The War Between Animal and Human

“Now she cannot be human, and she cannot be wolf. My poor, ugly, lovely daughter” (English subtitles)

“Now, my poor, ugly, beautiful daughter is neither human nor wolf” (English dubbed)

Moro to Ashitaka; 1 hour 20 minutes

Moro brings to Ashitaka’s attention what she thinks of her daughter by offering up two pairs of binaries: ugly and lovely/beautiful, and human/wolf. To Moro, San is ugly because she is human but she is also lovely because she thinks and acts like a wolf but most importantly, she is Moro’s daughter. Thus San herself is a binary as both human and wolf but her identity is constantly in flux. She constantly moves between being a wolf and wanting to hurt Eboshi for what she is doing to the land to being human, where she has to help Ashitaka give the Deer God’s head back. San is always human in body but it is her mind that sees the world through wolf eyes, through animal eyes.  This is an archetype, western audiences are familiar with as we have grown up with the idea of Tarzan or Mowgli from The Jungle Book. Mowgli, like San, is human but grew up with wolves who are not gods and thus speaks wolf and other animal languages he has learned. From what we are given in, Princess Mononoke, San speaks in a human tongue like the wolves and boars as Ashitaka is able to understand everyone easily.

Throughout the film, the animals are intelligent and in this way, appear human-like despite being in the shape of animals. Okkoto says, “Look on my tribe, Moro. We grow small, and we grow stupid. To go on in this manner is to end as game the humans hunt for meat” (1:10). Okkoto is pointing out that the gods of the forests as the offspring continue to be born, they become more and more animal and less human, less worthy of being gods. As gods, Moro and her wolf sons, and Okkoto and his boar tribe, are much like San, neither animal nor human. They take the shape of animals but are smart like humans, revered or feared in some aspects as gods. Animals talking is once again, nothing new to audiences. Most of us as children have watched some kind of animal talk and show human-like intelligence in movies such as the multitude of Disney films we all know and love.

Okkoto’s quote also points to a change that is happening that the gods of the forest did not expect to happen. They planned on being gods, to protect the forests and keep the humans from destroying nature but this did not happen. They are still protecting the forest but they are becoming more and more animal, and in the case of the boars, something for the humans to hunt. They are no longer gods but animals, and unneeded in the opinion of the humans.

The binary of animal/human (or other/human) is played on heavily in the film. This allows events outside of those on either side has planned to take place. This leads from the nature versus progress, animal versus humans to the war of the boars against the humans. The boars and Okkoto keep moving forward even as others are killed. Okkoto manages to survive, thanks to San, but his hate and anger towards the humans allows his body to start to take the form of a demon like Nago before him. This hate makes Okkoto become something he never intended; he believed himself strong like Moro (who despite the human bullet in her does not become a demon) yet the destruction of his tribe by the humans and their sudden reappearance (men in their skins) causes the change. This is chaos, it was not planned, it was not foreseen. The hunters had a plan but could not plan for Okkoto’s hatred turning him into a demon. The supposedly order of the plans of others were disrupted by hatred and Okkoto turning  into a demon. Due to plans being disrupted, more events unravel for various characters which they were not expecting; San is knocked unconscious and nearly consumed by Okkoto’s hatred, Moro saving her strength for Eboshi now must save her daughter, and the Deer god takes Moro and Okkoto’s life. Nothing goes as planned for anyone at this point but Eboshi who manages to get the head of the Deer god for Jiko-bo and the Emperor.

The role of animal/human interactions, especially the after effects of the war regarding Okkoto and those around him, force events to spiral out of control, leading to chaos.

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