Princess Mononoke Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1974 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Asian

Princess Mononoke

Although Japanese culture is generally perceived, particularly within the Western world, to be a homogeneous culture who has lived under a top-down structure of government, there is instead a profound sense of identity loss. According to some authors, this is the result of post-war contact with the United States during the second half of the 20th century. Indeed, today's young Japanese are increasingly American, not only in their passion for the entertainment and food products offered by the West, but even in terms of the language they speak, right down to the accent. Older people especially are therefore having a difficult time dealing with the cultural divide between what was once considered foreign and even alien. Now, particularly in the digital age, cultures are being accepted and incorporated to create something different from either the American or the Japanese culture. A type of divide is created in this way. Perhaps this is one of the best reasons for creating works of art such as Miyazaki Hayao's 1997 epic, Princess Mononoke. The Princess presents not only an alternative to the current sense of broken cultures and relationships, but also provides a profound identification with this idea of being broken.

Princess Mononoke provides a problematic of archetypes and icons, including centuries-long conceptions such as the untouchability of the emperor and the iconization of the feminine. Mononoke does not however leave the broken image as is. Instead, a new vision of Japan is created, showing the country as finding itself at a turning point in history.

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What makes the film particularly interesting, is the fact that the loss is not so much of the long-held traditions of male-female relationships or an emperor-ruled world filled with Samurai warriors. Instead, the Japan presented in the film is a country devoted to and ruled by nature. In accessing this distantly past relationship of Japan with nature, Miyazaki also offers a future vision of Japan, in which the broken present might be healed by the past and future vision.

Term Paper on Princess Mononoke Assignment

As such, one of the main contrasts found in "Princess Mononoke" is between the traditional myth, where history belongs to the court and the samurai aristocracy, and idealized, premodern Japan. In this idealization, the Japanese lived as a homogeneous nation, in harmony with nature. The film then does not mourn the loss of the emperors or homogeneous culture in the face of continuous Americanization. Instead, the central loss is the human connection with nature.

As such, one might say that the film undermines the traditional identity myths of Japan in offering a counternarrative. There are two important cultural myths that the film defamiliarizes: the traditional view of the feminine and the myth of Japanese harmony with nature. The latter myth was often supported by the conception that the feminine and the natural were profoundly connected.

Another important subversion was the defamiliarization of historical notions by setting the film during the Muromachi period in the fourteenth century. In this way, conventional expectations from a film in this era were discarded. Whereas the usual expectation for such films was a portrayal of "Japanese high culture" in terms of cultural elements such as the tea ceremony, Noh theater, and landscape gardens, "Princess Mononoke" provided a mythical vision that is not only literally removed from the capital, but also symbolically.

Instead of increasingly literate Samurais, for example, the world of the Princess presents a nonrational, non-human world, where natural and supernatural forces coincide. This is the dominating image. On the other hand, there is the increasing threat to this world by the human world, ruled as it was by the Emperor and the Samurai. The forces of the natural and feminine are therefore threatened by those of the male, human, intellectual, and unnatural environment that Japan was becoming at the time.

In demonstrating this, the film subverts what is known as the "samurai ethic" promoted by traditional cinema portraying the period. What this means is that, instead of the traditional opening scene depicting a battle and the courage of those fighting, "Princess Mononoke" begins with a scene from nature, portraying the mountains. In addition, the superimposed words indicate a time during which Japan was covered by forests where gods lived. This depicts a mythical, natural space. At the same, time, the space is not created for refuge, but rather as a basis of resistance, and perhaps even violence.

Perhaps the clearest and most significant break, not only from traditional cinema, but also from social values, is the undermining of the feminine tradition. A woman in the film governs Tatara. Lady Eboshi has created Tatara as a utopian refuge, where outcast women and those with incurable illnesses could find rest for their bodies and souls. As such, she stands in opposition to the forest creatures, as well as the Princess Mononoke, the "possessed princess." It is significant that the opposing human force in the film is also female. Because she was raised by a female wolf, and is possessed by the fearsome nature spirits, San wishes to destroy all things human. As proponent of human life, Lady Eboshi stands against her.

In effect, there are therefore three highly unconventional female characters: Eboshi, San, and More, the female wolf who raised the princess. All three women possess characteristics that are traditionally ascribed to males, especially in cinema. While Eboshi cares for the sick, dying, and those who find themselves cast out from society, she is also concerned with maintaining a military stance against her opponents. Moro, the wolf, is not only a wise and brave mother, but also a ferocious killer. San is perhaps most unconventional, in that she is almost unrelentingly violent in her actions, even up to sucking blood from her "mother's" wounds.

What makes Eboshi significantly unconventional is her independent rulership of Tatara. She does not rely on any family or male support. Her traditionally female nurturing side is more than balanced by the traditionally male drive towards the battle and defence. As such, she does not have any historical context from which she operates. Her drive is almost exclusively focused upon the distruction of the violent and dangerous spirits of the forest.

The film also has highly unconventional religious overtones, as represented by San. While Miyazaki's work has included a common connection between young girls and myth, this is unconventionally portrayed in the character of San. San's character adheres to the myths of early Shinto, where not only individuals, but also animals, rocks and mountains, could become forest spirits or gods. They became gods because of their awesome powers, rather than any moral basis. Morality was attributed to gods only later, when Buddhism entered Japan. San has the potential to become a god because of her supernatural powers, as manifest in her fighting capability and her telepathic link with Moro and other animals. She is, however, almost completely unable to bond with human beings. As such, she shows the god myth of the time as something to be feared rather than loved. There was no drive to be helpful or provide a connecting factor to the human paradigm from the spiritual world. As representative and housing environment to these gods, nature was then also portrayed as a hostile force, which human beings were constantly obliged to fight for survival.

As such, the central fantasy space in the film is the forest. Tatara stands in constant, civilizing opposition to the forest. For the filmmaker, it is an archetypal, truly Japanese memory, which has been physically, but not necessarily spiritually lost. For Miyazaki, the forest still exists within every Japanese heart. Interestingly, the human-forest relationship is not an idealized ecology in the film, but rather a platform for conflict and violence between civilization and all things wild. In the film, the magic of the forest is portrayed in vibrant green and brown colors. Forest pools are penetrated by shafts of light in a deceptively tranquil sense of alien beauty. This stands in contrast to the violence represented by the forest, from which human beings are obliged to take refuge in some sort of civilization, whether this is civilization as represented by the monarchy or that represented by a refuge from such a civilization. The forest is by no means a refuge; it contains dangers that are hardly understood by human beings.

The reason for Miyazaki's portrayal of the forest as supernatural is another defamiliarization strategy. Traditionally, for example, the Japanese view nature as something that can be tamed and cultivated. In the film, the natural will not be tamed or civilized. It is indeed beautiful and sacred, but also to be feared for the violent elements it contains. It is a vision of the frightening and unfamiliar concept of the Other.

This is significant, as nature has always played a very important role in the consciousness of the Japanese collective. According to Morris-Suzuki (1999, p. 35), for example, nature has always been central to Japanese culture, even in pre-agricultural Japan. This is the era of which Miyazaki reminisces in the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Princess Mononoke" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Princess Mononoke.  (2010, November 30).  Retrieved July 11, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Princess Mononoke."  30 November 2010.  Web.  11 July 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Princess Mononoke."  November 30, 2010.  Accessed July 11, 2020.