(Princess Mononoke spoilers)

A movie that most certainly made my top 5 anime list, shows great depth in understanding the nature of life and death, and overall existing. Many will say that it’s a story about love. Others might claim that it’s about Japanese culture, or understanding of nature–human relationship. Lastly, it might be an adventure story about a quest. It is. It is all that, but none of that truly matters. 

The upcoming analysis is an explanation of one small detail of basic life principals: one does not negotiate with the fools. The story starts with the attaching demon. The home-village of Ashitaka and its elders come to the demon and try to calm it down, make peace with it.

“Disgusting humans. You’ll all know my rage.” — the demon replies.

And this is just the first example of the wrong behavior, that leads straight to disaster. The elders then have to mourn the last lord in their generation has to travel to the cure and then die. 

But it is all just bad luck, isn’t it? Completely wrong. What the elder woman shows here is an old ideology, passed from generation to generation. A traditional behavior almost burned deep into the souls of Ashitaka’s family. Negotiating with fools. 

And we see the results of that strategy. What comes off as a simple misfortune, we’re being told that each generation in Ashitaka’s family becomes weaker and weaker in both body and soul. That they’ve lost favor in Emperor’s eyes and he destroyed them, somewhere along the way. That now the last one in the family also got killed (in future tense) by some random demon. 

What an unlucky family, one might say, feeling pity. But nay, sirs and ladies, since luck is a character trait and therefore shows the downgrading of a family as a result of a certainly made decisions. 

A question arises: since a loss after a loss falls onto the family, isn’t it the time to reflect on the difference between the lucky families and those of misfortunes? 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ashitaka’s-family-Elders1-300x141.png
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(Ashitaka’s family Elders)

One of the elders makes a conclusion, hearing that Ashitaka has to leave them forever: “After the Emperor destroyed us, our generations have been growing weaker and weaker. And now our last prince has to leave us and never return? Sometimes I feel like the gods are laughing at us.”

According to the demon’s words, they have no real “relationship” with humans. He is an animal, filled with rage that became a demon only seeking destruction. Later in the universe, we see that “gods” also have very little interest in human species. Yes, everyone gets healed for returning the head they stole, but that’s about it. Ashitaka, being taught by the elder, comes to the forest spirit to ask for his life. 

He wakes up and makes an interesting conclusion: “He healed the wound but left the curse.”

After that, there is nothing left to do. That’s literally all the elders have taught him. Bow your head to both gods and demons so they have mercy and if they don’t — give up and die. 

But let’s go back to the “laughing gods”. So, instead of reflecting on their mistakes, this elder man — a man of deep age, prefers to blame the gods who are laughing at this particular family. As if they were diligently bowing down, but for some reason “the gods” decided to laugh at that. What despicable creatures they must be. On the other hand, when other families also bow their heads to the gods, nothing bad happens to them. So an elder-man lives in self-deception, and so does the elder-woman who is a fortune-teller and the rest of the family. Ashitaka is born to a family with traditions of the hardened losers, who love to lose, love to mourn, love to blame others. 

“Luck is a character trait.”

A different situation we see in the Iron-Village, where the mistress doesn’t rely on “god’s mercy”, but rather prefers to take actions. We see this woman making an amazing village from ashes — picking up worthless-to-others man and women, teaching them, building and inventing with them. She takes war with another lord with ease, who wants her iron. She took an order from an emperor to bring the head of a forest god. She fulfills it as well.

After losing, she doesn’t talk about “laughing gods”, but rather about building an even better village from scratch. It’s obvious that she’ll succeed. When facing trouble, might that be boars, demons, other lords, or gods, she taken an action, loses or wins, and reflects on a new experience. We can easily predict that she won’t go against the forest-spirit anymore, knowing what disaster it causes. She’ll also learn not to trust outside groups with emperor orders too much. We see a person who doesn’t have to negotiate her way out because she is strong enough to fight her way out. 

As a result, she doesn’t have to mourn about her or her villagers’ life either.

Now, I don’t intend to set her as an example, she has her fair share of trouble. Yet, this is the world Ashitaka must-see. A fortune teller says: “go ask gods, if they refuse, you’ll die”. It doesn’t come true. 

So if I’m being asked what the story’s about, I’d say it was about Ashitaka’s learning. Learning to NOT negotiate with the fools. But how that journey went is a totally different topic. 

2 thoughts on “[Tina Rou] Negotiating with fools. Princess Mononoke

  1. Wow, so first, i wanna say that say that it’s an amazing Anime movie. Better than i expected. I like the slow pace of old style, where there aren’t million things happening in 5 minute span. Instead it slowly goes on letting the mind absorb the story, characters, scenes, and music.

    To me the story looks like it shows that the true balance is in being good and kind, and sparing life everytime it’s possible, but also taking action to do something. That’s why you can see, that Deer God saved Ashitaka, but he drained remnants of life from the Ottoko (the white big Boar God) and from the Mother Wolf. The Deer God recognized who deserves to be saved, and who did not deserved it, based on what they had in their hearts. Those filled with hatred, and vengeance – were left to die (angry Boar Gods and Wolf). Those who wanted to save lives and were valuing life, both human and animal life – were healed (Ashitaka).

    And i like that spirit. I like Deer God’s judgement.

    I agree that in the movie Ashitaka’s tribe were to passive, and let Gods decide too much for them. And on the opposite the Iron Town humans disobeyed Gods (and Nature) too much and brought lot’s of destruction to nature. Cut too many trees, polluted rivers and harmed the ecosystem.

    The little romance between San (Mononoko) and Ashitaka is very very cute and sweet, and it’s not pushy. She is too savage, but can still be human and was kind to Ashitaka. It was sweet seeing her feeding Ashitaka mouth to mouth, means they were basically kissing ^_^ it was sweet seeing them hug few times, and i wish they cuddled together while sleeping.

    Ashitaka is a really nice character, honorable, with kind heart, also strong and decisive. Somebody i can idealize and love as main character. The best character i could wish for in a story like this.

    I love the concept of Gods, demigods, and i like how the Deer God looked, and transformed. I love these concepts (beautifully done). Though the Gods in this movie are a bit too strong and pushy, in reality i think that Gods are more chilly, and let others do their stuff.

    The Wolves are pretty but too violent, savage, like San. But i did not get how she was daughter of the Mother Wolf, but still in human form ?

    The iron Mistress is cool character, a bit too cruel, and she was not motivated by evil intentions. I like her. Despite she striking at Deer Gods head, she was a good person helping humans, and building civilization, she should though, build agriculture tools from iron, and NOT weapons. 😉

    I absolutely love the quote “The Deer God can’t die. He is Life itself.”. That’s wonderful. Beautiful ending.

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