REVIEW: Princess Mononoke

The story begins in ancient Japan, during a time of warring villages and samurai and monsters.  Prince Ashitaka of the Emishi people is defending his village from a demon boar when he becomes cursed by the demon, and as a result he is given super-human strength while also that same power threatens to kill him from the inside.  In an effort to find the source of the curse, Ashitaka follows the cause of the demon’s suffering, a ball of iron, to a mining town that is using the iron to build weapons.  Traveling far to the west, he meets the Princess Mononoke in the forests, riding on the back of a large white wolf.  In this time period, gods still exist amongst animals, they are larger than life forms of the animals we know today, and are intelligent and able to talk with humans.  But something in the world is changing this.  More and more animals are born unable to speak and the cause of this seems to lie with the humans.

Ashitaka takes up residence in the town that is creating the iron, but he is unable to convince them to stop their mining and manufacturing.  The manufacturing force is comprised largely of former prostitutes and men and women ostracized from society by diseases such as leprosy.  They have come to this town and found a better lifestyle which they are prepared to defend.  Their mining efforts continue and Ashitaka leaves the town to see if he can find the Princess Mononoke again.

There is a theme of growth and change in the movie, not just in the changing of the humans relationship between themselves and the environment, but also the change from a feudal society to one that is contemplating contemporary problems in an ancient civilization.  Though the town is creating problem with its iron production, it is also making significant changes in societal norms.  Women and men’s roles are divided such that men do the fighting and women stay home and make the iron.  The disabled are in charge of design and innovation of new technologies, and each person contributes equally to the society so no one group is considered higher above the other.

As the human society seems to be propelling towards the future that we know today, the animals and the spirits of the natural world are heading towards their respective future in contemporary society.  As mining destroys mountain homes and humans support deforestation, the animals are being pushed further and further away from their homes and from their roles as intelligent beings.  The role of animal gods and forest spirits is changing from one that exists in parallel to the human world to one that will only belong in fables and story-telling.  The wolf goddess, the mother to the wolf-girl Princess Mononoke, knows that the world is growing larger than the animals, and that the existence of spirits will soon become a memory to the humans.  But Princess Mononoke, who sees herself as a wolf born in the body of a human, chooses to fight for her place in the world.  She does not fit with the humans, but through the fighting she learns that she does not fit completely in the world of the animals either.  Prince Ashitaka inevitably falls in love with the Princess, for he dreams of a society where humans and animals live in harmony, or the embodiment of what the Princess represents.  He and the princess work together to stop the humans and animals from fighting, but the war culminates in the death of two great animal gods, as well as the cutting off of the head of the forest spirit.  There is death on both sides, as it goes with war.  The humans, now displaced and their iron works destroyed, have a post-apocalypse hopefulness and plan to move on and build a better town founded on better values.  The forest spirit no longer takes the physical form it used to, but Ashitaka emphasizes at the end that the forest spirit is not dead, he exists instead in a form invisible to humans.

REVIEW: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

There are many problems confronting modern society but one of them is the effect humans are having on the earth.  The significance of this issue has not diminished since the time of director Hayao Miyazaki’s animated release of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in 1984.  The beauty of a harmonious relationship with nature is told through the story of Nausicaä, the young princess of a valley who relies on wind power and believes in the care of their people as much as the care of the forest and natural world which they rely on.  The architecture of the valley is reminiscent of a medieval village from the stone castle and to the robes and cloth headdresses the women wear.  Their seemingly feudal-age culture is contrasted by the use of sleek, white gliders which seem to emerge from a science fiction novel.

The earth has just emerged from an apocalyptic war between the humans and the toxic forest, which resulted in the extermination of human existence by the large, prehistoric beasts called, Ohms, from the forest.  Nausicaä uses her own glider to swiftly travel from the valley to the distant toxic forest, where the poisonous gases and monstrous bugs come from.  The neighboring cities believe that the forest needs to be eliminated for the safety of humanity from not only the bugs, but the diseases the forest spreads to the people.

Nausicaä strongly believes that the forest has the power to heal and that humans and the forest are meant to co-exist.  She shares this belief with the people she encounters through her natural charm with the animals and the way she gains their trust without asking anything in return.  She also raises her own secret garden in the castle where she’s managed a way to grow the plants of the forest in a non-poisonous way, in an attempt to prove that the danger lies not in the forest itself, but in the remnants of the war and the toll humans took on the forest.  Through it all, she has faith that their will be understanding and it is that strength of conviction combined with the beautiful characters Miyazaki has drawn together that pull you into Nausicaä’s world where holding unwaveringly onto ones beliefs and remaining brave in the face of adversity is one of the most beautiful characteristics one can hold, in the world of Miyazaki or the real world as well.

Preview: Castle in the Sky


What: Castle in the Sky

Where: The State Theater

When: Wednesday 22 October 2014 – 7pm

How Much: $8 students, $10 general admissions, $7.50 Michigan Theater Members


The third film in Michigan Theater’s ‘The Studio Ghibli Collection: A 30-Year-Retrospective,’ ‘Castle in the Sky’ is a masterpiece of creative genius.

Released in 1986, ‘Castle in the Sky,’ written and directed by Hayao Myiazaki, was the first film produced by Studio Ghibli.

The story takes place in a steam-punk world, where flying ships are common. Sheeta and Pazu, a young boy and girl, race to discover the fabled floating city of Laputa before a foreign army and pirates discover it and harness it’s great and terrible power as a war machine.

This wonderful film is one of my favorites of Myiazaki’s creations.

Review: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind – not as enthustastic as my colleague


‘Nausicaä of Valley of the Wind’ begins after the apocalyptic Seven Days of Fire war, in which human’s have basically destroyed the world. All that remains are a few small kingdoms and the ‘Toxic Jungle’ inhabited by gigantic mutant insects, where everything is deadly to humans.

Princess Nausicaä has managed to enter the toxic jungle and relate to it in a familiar and friendly way, learning from it and searching for a cure for the humans and the plight of the world.

The Tolmekian Kingdom seeks to destroy the toxic jungle with the weapon that began the Seven Days of Fire in the first place. Nausicaä works to prevent the use of this destructive weapon and discovers the symbiotic relationship between the toxic jungle and human civilization, as it exists. The plants of the jungle serve to purify the toxic water, tainted by centuries of human contamination and the war.

Nausicaä saves the jungle and her kingdom in the valley of the wind and befriends the monstrous insects from the toxic jungle.


‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’ was never one of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki films. However, his focus on a young female character as the savior of the planet is in keeping with many themes reverberating through Miyazaki’s films.

Released in 1984, ‘Nausicaä’ has themes of environmental preservation, the negative effects of human civilization on the planet and the dangers of nuclear warfare.

The box office success of this film lead to the establishment of Japanese anime company Studio Ghibli by Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki, the latter two were producer of many Miyazaki films.

The State Theater’s ‘Studio Ghibli’ series continues on Wednesday 23 October, 7pm with ‘Castle in the Sky.’

REVIEW: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Hayao Miyazaki is someone that never ceases to amaze me.  This maverick in the anime film industry has one of the largest filmographies out there, and all of his movies are worthy of praise. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is no exception.

Even Nausicaa agrees.  Source:

I walked into the State Theater with a sense of expectation. My first experiences with Studio Ghibli movies were when I was about nine years old. Toonami, a special weekend block on the old Cartoon Network, showed preview segments for what they called a “Month of Miyazaki.” If I remember well, the movies they showed over the course of that month were Princess Mononoke, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Princess Mononoke, arguably Miyazaki’s best film, is very much about the interaction between humans and nature. Laputa: Castle in the Sky, on the other hand, is about the human fascination with technology. It’s interesting to note that the same underlying themes exist in nearly all Miyazaki films. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind thus felt like a portmanteau of Princess Mononoke and Laputa, as it combined Miyazaki’s fascination with technology (mainly aviation) and his feelings on the role of humans within nature. It’s curious too, that Nausicaä was one of his first films.

Nausicaä starts out in distress as a large insect called an Ohm is chasing after a local swordsman, Lord Yupa. Our title heroine comes to the rescue and stuns the Ohm, thus saving Lord Yupa’s life. We soon find out that the reason the Ohm was unhappy was that there were gunshots fired in its habitat. The rest of the movie focuses on this theme of humans within nature, with the trigger-happy Tolmekian army attempting to control the Earth’s natural resources for iron ore. This enrages the Ohms, who can be thought as a metaphor for mother Earth. Mother Earth comes out on top, as she does in all Miyazaki films, and peace is restored to the land. The cathartic ending resounded favorably amongst the audience, who were expecting nothing less from Studio Ghibli.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in Japan in 1984 and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and based on Miyazaki’s Manga of the same name. It has received much critical acclaim and is regarded as the kickoff film for Studio Ghibli.