London’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is the one. The first adult themed animated movie I ever watched. The first Ghibli movie I ever watched. And it is still the best. Sure I have not seen them all, but even with all the ones I watched during our movie day, Princess Mononoke stands in a league of its own. The animation quality is pretty similar in most Ghibli movies, so I won't stay on that topic. Instead I want to talk about the characters.
Princess Mononoke has the best female characters I have seen in an anime. Whether it is San, Lady Eboshi, or even a character like Toki, the film lends itself to them so strongly and writes them so well you end up getting lost in their characters. I mention Toki specifically, because introducing a small arc that is dependent on learning about Toki and the other working women of Iron Town not only adds a great deal to the world building of the movie, but elevates the character of Lady Eboshi much higher than you would think possible. A power hungry tyrant who burns down forests to mine or ore, yet also a passionate side that cares deeply for the disabled and for women. Even as an antagonist in the film, there is so much depth to her character and it adds so much to the story.
When I was a child I was in love with San. There was just something so engaging about a extremely strong female character that has been fighting for the lives of animals and the forest all of her life. A woman who never knew her biological parents, instead being raised by a literal god, and somehow forming a bond with these wolves and becoming one of their own. This film taught me a lot about where I belonged and how not everyone you are related to by blood is your family.
Lets move on to our protagonist, Ashitaka. With ideals that perfectly weave through both those of Eboshi and San, through his eyes are the only way this story could be properly told. Trying so hard to save everyone, and failing miserably at all of it. Coming to grips with his own mortality and impending doom. Taking it in stride and continuing to work towards a solution. He is absolutely incredible, and his best friend and loyal steed Yakul is just the same. I really love the scenes where it is there purely to show that Yakul will always have his back, as it adds so much to their characters and the world.
The soundtrack is to die for. Big epic moments are accompanied by big epic tracks that flow seamlessly with the wind in the forest, feeling perfectly ingrained with every slice of a sword or shot of a gun. The main theme of the film literally still gives me goosebumps whenever I hear it. And the speech in Iron Town as Ashitaka leaves, condemning hatred, shocks me to my very core.
Princess Mononoke is a perfect film.