Owen’s review published on Letterboxd:
I saw a YouTube comment that said "Whenever I finish this movie, I get the feeling that the world and everyone in it will be alright but things will never the same". Given the upcoming re-release and that today is the 21st anniversary, I've decided to go into detail as to why I think that Princess Mononoke is Studio Ghibli's best work.
The story Miyazaki choose to tell for this movie was perfect as it gives into the themes of the film and at the same time keeping your attention. Yes, the message has been done multiple times before but after this movie did it, a lot of movies tried to do the same thing after this one and none of them could handle quite as well as Princess Mononoke. Every Studio Ghibli has a different tone/genre to it which makes them all unique (for example: Grave Of The Fireflies was a war movie and probably one of the most depressing movies ever made), this one is an action/adventure movie and this is probably Miyazaki's most mature film because of the tone and message.
I think this is probably one of the most visually impressive movies ever. Every shot is looks so good that I remember one time I watched this movie and I found myself pausing the film at certain points to soak up all the details of just one shot and the fact that's it's all hand drawn makes it so much better. There are these fantastic scenes where a character is walking through the forest and the scene lets soak up the environment. It's moments like these that make you forget that your watching an animated movie. Another thing that Miyazaki did with the animation is the action sequences. He actually got martial artists to act out the action scenes while he timed it with a stopwatch in order to make the action in the film look realistic. It's little details like that make Princess Mononoke so unique.
I really like the relationship between Ashitaka (I'm gonna call him Ash for short) and San and I also like how Miyazaki didn't even have to show them kiss to show that they loved each other. Unlike Avatar where that shit was distracting, shoved down your throat and then that cringy sex scene happens, they had actually chemistry and from start to finish, they both loose more and more things they care about and they had their own conflicts as well (Ash had to leave his old life behind and San had to face the fact that she was human and will always be). This shows when the forest spirit is destroying the forest and San stabs Ash with the necklace that he gave her and than he hugs her anyway because he knows that they both went through some shit.
You've probably heard this before but the music is fucking fantasic, Joe Hisashi is one of my favorite music composers for a reason and I still do this day consider this his best work. My favorite piece of music in the entire score is this piece called "The World Of The Dead". It plays at the end when Jigo gets the head of the forest spirit and the spirit is after him while the world is just falling apart around them and Ash and San are after him and it sounds so ominous and hopeless, it sounds just like something that would be used in a movie where the world is ending. It was a genius, GENIUS choice of music.
I'm not gonna lie, the first time I saw this movie, I didn't take it as seriously as I would have now. I don't know why that happened, I think it's because I haven't seen a lot of anime before my first viewing. Speaking of anime, Hayao Miyazaki actually said that he hates modern anime, I forgot why (I'm pretty sure his reason is that he thinks that it tries to hard to be edgy) but that really surprised me. I feel like if you show someone a Ghibli film even if they haven't seen anime, they're still blown away. I will always describe Studio Ghibli movies (along with other anime films like Akira, Ghost In The Shell and Wolf Children) as anime for people who don't like anime.
For a film that succeeded in achieving everything it set out to do and more, everything about Princess Mononoke is incredible. It changed my life honestly, it's helped me get into movies and it's one of a kind movie, there is honestly not another movie like it in existence and that's why I consider Studio Ghibli's best film they have ever made. Grave Of The Fireflies is a close second though. I've only seen Spirited Away once but I know I need to watch it again.