Miyazaki Month: Princess Mononoke

Written by Myrna Waldron.You will find few well-known directors as overtly feminist as Hayao Miyazaki. Of the 10 films he has directed, only two, The Castle of Cagliostro & Porco Rosso, have male protagonists. The others have dual male and female protagonists (Castle In The SkyPrincess MononokeHowl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo) or female protagonists (NausicaaMy Neighbour TotoroKiki’s Delivery ServiceSpirited Away). And not only are many of the main characters in his films female, they are also well rounded, realistically flawed, and given a great deal of agency in their stories. When I think of the Strong Female Character feminist media critics are always hoping for, I think of Miyazaki’s characters first.

For the month of May, I will be writing about 4 films directed by Hayao Miyazaki: Princess MononokeSpirited AwayHowl’s Moving Castle and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The first three are my personal favourites of his work, and it will be my first time watching Nausicaa. It is my plan not only to discuss feminist aspects of the films, but also to discuss other themes/messages present in Miyazaki’s work (environmentalism and pacifism most commonly) and to compare the Disney/Miramax English dubs of the films to the original Japanese dialogue.

The Deer God gives life and takes life away
Princess Mononoke was the first Hayao Miyazaki film I watched. It came out a couple of years after Sailor Moon had introduced me to anime, and all of my nerdy peers were excited about the film because it was by this great, talented animator, and in Japan the film was even more popular than Titanic. It was refreshing for me to watch an animated film with complex themes, moral ambiguities and some decidedly un-kid friendly violence. I was already fascinated by animation, and Princess Mononoke showed me just how broad a medium it could be.

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