Fearless, driven, vengeful. Princess Mononoke is all of this and more, but one thing the film (and character) isn’t is two-dimensional.
I had heard one of my friends go on and on and on about how Princess Mononoke is his favourite Studio Ghibli film. Unsurprisingly, the same friend that convinced me to put Spirited Away (2001) on my Blind Spot for 2015. But this one was apparently better, and I think I have to agree.
It is exceeding difficult to describe the plot of Princess Mononoke. Ashitaka is a Emishi Prince who single handedly saves his village from a demon, but not before the demon curses him fatally. Long story short, Ashitaka sets out to find a cure in the western lands where the demon came from. The Western lands are covered in mountains and woods, but not as much as they used to be due to the amount of destruction and killing between the groups that live there.
In the western lands, he meets many colourful characters. A wandering monk, Lady Eboshi who heads up a village (of sorts) called Iron town. There are also some samurais, a wolf goddess and an ambiguous Great Forest Spirit. I could go on for hours about the twists and turns of this plot, but even then I’d probably miss something. All you need to know is that it’s here Ashitaka means San, the human ‘daughter’ of the wolf goddess and a warrior in her own right.
San & her Wolf Mother
San is an absolutely amazing young woman. She was abandoned or somehow lost as a baby and grew up with a wolf for a mother. She wears tribal warpaint, animal skins and bones along with a feminine skirt. And she’s an absolute badass. She fights all of the other groups of people that have a problem with the animals with skill and fury, all the while still being feminine. I know what I’m dressing up as for Halloween next year. And the other female characters in this feel have so many different sides to them. They cannot and will not be pigeonholed in any way. The same goes for the men, but c’mon now, that’s nothing new.
Japanese animation genius’ Studio Ghibli produce films that are so effing weird. So creepy and inhuman. So unlike anything we’ve seen. Disney, they are not. But you know what? I’d happily force any children I may bear to watch this film. None of the characters are remotely all good or all bad. Many groups of people fight each other in the climactic battle of the film to gain something for one reason or another. And San has an unforgiving nature and Lady Eboshi had a cut throat attitude. No one is perfect here.
The Ridley of Animation
But that’s just the point, right? We all have our conflicting ideas and attitudes. We think our point of view is inherently right and simply do not allow ourselves to play Devil’s Advocate. Nope. Not going there. DO NOT PASS GO AND DO NOT COLLECT £200. But even though we might see ourselves as ‘liberal’ or ‘loving’ or ‘inclusive’, we really need to take a long hard look at ourselves to see if this really is the case. Princess Mononoke shows us how we can, nay, must live in harmony if we are to continue to live on this land together. We do not have a choice, no matter our points of view. If only the world had a Giant Forest Spirit to put us all in our place and make the world great again. You know, a few thousand years ago when humans didn’t exist.
Have you ever seen Princess Mononoke? Did you just absolutely love it?