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Princess Mononoke: a beast's soul

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

We go to the movies for a multitude of reasons.

Here's an instance of one of them.

We want to experience magnificent vistas that aren't available in real life, in stories where myths and fantasies may run wild.

Because it is free of gravity and conceivable constraints, animation opens up that potential. Realistic films depict the physical world, whereas animation shows its essence.

Animated films are not imitations of "real movies," nor are they shadows of reality; instead, they establish a new existence in their own right, they may make the mind sing.

Princess Mononoke's intricate tale provides women with a powerful voice in a period when they didn't have one rather than making them victims in need of a savior.

It also pushes viewers to look within and evaluate how we absorb things from the world around us, particularly in nature.

In a world where women's and environmental problems are still being battled to be heard, Miyazaki's film is as relevant as ever.

It depicts an epic saga set in medieval Japan at the advent of the Iron Age when some men lived in peace with nature while others tried to master and fight it.

It is not a simple tale of good vs. evil, but instead of how people, forest creatures, and nature gods all compete for a piece of the new emerging world order.

Set in an era when gods and demons roamed the woodlands, the film's ancient setting fosters an aura of mystery and enchantment, history and fiction, in which nature retains substantial, if not dominant, authority over the planet.

The environment is non-industrialized and generally devoid of agricultural impact; authoritarians have not yet ruled human culture.

Nature survives in its purest form, with natural woods covering the slopes and the human presence not yet swamped and eventually overflowing.

The film begins with a watchtower guard noticing "something odd in the woods."

There is a natural disturbance, and a unique creature emerges, a type of boar monster with flesh formed of writhing snakes.

It assaults villages, and Ashitaka, the young prince of his secluded people, rushes to their aid.

He ultimately kills the beast, but his arm has been covered with snakes and is severely damaged.

A wise lady explains what has transpired.

The creature was a boar deity until a bullet lodged itself in its skin and drove it insane.

And how did the bullet get there?

"It's time for our final prince to cut his hair and leave us," the woman adds.

As a result, Ashitaka embarks on a long trip to the Western countries to discover why nature is out of whack and whether the curse on his arm may be lifted. He rides Yakkuru, a hybrid of a horse, an antelope, and a mountain goat.

Ashitaka ultimately lands in a territory patrolled by Moro, a wolf deity, and encounters the young woman named San for the first time.

She's also known as "Princess Mononoke," although that's a description rather than a name; a Mononoke is a beast's soul.

San was raised as a wolf by Moro as a human kid;

she rides bareback on the speedy white spirit-wolves and aids the pack in their war against the encroachments of Lady Eboshi, a strong ruler whose town is developing ironworking abilities and manufacturing weapons with gunpowder.

As Lady Eboshi's people learn one type of knowledge, they lose another, and the day when man, animals, and forest gods all spoke the same language is passing.

A wasteland has replaced the lush green forests through which Ashitaka walked west; trees have been cut to feed the smelting furnaces, and yellow-eyed monsters crouch ominously on their skeletons.

Slaves operate the forges' bellows while lepers craft the weapons.

But things aren't as simple as they appear. The lepers much appreciate eboshi's acceptance of the lepers. Her people benefit from her protection.
Even Jigo, the emperor's scheming agent, has objectives that occasionally make sense.

When a nearby samurai enclave seeks to take over the village and its technology, there is a struggle with several sides and motives.

This is more like mystical history than an action drama.

Miyazaki's genuine compassion underpins the play, which resists facile moral simplifications.

There is a memorable scene in which San and Ashitaka, who have fallen in love, agree that neither can truly lead the other's life; therefore, they must offer each other freedom and only meet on occasion.

Miyazaki's works, such as Princess Mononoke, strive to reconcile humans and nature by permeating film and infusing it with ideas that express the need for balance between the two.

Above all, Princess Mononoke is a film that condemns intolerance in all of its manifestations, whether political or social, and calls on its audience to cohabit and understand. How daring for what is a cartoon in its most basic form.

Hayao Miyazaki has surpassed the restrictions of anime, cartoons, and the current categorization of animated movies, wielding an unprecedented concentration of writer's knowledge and aesthetic mastery.

The movie gradually shows itself as a story about breaking down boundaries and discovering that cohabitation is possible, essential, yet unlikely.

Nature and industry are obliged to acknowledge each other's existence, but the process is unpleasant.

Humanity, a destructive juggernaut, constantly provokes a movement toward change, and if nature resists, it will be completely vanquished.

On the other hand, society must give nature its due since it supplies an endless supply of nutrition if adequately nurtured.

Princess Mononoke does not believe that progress or industry are intrinsically evil.

It believes that a lack of synergy with the environment around you is harmful and that hate and violence are destructive forces that, in the end, only generate more pain and suffering, regardless of the reason.

Author: Akash R. Ekka


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