Introducing Mononoke-Hime and Nature/Progress

The last post discussed subbed versus dubbed and talked about the literary concepts attached to it which I hope helped you better understand the fans perspective and a literary perspective. What I plan on discussing and looking into for the next several posts are binaries, chaos, and temporal flux in Princess Mononoke. I know many of my fellow classmates have not watched the movie and probably never will, but I felt that a small synopsis and the trailer would help others understand perhaps what I am talking about.

So your major characters are:

Ashitaka – prince of a village far to the east and a brave warrior; exiled to find a cure for his curse by a demon.

Yakul – Ashitaka’s red elk whom he rides like a horse.

San – fondly known as princess mononoke. A girl raised by the Wolf god in the forest of the Deer god.

Eboshi – a woman who removed the boar god Nago by turning him into the demon Ashitaka encounters; she is a strong woman who brings women in to work in the ironworks.

Moro – Wolf god in the forest of the Deer god. San’s mother.

Deer god – He has two forms: deer god and nightwalker. He gives life and takes life as he pleases.

Okkoto – blind boar god who after battling the humans begins to turn into a demon

Kodama – the little forest spirits who show when a forest is healthy.

Jiko-bo/Jigo – he is a monk with an agenda to kill the Deer god for the emperor

Toki – a former prostitute, leader of Eboshi’s women, works at the ironworks

Gonza – Eboshi’s bodyguard

Kohraku – Toki’s husband

For more in-depth explanation of the characters you can always look here: http://www.onlineghibli.com/mononoke_hime/char.php or have an interesting look at the official website http://www.princess-mononoke.com/.

The first major theme that is played with throughout the film and is shown in both trailers is the binary or opposition of nature versus progress/humanity. Nature is portrayed in a beautiful way by Miyazaki. The scenery throughout the film takes centre stage; the rushing river where Ashitaka meets Moro and San for the first time, the quiet sacred grounds of the forest, and the dying land near the iron works town. In “Postwar Princesses, Young Apprentices, and a Little-Fish Girl”, Montserrat Rifa-Valls suggests, “As well as vertical traveling, the glides of the camera narrating scenes in the forest generate reflexiveness and mystery, even fear” (Rifa-Valls, 95).  The lush green forest and land is shown to be healthy by the kodama who show up again. The apes are the ones who plant the trees, the boars and the wolves protect the forests on various mountains, and the Deer god is the heart of the forest; he takes life and gives life, and he embodies the very heart of the forest. The forest is fighting, rising up, to preserve itself from the onslaught of human development. The humans, Eboshi and the samurai, want the land because it is rich in resources such as iron. The humans cut down the trees, chase the animals out, and defile the land by extracting the resources out of it. The humans are moving forward with progress, economy, and industry. The humans (excluding Ashitaka) in the film have lost their belief and need of gods. The only thing that splits up the nature versus humanity is the chaos of the samurai fighting the villagers when Ashitaka moves through and the samurai attacking the iron works with Toki, the women, and the lepers. For these two instances show humanity against humanity. It stands out in juxtapose against the conflict between nature/the forest gods and humans. Those two moments add to the chaos that surrounds the conflict, the wars, that underscores the film.

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