The anime Princess Mononoke has name social and phycological implications hidden just underneath the surface. The Japanese religion of Shintoism plays a key role in the portrayal of many of the key characters, one such example would be the Kodama. Overall the religion of Japan, combined with Japan’s economic expansion.
In Miyazaki’s film Princess Mononoke’s main theme is the conflict between the Forrest Gods and the humans of Iron Town. This could be viewed as a conflict between Shinto, the belief that everything has a spirit, against the ever occurring economic expansion of the Japanese people. This is because, as the workers of Iron Town exhaust the resources nearest them they must then push further out into the wilderness to gain more. This sets up the destruction of the forests and wilderness, which in turn angers the animal gods, and sets up the many battles between the people and animals.
The population of Iron Town is view as a destructive force that all the animals want to destroy. “What Eboshi is trying to do is to build a paradise as she thinks of it. Hence, she is a person of the twentieth century. She has a clear ideal and can take action. And if she was interfered with she wouldn't hesitate to kill, sacrifice, or even sacrifice herself” (Wright 2004). This is Miyazaki’s comment on Lady Eboshi, the leader of Iron Town, and her quest to destroy anyone or anything that gets in the way of the town that she has put so much into. On her final quest she is willing to let Iron Town fall if it means that she can kill the Great Forrest Spirit, Shishigami, and claim the wilderness for the humans.
The Kodama are the childlike spirits of the trees, their presence told Prince Ashitaka that the forest was healthy and everything was all right. As the story goes on they help Prince Ashitaka on his quest to find a cure for his curse. However as Lady Eboshi succeeds in her mission to kill the Great Forrest Spirit all the Kodama being to die and fall from their perches on the trees. In the final scene after the Great Forrest Spirit dies and all of Iron Town and the surrounding area is covered in new growth they start to reappear, this symbolizes the new found respect for the forest the villagers of Iron Town have for the wilderness. Lady Eboshi states that they will rebuild Iron Town with more respect for the forest than before.
One major psychological fear of humans is the fear of the unknown. This is prevalent in the transition of the Kami into demons. They become so hateful of humans and their advances that threaten the forest that they lose control of their minds and begin sprouting evil “wormlike” structures. This is seen in the very first scene of the anime, when the Boar God overtaken by hatred, attacks Ashitaka’s village and everyone does not know what it is so they all go and hide in their town. Meanwhile Ashitaka must then confront the monster to defend his village. The villagers themselves shun everyone that is not of their people, showing their fear of anyone who is not familiar to them. Meanwhile when Prince Ashitaka meets the Wolf God she is very skeptical of the nature of his presence. She believes that he is there to take away San, also that he is in league with Lady Eboshi and is intent on helping her.
Overall Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke has many examples of society’s conflicts, such as the destruction of the Earth’s wildernesses in order to obtain natural resources and the passion of those who feel it is best to protect the forests. The phycological fear of the unknown, personified by the demons and their attack on Prince Ashitaka’s village.
Wright, Lucy. (2004). Wonderment and Awe: the Way of the Kami. at Refractory: A journal of entertainment media. http://www.refractory.unimelb.edu.au/journalissues/vol5/wright. html