Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫 Mononoke-hime?) is a 1997 epic Japanese animated historical fantasy feature film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. "Mononoke" (物の怪?) is not a name, but a general term in the Japanese language for a spirit or monster. The film was first released in Japan on July 12, 1997, and in the United States on October 29, 1999, in select cities and on November 26, 1999, in Canada.

Princess Mononoke is a period drama set specifically in the late Muromachi period of Japan but with numerous fantastic elements. The story concentrates on involvement of the outsider Ashitaka in the struggle between the supernatural guardians of a forest and the humans of the Iron Town who consume its resources. There are no good and evil in this struggle and the sympathies of the film makers keep switching. There can be no clear victory, and the hope is that relationship between humans and the nature is cyclic.[1]

Roger Ebert placed the movie sixth on his top ten movies of 1999.[2] Mononoke also became the highest grossing movie in Japan until Titanic took over the spot several months later.[3] Overall, Mononoke is the third highest grossing anime movie in Japan,[citation needed] next to 2001's Spirited Away and 2004's Howl's Moving Castle, both also by Miyazaki.


The last Emishi prince, Ashitaka, engages in battle with Nago, a giant boar demon attacking his village. During the fight, Ashitaka is wounded on his arm. After the boar is killed, the village wisewoman tells the prince that the wound is cursed and will spread to the rest of his body, eventually killing him. Ashitaka resolves to journey to the boar's origin, the lands to the west, and find a cure for the curse. He cuts his hair, signifying his permanent departure from his village,[4] and leaves on Yakul, his red elk. Some time later, Ashitaka passes by a village being attacked by samurai. Some of the men attack him, forcing Ashitaka to defend himself. His cursed arm displays supernatural powers, primarily superstrength, causing his arrows to remove limbs and even the head of one man. In a nearby town he meets Jigo, a wandering monk who aids him in buying rice. That evening, the monk tells Ashitaka that he might find help in the Deer God forest in the mountains of the west populated by giant animal gods. The monk also adds that the forest is a no-go zone for humans.

A nearby town in the mountains of the west, called Iron Town (or Ironworks), continually clears the nearby forests to make charcoal to smelt ironsand, leading to battles with the giant forest beasts attempting to protect their diminishing forest. In one such battle, three giant wolves, led by the wolf god Moro, attack villagers transporting rice. They are accompanied by San, a human girl adopted by the wolves whom the people of Iron Town call "the Wolf Girl". In the attack Moro and several villagers are injured. The day following the battle, Ashitaka finds two injured villagers near a river. While rescuing them, he sees San treating Moro's wounds, and she disappears quickly. He returns the villagers to Iron Town passing through a forest full of bestial gods, including diminutive tree spirits called kodama. Also in the forest is the Forest Spirit (Shishigami in the original Japanese), described as a "god of life and death", who takes the form of a deer-like kirin during the day and a large shadowy "night-walker" at night.

Ashitaka is given a warm welcome when he reaches Iron Town. He learns from the leader of Iron Town, Lady Eboshi, that the giant boar which cursed him was once a forest god called Nago and that Eboshi had shot the boar, driving it to madness. On hearing this, Ashitaka is filled with rage and must restrain his right arm from killing Eboshi. He is dissuaded from doing so by lepers whom Eboshi has taken under her care and employed as gunmakers. She also employs former prostitutes in her famous ironworks in order to free them from brothels. Iron Town is then infiltrated by San, who attacks Eboshi. Ashitaka intervenes using his curses power to stop the two sides' fighting and takes San back to the forest, but is severely wounded when he is shot through the chest. With his curse's power, he manages to open the gate and leave the town, but collapses soon afterward. San presents Ashitaka to the Forest Spirit, who heals his wounds but does not remove the curse.

San soon learns that the boars, under the leadership of the boar god Okkoto, are planning another attack on Iron Town. Eboshi prepares for the assault and sets out to destroy the Forest Spirit. The head of the Forest Spirit is believed to grant immortality. Jigo, who is now revealed to be a mercenary-hunter, plans to give the head to the emperor; in return the emperor promises to give Iron Town legal protection against the envious daimyos coveting the town's prosperity. Eboshi, however, suspects (correctly) that the emperor's agents are also assigned to take control of Irontown at the most opportune moment. Meanwhile, Ashitaka recovers and falls in love with San. However, Moro, who is poisoned by the bullet Eboshi shot into her, warns him that he cannot save San.

In the ensuing battle, Iron Town and the Imperial agents set a trap for the boars, devastating their army, while Jigo's hunters corrupt Okkoto with a poisoned iron ball, the same as Nago. Badly wounded, Moro attacks Okkoto to save San, who was trapped on his snout while trying to stop him from turning into a demon. The Forest Spirit appears and kills both Moro and Okkoto, though San is saved. While Ashitaka cleans the demon worms from San, Eboshi shoots off the Forest Spirit's head while it is transforming into the night-walker and in turn loses her arm to Moro, who revives long enough for one last strike against her sworn enemy. Jigo collects the head as the Forest Spirit's body turns into a "mindless god of death" that begins covering the land in a lethal black ooze that kills everything it touches. The hunters scatter and the population of Iron Town is forced to flee to the surrounding lake as the god destroys the town in search of its head.

Ashitaka and San chase down and take the head from Jigo and return it to the Forest Spirit. It collapses into the lake, and the land becomes green again and all the lepers and accursed, including Ashitaka, are healed. Unable to give up the life each of them is used to, Ashitaka and San part but vow to see each other as much as possible. Ashitaka decides to live at Iron Town, which a reformed Eboshi vows to remake as "a better", much simpler village. The film ends with a Kodama appearing in the rejuvenated forest, signifying that life has finally started again.


Miyazaki has said that Lady Eboshi "looks like a shirabyōshi".[5]


It took Miyazaki 16 years to fully develop the story and characters of Princess Mononoke. Familiar themes and visuals can be found in his 1983 manga, The Journey of Shuna. The story and characters changed drastically several times during the planning stage. Princess Mononoke finally came together after Miyazaki visited the ancient forests of Yakushima island, but he didn't fully complete it until well into production. The final storyboards of the film's ending were finished only months before the Japanese premiere date.[6]

File:Mononoke hime cgi.png

Princess Mononoke is mostly hand-drawn, but incorporates some use of computer animation during five minutes of footage throughout the film.[7] The computer animated parts are designed to blend in and support the traditional cel animation, and are mainly used in images consisting of a mixture of computer generated graphics and traditional drawing. A further 10 minutes uses digital paint, a technique used in all subsequent Studio Ghibli films. Most of the film is colored with traditional paint. However, producers agreed on the installation of computers in order to successfully complete the film prior to the Japanese premiere date.[6]

Miyazaki personally checked each of the 144,000 cels in the film,[8] and is estimated to have redrawn parts of 80,000 of them.[9][10] This is one of few films directed by him that does not feature a flying sequence, his well-known trademark.

When released, Mononoke was the most expensive anime ever made,[citation needed] with production of the film costing ¥2.35 billion (approximately US$23.5 million).[10][11][12][13]

Miyazaki did not want Ashitaka to be a typical hero:[14]
"Ashitaka is not a cheerful, worry-free boy. He is a melancholy boy who has a fate. I feel that I am that way myself, but until now, I have not made a film with such a character. Ashitaka was cursed for a very absurd reason. Sure, Ashitaka did something he should not have done - killing Tatari Gami. But there was enough reason to do so from the humans' viewpoint. Nevertheless, he received a deadly curse. I think that is similar to the lives of people today. I think this is a very absurd thing that is part of life itself."
—Hayao Miyazaki

He stated that Lady Eboshi was supposed to have a traumatic past, although it is not specifically mentioned in the film. She had a strong and secure personality, evident in the fact that she let Ashitaka move freely through the settlement unescorted, despite his unclear motives. She also almost never acknowledged the Emperor's authority in Irontown, a revolutionary view for the time, and displayed an atypical attitude for a woman of that era in that she wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice herself or those around her for her dreams.[14]

When director Miyazaki was creating the Jigo character, he was unsure whether to make him a government spy, a ninja, a member of a religious group or "a very good guy." In the end he decided to give Jigo elements of all of the above groups.[14]

The landscapes which appear in Princess Mononoke have been inspired by the ancient forests of Yakushima, of Kyūshū, and the mountains of Shirakami-Sanchi in northern Honshū.[15]


The film was extremely successful in Japan and with both anime fans and arthouse moviegoers in English-speaking countries. In those countries, it was widely interpreted as a film about the environment told in the form of Japanese mythology. Disney's Miramax subsidiary purchased U.S. distribution rights, but wanted to cut the film for American audiences (and for a PG-rating). However, Miyazaki balked at this, and the film was instead released uncut with a rating of PG-13. Miramax also chose to put a lot of money into creating the English dub of the movie with famous actors and actresses, yet when they released it in theatres there was little or no advertising and it was given a very limited run, showing in only a few theatres and for a very short time. Disney later complained about the fact that the movie did not do well at the box office. In September 2000, the film was supposed to be released on DVD in the U.S. but Miramax announced that only the English dub would be included on the disc. Outraged fans demanded the Japanese track be put on the disc as well and the threat of poor sales prompted Miramax to hire translators for the subtitles, holding the DVD release back by almost three months. When the DVD was finally released it sold very well, due to no limitation in availability.


Script error The US and UK DVD releases have both the English and Japanese soundtracks, together with subtitles for both the English dub and a more literal translation.

At Miyazaki's insistence, the film was uncut for the English release,[16] so that only the soundtrack was altered. The English dub of Princess Mononoke is a translation with some adaptation by Neil Gaiman, author of The Sandman. The main changes from the Japanese version are to provide a cultural context for phrases and actions which those outside of Asia may not be familiar with. Such alterations include references to mythology and specific names for groups, such as Jibashiri and Shishigami, that appear in the Japanese version, which are changed to more general terms, such as Mercenary and Forest Spirit, in the English version. The rationale for such changes is that the majority of non-Japanese viewers would not understand the mythological references and that the English language simply has no words for the Jibashiri, Shishigami and other terms. However, some critics (Michael Atkinson, Mr. Showbiz) have said that the translation from Japanese to English and the alterations in which it has resulted have weakened the film somewhat.

The English dub received mixed reviews from critics.[17] While most of the reaction was positive, others criticized the dub for most of its casting choices,[18] notably Billy Bob Thornton as Jigo and Claire Danes as San, claiming that they detracted from the experience. Despite this love-hate atmosphere, the dub has been hailed as one of the best ever done[19] alongside Spirited Away, which has been met with the same criticism.[20]

The film has also been dubbed in Mandarin, Cantonese, Czech, French, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian and Spanish.[21]


The film received positive reviews from critics and currently garners a 93% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Leonard Klady of Variety wrote a positive review of an early release of the picture.[22] On Roger Ebert & The Movies, the film received two thumbs up from Harry Knowles and Roger Ebert.[23] Ebert also gave the film four out of four stars in his print review and has added it to his 10 best movies of the year list.[24]

Princess Mononoke ranks 488th on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.[25]

It's also on Terry Gilliam's top 50 animated movie list [26]

In January 2001, it was the top-selling anime in America, but despite this the film did not fare well financially in the United States. It grossed $2,298,191 the first eight weeks.[27]


  • Best Picture; The 21st Japanese Academy Awards
  • Best Japanese Movie, Best Animation, and Japanese Movie Fans' Choice; The 52nd Mainichi Movie Competition
  • Best Japanese Movie and Readers' Choice; Asahi Best Ten Film Festival
  • Excellent Movie Award; The Agency for Cultural Affairs
  • Grand Prize in Animation Division; 1st Japan Media Arts Festival (by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Ministry of Education)
  • Best Director; Takasaki Film Festival
  • Best Japanese Movie; The Association of Movie Viewing Groups
  • Movie Award; The 39th Mainichi Art Award
  • Best Director; Tokyo Sports Movie Award
  • Nihon Keizai Shinbun Award for Excellency; Nikkei Awards for Excellent Products/Service (details)
  • Theater Division Award; Asahi Digital Entertainment Award
  • MMCA Special Award; Multimedia Grand Prix 1997
  • Best Director and Yujiro Ishihara Award; Nikkan Sports Movie Award
  • Special Achievement Award; The Movie's Day
  • Special Award; Houchi Movie Award
  • Special Award; Blue Ribbon Award
  • Special Award; Osaka Film Festival
  • Special Award; Elandore Award
  • Cultural Award; Fumiko Yamaji Award
  • Grand Prize and Special Achievement Award; Golden Gross Award
  • First Place, best films of the year; The 26th "Pia Ten"
  • First Place; Japan Movie Pen Club, 1997 Best 5 Japanese Movies
  • First Place; 1997 Kinema Junpo Japanese Movies Best 10 (Readers' Choice)
  • Second Place; 1997 Kinema Junpo Japanese Movies Best 10 (Critics' Choice)
  • Best Director; 1997 Kinema Junpo Japanese Movies (Readers' Choice)
  • First Place; Best Comicker's Award
  • First Place; CineFront Readers' Choice
  • Nagaharu Yodogawa Award; RoadShow
  • Best Composer and Best Album Production; 39th Japan Record Award
  • Excellent Award; Yomiruri Award for Film/Theater Advertisement



  1. Critics' Picks: 'Princess Mononoke' -, A. O. Scott reviews 'Princess Mononoke,' Hayao Miyazaki's anime masterpiece.
  2. Roger Ebert. "Roger Ebert's Top Ten Lists 1967-2006". Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  3. Ebert, Roger (1999-10-24). "Director Miyazaki draws American attention". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  4. "Mononoke Hime Annotated Script with Japanese Text". Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Toshio Uratani. (2004). Princess Mononoke: Making of a Masterpiece. [Documentary]. Japan: Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
  7. "The Animation Process". Official film site. 
  8. "Transcript on Miyazaki interview". Official film site. 
  9. "Mononoke DVD Website". Disney. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Wettbewerb/In Competition". Moving Pictures, Berlinale Extra (Berlin): 32. 11–22 February 1998. 
  11. Princess Mononoke (movie) - Anime News Network
  13. Articles about Mononoke Hime
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Miyazaki on Mononoke-hime". Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  15. Script error
  16. Brooks, Xan (September 14, 2005). "A god among animators". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  17. Rotten Tomatoes. "Reviews of Princess Mononoke (1997)". IGN. Retrieved 2006-10-08. 
  18. Blackwelder, Rob. "Lost in the Translation". SPLICEDwire. Retrieved 2006-10-08. Leaden English dialogue from miscast voice talent diminishes the power of 'Mononoke' 
  19. Fortier, Marc. "Princess Mononoke (1997)". Reel Review Critics Roundup. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2006-10-08. Thanks to some savvy casting choices, Mononoke's voice crew realizes one of the best English dubs in the history of imported anime. 
  20. Bertschy, Zac (2002-08-22). "Spirited Away: English Language Analysis". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2006-10-08. I personally felt that Miramax’s dub of Princess Mononoke was well-done. Probably the best dub I’ve ever seen. Spirited Away follows in that tradition. 
  21. "Video List: Mononoke Hime". Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  22. Leonard Klady review
  23. Roger Ebert & The Movies review
  24. Roger Ebert's print review
  25. "The 500 Greateste Movies of All Time". Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  27. Script error

Further reading

External links

Script error

Preceded by
Shall We Dance?
Japan Academy Prize for Picture of the Year
Succeeded by
Begging for Love

Template:Mainichi Film Award for Best Film

ar:الأميرة مونونوكي

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