Monthly Archives: March 2014

Analysis of Princess Mononoke


The film, Princess Mononoke, is set in a world reminiscent of historical Japan with elements of fantasy: demons exist and gods are in the form of large animals. It is a fantasy film that follows the quest of Prince Ashitaka as he attempts to remove the curse that was placed on him by a boar demon. Forced to leave his home, he comes across a settlement called Iron Town, in which the head, Lady Eboshi, and a wolf-girl named San, are at odds with each other. Iron Town needs the forest in order to make their living; however, San does not like the human presence in the forest and tries to protect it. Prince Ashitaka finds himself in the midst of this conflict.


The environment is the overlying theme in this film. The conflicting visions of the forest gods and Iron Town and their inherent inability to coexist reflect the real life struggles of society to live peacefully alongside nature in an increasingly industry-driven, technological world. The effects of human settlement and industry on nature in the film are seen starkly in the suffering of the forest gods. Some are driven mad with hatred and resentment, and become demons.

Iron Town symbolizes industry, expansion, human growth, ambition, and greed. Lady Eboshi is a very driven, ambitious head of Iron Town. She sees the forest as a means for human expansion and industry. Her actions upset the forest gods, who are negatively affected by the human presence in the forest. San and the gods of the forest want to eliminate human presence from their forest completely. They only see negative things in humans and are blinded by their hatred for them. Ashitaka, as an outsider, is unbiased by either side in the conflict. He sympathizes with both sides and also sees the errors of their ways. He eventually helps them to coexist, but not before a heavy price is paid for human greed- the death of the Forest Spirit, the entity that the very wellbeing of the forest depends on. The Forest Spirit’s death is destructive not only to the forest, but to the town that depends so heavily on the forest for its industrial growth.

Man and nature slowly learn to peacefully coexist as both attempt to rebuild and recover from the destruction wrought by the Forest Spirit’s death. The film ends on a hopeful note, showing that coexistence between man and nature is possible despite the worst of circumstances.


Princess Mononoke contains a very environmentalist message; despite how dark the film gets at times, it shows the audience that man and nature are able to coexist peacefully. It doesn’t attempt to demonize humans; although Lady Eboshi is shown to be ambitious and greedy, she is a multi-faceted character and has compassion for her fellow humans (as seen when she cares for the lepers who would otherwise have no chance at a life). As humans are not portrayed as the “bad guys”, the forest gods aren’t shown to be perfect, either. They are subject to the same flaws of humanity; like humans, they are short sighted and they are blinded by their hatred for humanity.

Princess Mononoke sets itself apart from other films with the same message by not attempting to pin the roles of the villains and the “good guys” on either side. Both sides have their redeeming qualities, but they are flawed. Both sides are capable of coexisting peacefully with the other; there is no “good side” or “bad side”.



Miyazaki, H. (Director). (1997). Princess Mononoke [Motion Picture]. Japan: Studio Ghibli



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Interview: First Impressions of Spirited Away

The same weekend as my interview with Melissa, I interviewed Jesse, who enjoys the film Spirited Away. Unlike Melissa, she did not grow up watching Studio Ghibli films; in fact, Spirited Away is the only film from Studio Ghibli that she has seen so far.

How did you first hear about Studio Ghibli?

I’d never heard of them until I was at a friend’s house. I was sleeping over one night, and my friend’s little sister was watching Spirited Away in the living room. At first, I wasn’t really paying much attention to the movie, but I’d glance over every now and then and get a little more curious, and by the middle of the film, I was watching it with her.

What was your first impression of Spirited Away?

It made me uncomfortable! (Laughs)  I really liked the animation and the characters, though. The story really kept my attention, but overall I thought the film was really weird. Maybe it’s because I didn’t watch it from start to finish. That could be it.

If your overall first impression of Spirited Away was less than great, and you say you like the film now, what caused your change of opinion?

I actually watched Spirited Away again as soon as I got home from my friend’s house. I don’t know how to explain it, but I just really wanted to watch it again. Maybe I liked that it was such a weird movie, I don’t know! It really stuck out in my mind. My dad took me to Blockbuster and we rented it out. The second time around, the movie was easier to follow because I actually watched the whole thing, but it was just as weird as the first time. I liked it, though.

Would you watch other films from Studio Ghibli?

Definitely! Spirited Away is a lot different from the other animated films I’ve seen, so I’m curious about what their other films are like. Are they all that weird? (Laughs)

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Interview: Connecting with Studio Ghibli movies

For this post, I decided to step away from simply analyzing Studio Ghibli films, and instead, converse with a fellow fan of the Japanese animation studio. Over the weekend, I met up with my good friend Melissa, who has been watching the films for as long as she can remember. “I’ve grown up with them,” she says, smiling. “They’re as much a part of my childhood as Disney movies or those little kid shows that used to play on TV. I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t know what [Studio Ghibli films] were.”

A big fan of both Disney and Studio Ghibli, Melissa draws some comparisons between the two movie studios. While she finds Disney films enjoyable and heartwarming, she feels that she can relate to the characters in Studio Ghibli films more. “I loved the Disney princesses as much as the next little girl, but I could never really relate to the characters. I never had an evil stepmother or wicked stepsisters. I never met my prince charming—sometimes I doubt I ever will. (Laughs) I’m just a regular, everyday person.”

Of course, she has nothing against your typical fairytale. “I’m a sucker for happy endings! (Laughs) I won’t complain! I do like that I can actually relate to some of the main characters in Studio Ghibli films, though. As a little girl watching the movies, I felt like I could relate to the main characters in some of the films, especially Kiki [from Kiki’s Delivery Service] and Chihiro [from Spirited Away].”

When asked if there was a particular film that she views as a favorite, she had a bit of a difficult time answering. “That’s a really hard question! (Laughs) I don’t even know what to pick. If I had to pick one, though, I’d have to say Kiki’s Delivery Service. I’ve watched it so many times, but I never get tired of it! I love the character of Kiki because I feel like I can relate to her so much. She’s growing up, away from home and finding her place in the world, and finding out who she is, and it’s funny because I can almost relate to the film even more now than I could when I was younger. She’s a lot like me because I’m at a point in my life where I’m away from home and finding out about my interests and my own place in the world.”

She continues, “Some might view it as silly that I can still relate to these cartoons as a college kid, but I don’t think Studio Ghibli films can be outgrown. The same goes for Disney films, of course. You’re never too old to enjoy a good story and lovable characters.”

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