Princess Mononoke Response-Extra Blog

I recently concluded watching Princess Mononoke, which we began watching in class.  The basic idea is that there is a warrior, Ashitaka, facing a horrible, life threatening curse, must travel to lands far away to try and save himself.  On his journey, he meets Lady Eboshi, who is slowly killing a forest to harvest the iron from the ground underneath.  The forest is inhabited by fantastic gods and creatures who are fighting back, including Moro, the wolf god, and San, a girl raised by Moro.  The story revolves around the struggles they face fighting one another, and the struggles Ashitaka must face trying to stop them.

*NOTE: after this point, plot points might be discussed that we didn’t view in class.  Take this into account, and watch the movie before reading!  Really, it’s good!*

Interestingly, there is no actual villain in this story.  At first, one expects it will be Lady Eboshi, whose city of iron and destruction of the forest seem to be evil (which would seem to send a clear message of technology is evil, return to nature, etc.).  But as the plot progresses, it becomes clear that Lady Eboshi isn’t really a villain, as she has many good qualities.  For instance, she rescued a number of girls from working in brothels and brought them to her town to work, clearly improving their lives greatly.  She also deeply cares about everybody in Iron Town, and they all are very fond of her as well.

Nor are the forest creatures seen as evil, even though they plan to attack Iron Town.  They are simply trying to reclaim what was once theirs, and could probably in fact live with the humans in Iron Town if they stopped killing the forest.

The only character who acts purely for personal gain is the monk, Jigo, who ambushes Iron Town with his samauri warriors and doesn’t wish to stop the killing forest spirit because he needs what he took from it (I’m intentionally trying to be vague on this point, because I don’t want to give it all away, despite the warning above.).  But even he does not appear to be a villain, because he is working on the orders of the emperor, and he is friendly to Ashitaka at the beginning of the movie.

Despite this lack of a villain, or perhaps because of it, there is much that can be learned about the interactions between nature and technology.  Ashitaka represents a balance between the two that must be achieved; neither technology nor nature alone are preferred and one cannot be allowed to kill the other.  Therefore, they must live in harmony with one another.  This is revealed at the end of the movie when San (who has now fallen in love with Ashitaka, SURPRISE!) refuses to come back to Iron Town with him.  He agrees that she should stay and live in the forest, and he will help rebuild the town, returning to the forest to visit whenever he can.  Therefore, nature and technology, San and Ashitaka, can exist together.

But perhaps the lesson held in this movie is that people should live without hate and prejudice.  Ashitaka is told at the beginning to look at everything “with eyes unclouded by hate.”  Despite the fact that he’s cursed due to Lady Eboshi’s iron and shot of the boar god, he does not hate her, and forcibly stops himself from killing her because “it won’t do anything.”  If everyone could take this attitude, then the world would clearly be a better place, is the message that is sent.

However, Ashitaka’s lack of a stance is frustrating at times for the viewer, and particularly for the characters in the movie.  It seems he’s on the side of San, but then he doesn’t allow her to kill Lady Eboshi.  He seems to be very static, merely observing the battle that goes on.  And that would be fine for any character that’s not supposed to be the courageous hero.  Additionally, the relationship between San and Ashitaka seems to be very contrived and very convenient for the plot, which would possibly be improved through its absence.

Overall, though, the movie was very entertaining, gripping, and moving.  It did a very good job of conveying the ideas that nature and technology can live together, and it accomplished the goal of entertainment more.

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