To quote an admired quote of a fond friend, "WOW. I TELL YOU WHAT, WOW!" This movie made me want to rush out to the local Suncoast and delve into the anime archives. Never did I think I could watch animals talking and truly take it seriously. I'm one who finds the animal "love scenes" in Disney films laughable. Of course, Princess Mononoke has none of that; it shows animal kind (in a more regal form) at war. While the animation is fluid, even frighteningly fast in parts (you've never seen wolves move so quickly) it never feels as if the movie is trying to impress. It's just telling a spectacular narrative.
Not only that, but whatever preconceived cultural demarcations may have delineated an "Asian" film for me in the past were completely dissolved here. The movie touts a strong and even spiritual telling of the very universal and fairly old struggle between technology and nature, without stooping to the same manipulative tricks of other "nature-friendly" movies. (My bile is still churning thanks to Fern Gully.)
It was said that perhaps the ending was "de-assuring," as opposed to what one experiences in a Western film, especially an American one. *SPOILER AHEAD* I don't think Princess Mononoke's decision to remain with the wolves instead of humans was anything but satisfying, but then I'm ever aching toward the end of a typical American movie to see the token man and woman combo part ways or remain just friends. Instead, there HAS to be a sexual chemistry, and it inevitably HAS to be fulfilled, if only by a kiss. Just test the theory next time you go to a traditional movie. In some combination that American movie ending remains the same.
At any rate, to those who haven't seen it, do. It's just too cool for words! And from someone as verbose as myself, that's saying a lot!