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Ariel Phillips


            Anime has been around for quite a number of years. The first of Japanese cartoons were one-reelers which didn’t exceed five minutes; these short cartoons appeared in 1917. Many of the Anime shows and movies out there have levels of meaning. These levels can be explicit, implicit or symptomatic. The authors for the most part, usually incorporate one of these levels to discuss an issue or portray the meaning of the show or film. In this case, the Anime, Princess Mononoke by Hayao Miyazaki we can see elements of the symptomatic level of meaning. In Princess Mononoke, Hayao Miyazaki uses this level to show how selfish humans can be, and also how selfless they can be.

            Hayao Miyazaki’s film Princess Mononoke is about a young man Ashitaka who becomes infected and cursed from the Tatari Gami, which is a monster that is attacking the village. Since Ashitaka is now cursed he is told that he must leave the village and that the curse it going to kill him. Ashitaka leaves his village and heads out on his journey. While he is traveling he runs into a man named Joko Bou. Bou tells Ashitaka about the west mountains and the god of the forest who lives there.

            After this encounter Ashitaka continues his journey and heads for the West Mountains.  As he traveling he sees a woman and men transporting something along the mountains when wolves attack them. After the ambush Ashitaka manages to save two of the men. Then he spots the wolves and a girl who appears to be friends with them. We find out that the girl is the Princess.

After this encounter with the Princess throughout the film we see the conflict between the humans, who are being led by Eboshi, and the animals of the forest. Eboshi wants to destroy the forests completely, but Princess Mononoke is determined to stop her. Though there is also conflict between human and human with Eboshi and Mononoke, Miyazaki shows how great the conflict between animal and human is.

Using the symptomatic level of meaning we can see that humans can be very selfish. The society in this film seems to only care about what they want, and what will benefit them or make their land richer. Eboshi doesn’t care about the animals in the forest, nor does she even respect the Gods in the forest. Eboshi is a perfect example of how selfish and thoughtless humans can be. Relating to this, in Susan Napier's book she says that "...animation is both a symptom and a metaphor for a society obsessed with change and spectacle." This immediately made me think of how the humans that are following Eboshi are essentially obsessed with taking over the forest.

However, in a society where the majority of humans are selfish and chose to look away from the consequences of their actions, there are always those who choose to do what’s right. Princess Mononoke and Ashitaka are two great examples of that. Even though Ashitaka was kicked out of his village and had to live with a curse he refused to become evil. He fought for the animals and the forest. Even at the end when Princess Mononoke was mad at him, he returned and saved her life. Together they saved the forest and the God.

This symptomatic level of meaning ties in with the sociological-Psychological analysis. This is an ideological analysis where understanding the human behavior that results in the production of a given film. Susan Napier also comment in her book and said, "Miyazaki's historical epic Princess Mononoke problematized the nature of historical identity in relation to the modern world through its complex mixture of fantasy and fact". Relating this film to present times, humans do have a lot of power. Unlike Princess Mononoke, animals can’t exactly organize and fight against us, which brings in the fantasy aspect. Relating this film to present/ modern times, we are doing damage to forests, and the animals that live in them.

It seems to me that this film portrays humans as being selfish and only concerned with what benefits them. I think Miyazaki was trying to show people, in a different way that we need to respect our surroundings. Also, that it is possible to live harmoniously with nature, and even other people. I thought this film was really entertaining. It was a fun watch, and when you dig into the meaning you can really begin to see it almost is a new light.


Susan Napier, 2001. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke.

The Hayao Miyazaki Web. A Team Ghiblink Production. (

Animation World Magazine- Mycourses

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1 Comment

  1. Good, clear thesis statement.

    You need to focus on the essay and stay on point. Every paragraph should exist to prove your thesis. As an example, paragraph 2 is irrelevant so delete it.

    You need to do more work to develop your arguments. You must read Susan Napier's chapters on Miyazaki and Princess Mononoke

    Need academic references!