Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke ★★★★½

Miyazaki's strengths lie far more in atmosphere and immersive world-creation than in character-driven storytelling; Mononoke might be his most narratively ambitious and grand in scale, but it's also the one I'm the least emotionally invested in. Every time I watch it, I hope to make myself care about the characters and their well-being, but they're all such small players in this grander tale of nature and industrialization that it's difficult at times to get intimate with them. It's why, despite the lack of sweeping scope or massive stakes, I'm far more fond of a movie like Kiki's Delivery Service: it's more concerned with character than plot.

Still, this is a film where at any moment I wish I could jump into the frame and inhabit the animated universe. The way the story begins in a world that has already existed for centuries, without bothering to explain the lore to the audience, is one of the things that makes it so awe-inspiring. It's a visual and thematic masterpiece with infinite rewatchability, and it conveys a nuanced message about balancing two sides that I really love. I just always wish I could be more invested in it than I am.

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