Princess Mononoke ★★★★

Miyazaki's designs of the spirits, monsters and landscapes in Princess Mononoke are the most imaginative and breathtaking I've seen from him, and when the movie canters along in its measured stride through the first act, its vibrant liveliness and solemn action are engrossing. However, the further it delves into the various factions of wolves, hogs, apes, deer, and humans, the less distinct it becomes, until it feels like a convoluted attempt at making a somewhat trite humans vs. animals conflict appear complicated just by heaping new fantastical details on top of it. But even as the angry mess of strident enemies is inexplicably resolved too neatly at the end, the imagery as it does so is most bracing, and Princess Mononoke is now my second favorite Miyazaki, quite a ways behind the gentle My Neighbor Totoro but just ahead of Kiki's Delivery Service and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

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