Have you ever watched an anime, no, a film that grips you right from the beginning and has you entranced all the way to the end?
Well, this was my experience watching Hayao Miyazaki’s 1997 anime film Princess Mononoke, two days ago.
I knew right after watching it that it was my favourite Studio Ghibli film so far, and I have been constantly thinking about it since then.
Set in the Muromachi era of Japan, the film centers around Ashitaka (Yoji Matsuda), a young prince who is cursed by a demon that attacks his village.
Instructed by the wise woman of his people, Ashitaka sets out on a journey with his faithful red elk, Yakul, to potentially find a cure for his deadly affliction.
From here, Ashitaka is pulled into a conflict between the spirits, who watch over the forest, and the humans of Iron Town, lead by Lady Eboshi (Yuko Tanaka).
Among the spirits is a girl named San (Yuriko Ishida), the titular Princess Mononoke, who was raised by a wolf spirit, and has vowed to kill Eboshi.
What I love about this story is how there really is no bad guy.
Both sides of the conflict, that Ashitaka gets caught up in, view the other as evil but both sides also have their own flaws and virtues.
This is a film about perspectives, with Ashitaka stuck in the middle, trying to mediate between the two groups.
With its focus on nature, Princess Mononoke could have very easily gone the typical environmentalist message route which, while there is nothing wrong with that, has been done quite a lot.
Instead, Princess Mononoke takes a stance on environmentalism I cannot remember seeing before, about hatred and the need for mutual dialogue.
The consequences of not attempting dialogue is apparent through the violence of the movie, which is uncharacteristic for a Studio Ghibli film.
This violence is enhanced by the glorious animation, which had me riveted from the very beginning.
Everything from the action, with its flawless editing, to the slower moments, where we look on in awe, is so well animated.
I was also amazed at how much of it is hand drawn.
It must have taken a lot of effort to get done and the animators deserve so all of the praise for their hard work.
Then there is the music, which is fantastic, serving to enhance the brilliant animation and, in turn, the story and the characters.
Princess Mononoke is a masterpiece.
It is now, not only my favourite Studio Ghibli film so far, but one of my favourite anime films as well.