Even gods now fear the encroachment of man. Princess Mononoke opens with Ashitaka, the last Emishi prince, returning home only to encounter a boar turned demon. He confronts the boar to protect his village and is infected with the same disease that turned the boar into a demon. The village elders force him to leave the village and seek the only possible cure in the west. The curse gives Ashitaka uncontrollable strength, but at a cost. He travels to the town of Iron Works where along the way he encounters a monk that provides him with a possible lead. In the forest there are gods and spirits who may be able to heal his wounds.
Ashitaki’s next step places him on the game board as a pawn to be used against the mysterious Princess Mononoke and the gods that live in the forest.
Princess Mononoke is overtly environmental. Humanity has the ability to even kill forest gods. The film is full of strong women (most of Iron Works is populated by ex-prostitutes) and complex characters. Every character has multiple dimensions, even the supporting cast. Villains are not completely villains; heroes are not completely heroes. The complexity of characterization is very well done.
The animation is phenomenal. Grass dances in the wind; the demonic infections are pleasantly revolting. The story is paced well with periods of intense violence and moments of quiet. This film is one of the highest grossing films as well. Princess Mononoke is Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli at its best.