“In ancient times, the land lay covered in forests, where, from ages long past, dwelt the spirits of the gods. Back then, man and beast lived in harmony, but as time went by, most of the great forests were destroyed”. The opening lines of Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke are not only a foreshadowing of what the story is to be about, but it is also a reflection of the reality of the effects of industry on nature.
Ashitaka, the main character of the story, must go on a journey to either meet his fate of death or to rid himself of the curse he has received from the demon boar. The land, which once belonged to the boar and the rest of the forest gods and demons, has now been destroyed and industrialized by humans in search of the lands’ iron resources. Once Ashitaka realizes that the leader of this Industrial Revolution, Lady Eboshi, wishes to kill the spirits and creatures of the forest, he rebels and joins forces with Princess Mononoke (San), the self-proclaimed defender of the spirits. However, not wanting anything to do with Ashitaka or humans in general, San wishes to assist the boars and other forest gods in the war against Eboshi and the rest of the Irontown villagers. Unfortunately, the blind boar, along with San, become demons at the hand of the humans. Through the power of love, and from a little help from the Forest Spirit, Ashitaka is able to save San from becoming a demon. But, love can’t save the Forest Spirit from the hands of humans. Eboshi beheads the spirit, and all hell breaks loose. The dead come back to life, and it’s up to humans to restore the chaos. Ashitaka and San return the Forest Spirit’s head, and all is restored; Irontown is destroyed and replaced by greenery, the tree spirits return, and the humans realize their faults. In the end, San agrees to protect the forest, and Ashitaka helps humans restore their home. It is a perfect agreement between humans and nature.
Princess Mononoke shows the relation between humans and nature, after the effects of the Industrial Revolution. The evil inflicted on those who have been touched by the “demons” of industry can only be restored by the beauties and love of nature. Even in today’s world, nature seems to be hard to come by; everything is either industrialized or destroyed. It is a rare beauty to find oneself in the midst of a green, serene nature. Ashitaka represents those trying to restore the bond between humans and nature. San shows how nature can restore a person, while Eboshi embodies the effects of industry on the human being. The ending of the movie, with the agreement between San and Ashitaka, show that even in today’s world there can be a healthy and loving balance between human industry and the natural environment. We just have to work for this bond, even if it means compromise.