known ones for the English version. The particular spiritual Shinto, also called kami-no-michi is the ethnic religion of Japan that people focus on. Shinto means “way of the gods” as kami means “spirit,” which kami refers to people and spirit being together and existing within the same world. This particular spirituality sets the tone for a film unlike the traditional American Hollywood films focused on good vs. evil such as: Schindler’s List (1993), Seven (1995), and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).
Princess Mononoke is also transformational in content as the film is about the issue of industrialization and call for environmentalism. For example, Ashitaka travels west to find the spirit of the forest to possibly heal the demon mark on his arm to help him live. On his way he comes into contact with a hunter, Jiko-bo who plans on cutting off the head of the spirit forest by order of the Emperor to gain more wealth and power. Ashitaka also comes into contact with Lady Eboshi in Iron Town where weapons are being built for war. Lastly, San or Princess Mononoke, is a human but was born and raised with the wolves of the forest and she tries to save the forest from the cruelty of humans. The main issue seems to be that the humans are taking advantage of their resources despite the forest providing great resources for humans to build and thrive on. For example, as the people of Iron town constantly cut down trees to build their town and keep the boilers going, yet there is a better way in which they could build their town more sustainably. After the forest spirit’s head is cut off and it’s goo is sucking the life out of everyone around them that is when people come to realize they actually need to treat nature well because they need it to survive. That is when Lady Eboshi realizes that they need to re-build Iron Town more better and sustainable.
Lastly, the film has transformational technology as the film is animated instead of using real life actors. The film is written as a historical type fantasy of the time therefore, the best way to tell this story is through the use of anime to have more creative use to tell the story. It took Miyazaki a couple years to write Princess Mononoke because his visions of the storyline resembled a lot in his other anime film My Neighbor Toro (1988). This particular anime style of film adds more creativity to the director and production of the entire piece. Miyazaki was able to spend his time developing the characters by drawing on the storyboard and finding ideas to inspire him. Time worked well in his favor as Princes Mononoke won best animation, and best Japanese movie, along with Japanese movie fan’s choice in the 52nd Mainichi Film Awards in 1997 and best picture in the 21st Japan Academy Awards in 1988.
In conclusion, Princess Mononoke has characteristics of transformation in the film through aspects of form, content, and technology. Throughout the history of filmmaking it is a unique film of its time because it is a foreign film that became very popular in America. Miyazaki will be remembered through history as bringing his creativity and culture to America. Other films of his that were successful in Japan and America are: Spirited Away (2001), Howl’s Moving Castle (1989), Castle in the Sky (1986), and Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989). He also brought up important universal issues of industrialization and environmentalism. It is also interesting in transformation as America is becoming more diverse and films such as Princess Mononoke to educate the U.S. on Japanese culture.