High action. Complex characters. Talking animals. Princess Mononoke was destined to be my ultimate favorite Ghibli film. Truthfully, it is my favorite film of animation or live action, but that’s not important for this post.
I was still in middle school when I saw Princess Mononoke. I’d watched Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Spirited Away before I stumbled on Hayao Miyazaki’s more mature film. It didn’t become my all-time favorite until I was older, but the seeds were buried in my heart
Why is this my favorite? It comes down to Ashitaka. And a quote. When asked why he was there, he replied, “To see with eyes unclouded by hate.” This struck me. It latched onto my soul, as though those were the words that shone light onto who I was, or at least wanted to be in my core.
Throughout the film, Ashitaka is on middle ground. Iron Town loves him, but wants him to stay with their cause to live and survive in the fight-against-nature way. On the forest’s side, San accepts him as an odd human who really shouldn’t give the humans any leeway. The Forest Spirit likes him, anyhow.
Each side wants him to choose. Industry. Or the environment. Ashitaka is instrumental in the events throughout the film, but he doesn’t lose the perspective he has as someone from the outside. He wants all of the people he meets to be happy and healthy at the end of the day, but he’s not willing to let the hatred they have for each other consume his judgement of anyone.
The end goal isn’t on the polar opposite ends, rather, somewhere in the middle. In peace. Not a compromise. People and nature living in harmony.
And that’s why Princess Mononoke holds my heart as my favorite Ghibli (and every) film. As I’ve gotten older, it has been harder to keep my eyes clear of the hate around me, but I strive for that philosophy to be who I am.
Besides, it’s gorgeous to watch. And the English translation is by Neil Gaiman.
What is your favorite Ghibli film? Why? Comment below!