As I await the animated début of Anna and her ethereal friend Marnie in Studio Ghibli’s “When Marnie Was There”, an adaptation of the decidedly English tale by writer Joan G Robinson, I thought I’d reflect on a past Ghibli movie that has seemingly captivated audiences to the point that it is now considered the progeny of modern animation: “Princess Mononoke”. Regarded as a profound feat of Japanese animation, seemingly professed as the most significant oeuvre for the illustrious Japanese studio, Princes Mononoke is now exempt from any appraisal that isn’t influenced by flagrant leniency or flattering its own cajoled hubris. Now that isn’t to suggest that I don’t like the movie, quite the contrary there is much capricious resplendence to admire. The visualizations are of the purest sentiment derived from a child’s perspective, denoting all the interpretive fraternity of a child’s abstract perception of the world bolstered by the imaginative tolerance of innocence that is seldom retained by the perfunctory of maturity. It still amazes me that Hayao Miyazaki can project the purity of youth with cultivated objectivity. His portrayal of resilient, independent females are as effusive here as they have been in any Ghibli movie, accorded the statutory vulnerability and femininity without it perceived as the clinical misogynistic rhetoric that has been a corrosive blemish for cinematic fidelity for an obstinate amount of time.
It has a clear and concise message, one that has world-wide academic significance that has likely encouraged students to submit dissertations regarding the negative effect our civilisation is having on climate and our depleted woodlands. You can’t help but respect the licentious provocations of its characters. The illustration of a feudal militia and its colloquial acolytes presented as envoys of destruction, are behaviour appendices that are just as applicable in today’s society. And it isn’t just the desecration of expansive thickets or the rise of suburban structures that is the symbolism of Japanese culture and indicative of its rapid technological growth that Miyazaki utilises so well, but also the divine undertones. There is something romantic about the suggestion that these verdant pastures are protected by an ethereal custodian. That the absence of spiritual overseers will have inherent repercussions for the environmental inhabitants, many of whom are spirits themselves. The notion that there could be a spiritualised migration of natural entities due to the forcible intervention of humanity is such a deep concept for an animation film. So how can a surmise replete with such positivity be in any way negative? You can’t argue the moralistic integrity, and there was a poignant resonance that’s undeniably transgressive, but it hardly lapsed into subtlety.
There’s a wizened mythology that is riveting and you can’t deflect the allegorical refinement it conveys, but the ideologies are frankly heavy-handed. The colonised enmity depicted here feels more like a pithily dramatic instances in a fictitious documentary, rather than an entertaining story lavished with undertones of philosophical ordinance. Perhaps that’s my problem with it; its stoic tendencies make for incredibly piteous imagery but a monotonous narrative, or…..I don’t know. It’s difficult to accurately placate why I don’t place Princess Mononoke on a plinth lavished in rose petals, that have fallen of their own volition of course. Perhaps thematically it was a little too overt in its sophistry of environmental deformation. Maybe it was the extensive and grotesque depiction of animal malice orchestrated by man and demonic possession alike. Personally though, I just didn’t enjoy the experience, even after 3 singular sessions over the course of many differing years. Now I’m sure that will go down like inflated possum testicles (alas Pom Poko), but this was an admission that needed to be said. Many of you will dispute my brazen assertions, which you have every right to. I don’t have to watch it again, in fact I can simply console myself with other great movies like Blade Runner, The Dark Night and The Godfather. Films I like. Well, when I say like……well, see above. Again, sorry!
Is there a film/book/game that you have never understood receives such universal acclaim? Let me her you suggestions. Cheers.