Princess Mononoke wasted no time in appeasing to the cinematic pleasure-nodes that make my movie-watching brain a happy one. Even before the very first image is introduced, the sound of a rhythmic war drum is heard, immediately calling to mind Akira Kurosawa‘s iconic Seven Samurai soundtrack. Smile. Shortly thereafter, a flood of tantalizing imagery appears including a rampaging blood-thirsty evil demon spirit (smile growing), a handful of severed body parts, including a head (open-mouthed smile), and wolves hurling humans off cliffs (entire face now smiling). You better believe I was on board for this ride.
Unfortunately, all great grins must come to an end. And even more unfortunate, the end of my smilefest came around the half-way mark instead of at the closing credits. I wish I could say my happy face turned sour due to an absence of cerebral stimulation, but, as was par for any Hayao Miyazaki course, there was no shortage of grand theme pondering to be had here. Quite the opposite. Themes such as man vs nature, the contradictory fibers embedded in even those with the strongest of moral fortitude, and the most obvious, ecological preservation, were all on display. Now, if only the display case in which these philosophical queries were presented wasn’t so cluttered with plot progressing fight scenes lasting way longer than was needed.
It is at this point in the film where Miyazaki seems more intent on getting across his moral themes and starts to lose focus on tending to my aesthetically pleasing needs he so showered me with at the film’s start. After all, it is all about me and my needs, is it not? In other words, more severed body parts please, and less talky talky.
As fable on human nature this tale of a courageous warrior determined to keep peace amongst warring factions (humans, animals, and spirits of the forest) was heard loud and clear. I just wish it stayed as visually interesting as it began. Especially for one of the world’s most visually interesting animators.