September 12, 2006

Princess Mononoke

Posted in Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli at 2:49 am by j128

Princess Mononoke poster

Japanese promotional poster for Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is a Japanese animated film, directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli, and was released in Japan in 1997 and the US in 1999. The plot is about a constant battle between animal gods protecting a vast ancient forest and the humans who border this forest who want to burn it because of the value of iron. Mononoke is a title, not an actual name, meaning ‘spirits’ thus ‘Princess of the Spirits/Spirit Princess’.


The protagonist is Prince Ashitaka of the Emishi tribe. After being cursed by a cursed animal demon, later discovered to be the Boar God Nago, Ashitaka leaves the Emishi tribe forever who have not set foot in the outer world for five hundred years since being exiled. A ball of iron was found in the boar’s body and the Oracle believes it to be the source of the curse. Should Ashitaka be taken over by rage or hatred, black tendrils will emit from his right arm, which was touched by the demon, and there is the possibility that he might also curse others. His mission is to see the world ‘with eyes unclouded by hatred’ and to also seek a cure for his curse. The Oracle also says that eventually the curse will spread over Ashitaka’s entire body and kill him; thereby the reason to find a cure.

With only a few provisions and Yakul, Ashitaka’s loyal red elk, they leave the Emishi tribe and begin on an epic journey that leads them from the Emishi tribe all the way to Irontown, which derives its name from what they specialize in: iron.

In the beginning the people of Irontown raked the sands nearby of all the iron. There was none left. However, there was the ancient forest bordering Irontown, but no one dared enter because there was the Boar God Nago, who was the master of the forest and he was ferocious. But then Lady Eboshi came along with her guns and some recruits. They burnt down the forest, but not entirely, only enough to reach a certain percentage of the iron. While doing so, Lady Eboshi shot the Boar God Nago with an imishyi gun and blinded by pain and hatred, Nago bore down upon everything that was in his way and by this made his way to the Emishi tribe and would have continued his disasterous rampage had not Ashitaka killed him.

Within the ancient forest lives a feral child, known as the Princess Mononoke or called San by her ‘brothers’: the Wolf Goddess Moro raised San as her own when her parents and a few other humans intruded and threw San at Moro’s feet as a sacrifice for their own lives. In probability of her past, San hates humanity with a passion, maybe even more than Moro. Princess Mononoke constantly attacks Irontown on the back of at least one of the wolf pups with the other following burdenless and her goal: to kill Lady Eboshi. Princess Mononoke attacked Irontown while Ashitaka was there and he witnessed it; he also saved her and she in turn saved his life by taking him to the Deer God when she saw he was dying because of a fatal bullet wound accidentally shot by one of the Irontown people.

Ashitaka tries to make a way for the two separate sides to work together, but does not succeed, or at least did not succeed in time before the war broke out between man and animal. The Deer God’s head is severed by a gunshot by Lady Eboshi, (due to a myth surrounding the Deer God saying his head will grant immortality) Moro’s severed head bites off Lady Eboshi’s right arm rendering her to never shoot a gun again, and San and Ashitaka succeed in returning the Deer God’s head back to its proper owner. As a final gift, the Deer God blows a great wind as it disappears burning out the fire consuming Irontown, removing the remainders of the samuri camp, and leaving behind a field of grass, flowers, and shoots of trees.

It is by far the most complex film that I have ever seen directed by Hayao Miyazaki and I agree that it is an epic. While I don’t fully understand the part about how it could be an ‘animated Star Wars‘ (it shows no resemblance at all) it is an ecological message: the greed of humanity for more power with the subsequent sacrifice of nature either by destroying, endangerment, and other ecological-related issues. While I am no ecologist, I do believe that we ought to use our available resources wisely and not to waste a single thing.

Princess Mononoke


Princess Mononoke – Detailed article about Princess Mononoke, including production notes, casting, character descriptions, and external links. The external links include an official website of Princess Mononoke.

Kodama– A brief summary of what a kodama is: the cute little humanoid spirits featured in Princess Mononoke.

A fan’s review – A fan’s website with info about Princess Mononoke. Also includes links on the top of the screen to other areas of the website about Hayao Miyazaki’s other films.

The full-length Princess Mononoke is no longer available on Google Video but it can be seen in a total of fourteen parts, in English, on YouTube. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 14

Princess Mononoke Genesis – the making of Princess Mononoke



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