Princess Mononoke

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Out of all the films I have watched this summer, Princess Mononoke may be the most interesting in terms of narrative structure. It’s an animated epic which combines elements of fantasy and action/adventure, but it forgoes the straightforward “hero battles evil” storyline we’re accustomed to in American films of this type. In fact, it goes to great lengths to develop four different sides (nature vs. industrialized town vs. lone wolf hero vs. outside samurai invaders) without really exposing any of them as “good” or “bad.” Each side, save for maybe the invaders, have both good and bad qualities and the lone wolf hero, Ashitaka, tries to settle a conflict which steadily grows in scope and intensity without taking a side. It also features a story where virtually every single main character is riddled with faults and constantly makes mistakes. Even Ashitaka, who desperately tries to help each side get along, is generally ignored by those he attempts to negotiate with. It’s bold to make a film where, instead of creating a story where each side ascends in power until they reach a climax, the main parties seemingly stumble through a string of mistakes until reaching a climax fueled by their own shortcomings or their unwillingness to take a side. While this didn’t lead to me loving this film, it did lead to me respecting it.