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Anime / Princess Mononoke

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The Fate of the World Rests on the Courage of One Warrior.

"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. Those that remained were guarded by gigantic beasts, who owed their allegiances to the Great Forest Spirit. For those were the days of gods—and of demons."
Lord Okkoto, Opening Monologue

Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫 Mononoke Hime) is an acclaimed 1997 animated film from famed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, originally intended to be his last until Spirited Away. It's notably one of his darkest films, with a somber ambiance and themes, yet lacks none of the trademark stunning visuals of a Studio Ghibli production. Appropriately enough, it was also the first Ghibli film to earn a PG-13 rating in the United States. Joe Hisaishi composed the score while author Neil Gaiman adapted the film's English dub.

The story is set during the 15th or 16th century (late Muromachi period), and begins in a small village of the Emishi, the indigenous inhabitants of Japan who by this time have mostly been conquered or driven into hiding in remote corners of the east. The village's peace is shattered by the attack of a terrible demon; their last remaining prince, Ashitaka (voiced by Yōji Matsuda), is injured during the fight against it, and even worse, the mortally wounded demon is revealed to be a powerful spirit—a giant boar that curses the Emishi with its last breath and reveals that the wound Ashitaka suffered will kill him too. The village elders decide, with much reluctance, that Ashitaka must leave the village before the curse takes full possession of him, and travel west in search of his destiny. Ashitaka leaves immediately, with only his trusted red elk Yakul. The young prince follows the demon boar's trail of destruction with the only clue he has about what transformed it into a demon: an iron ball found embedded in its body.


Ashitaka travels through the war-torn countryside, discovering that his curse has also imparted superhuman strength along the way. He eventually comes upon Tataraba (Iron Town), a mining settlement on the edge of the wilderness that's in the midst of a three-way war between the strong-willed Lady Eboshi (Yūko Tanaka) (who protects the town through the use of firearms), the spirits of the forest (who want to stop Iron Town's expansion to protect their homes from destruction), and an influential samurai warlord (who wants to seize the town for the wealth it generates). Ashitaka must endeavour to create peace between the various sides, understand the reason behind his curse, and connect with San (Yuriko Ishida), a human girl who was Raised by Wolves and fights alongside the spirits as events seem to be heading towards an inevitable disaster.


The film also stars Kaoru Kobayashi as Jigo, Masahiko Nishimura as Kohroku, Tsunehiko Kamijō as Gonza, Akihiro Miwa as Moro, Mitsuko Mori as Hii-sama and Hisaya Morishige as Okkoto-nushi.

Not to be confused with the anime Mononoke.

Character tropes go on to the Characters Sheet.

Princess Mononoke contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • Yes, there were quite a lot of firearms in pre-Edo Japan (first appearing in the form of Chinese cannons in the 13th century). Even after unification, the shogunate maintained gunpowder-weapon arsenals in case of rebellion.
    • Fire lances are shown to be used a few times in their full destructive power by Eboshi's soldiers.
  • An Aesop: War, greed, and hatred only escalate, corrupting everyone in the process.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Numerous limbs are lost in battles, from sword blows to cannon fire and even a bow and arrow; as well as Lady Eboshi getting her arm bitten off.
  • Animal Motifs: San has wolves, for fairly obvious reasons.
  • Annoying Arrows: Justified and averted. The Gods shake them off (justified), Ashitaka's demonic strength makes his arrows far deadlier than they would usually be: he can easily decapitate people, and how about hitting the hilt of a mook's sword causing the poor guy's arms to fly off? Ashitaka is also seen catching an arrow as it shoots by him (with his demon arm), spinning it around and notching it, then firing it back in the space of about three seconds. Normal arrows aimed at non-gods or non-demon-possessed characters are treated as as lot bigger deal than usual; one of them cripples Yakul near the climax.
  • Anti-Human Alliance: San and her wolf brothers aid the boars in their last assault on the humans.
  • Archer Archetype: While a skilled swordsman, Ashitaka's truly badass feats are performed with his bow. He also proves himself perfectly capable of living alone in the wilderness without other people.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Eboshi is shown to be a lighter shade of grey, but her samurai opponent, Lord Asano, is only described as "a greedy bastard." To be fair, Asano is described as such by Jigo, while he is sucking up to Lady Eboshi—that and Jigo chuckles about it immediately after, since it's a major example of pot meeting kettle.
  • Armies Are Evil: The armies of samurai that roam the land are portrayed as marauding, savage murderers. It's pretty accurate to how they really were at this point in history.
  • Arrow Catch: Ashitaka can not only catch an arrow, but use it to fire back at the attacker. He also cuts arrows in half mid-air.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Ashitaka instinctively turns and shoots his second arrow into Nago's eye, which turn out to be his weak spot.
  • Audible Sharpness: Many blades make a distinct sound-effect, even when swung through the air. At one point, San swings a blade towards Ashitaka's throat, and creates a particularly sharp "metal on metal" sound despite only air being in its path.
  • Author Appeal: Nature, strong female characters, pacifism, precipitous heights, pigs (well, boars), it's all here. About the only thing missing is a flying scene.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Lady Eboshi leads the Iron Town and is probably the toughest inhabitant of it. She fatally wounds two gods, snipes with ease a few samurai officers, and kills the Forest Spirit. When San charges to face her, she doesn't even break a sweat when fighting with the girl and apparently is fully prepared for such a duel.
  • Badass Beard: Standard among the older Emishi men.
  • Badass Boast: Lady Eboshi. "Now watch closely, everyone. I'm going to show you how to kill a god. A god of life and death. The trick is not to fear him."
  • Bad Black Barf: In both instances where a boar is turned into a demon, they start to bleed and drool dark purple/black slime. In addition, the Forest Spirit starts releasing massive gobs of toxic black gloop that instantly kill everything they touch.
  • Bandage Mummy: Most of the lepers are wrapped up head to foot, which is probably what would have happened to them in Real Life.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Ashitaka takes some moments to watch San sleep after he wakes up in the cave.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted, both Ashitaka and San find themselves covered in boils and blotches while slowly falling victim to the Great Spirit's death curse while attempting to return its head. When their actions prove successful they are cleared of their afflictions.
  • BFS: Gonza's nodachi. During his Unflinching Walk, Ashitaka bends it into a circle with his demon-infected arm when Gonza tries to stop him.
  • Big Brother Instinct: During the demon attack at the beginning of the film, Ashitaka the pacifist is initially very reluctant to attack and spends quite a while trying to pacify Nago. When he sees the demon boar charging towards Kaya, however, he doesn't hesitate to shoot it square in the eye.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Ashitaka and San fall in love, but they do not live together because neither could live each other's life. Ashitaka compromises by living close to the forest in the rebuilt Iron Town while San remains in the forest and they'll meet each other on a regular basis.
    • Despite Irontown being destroyed, the inhabitants decide to start anew, this time being closer to nature rather than opposing it.
    • One incarnation of the Forest Spirit dies, but Ashitaka reassures San that, being life itself, it has survived in a way. And the last scene, at the sacred pool, shows a surviving Kodama walk out.
  • Blade Lock: Ashitaka breaks up the fight between San and Lady Eboshi by blocking the latter's sword with his own.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The most violent Miyazaki film to date, only rivaled by Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. note  Princess Mononoke also has the distinction of being the first Ghibli film to receive a PG-13 rating in the U.S., followed by Tales from Earthsea and The Wind Rises.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Okkoto.
  • Body Horror: Rather mild examples, as body horror goes, but the fates of both Nago and Okkoto are not for the faint of heart particularly when San is trapped inside Okkoto's demon-flesh.
    • Ashitaka's right arm, which is slowly going rotten from the curse and often moves against his will, contorting itself into weird and extremely painful-looking positions.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu:
    • While killing the boar-demon, Ashitaka receives a curse on his right arm, which grants him superhuman strength but will eventually kill him.
    • Also, Lady Eboshi succeeds in cutting off the Forest Spirit's head, and shortly after loses her arm. And then it gets worse.
  • Cannibalism Superpower: The apes believe that if they eat Ashitaka's corpse they will steal his strength.
  • Canis Major: The wolf deities are huge. While her brothers are big enough for San to ride on their backs, Moro is about twice that size.
    Eboshi: They're just pups. Wait 'til you see their mother.
  • Catch and Return: With an arrow!
  • Central Theme: Nature vs Humanity, the tragedy of war, the power of impact, the blurred line of good and evil.
  • Chekhov's Aesop:
    Jigo: [early on, to Ashitaka] So you say you're under a curse? Well so what? So's the whole damn world.

    Jigo: [at the climax] Look, everyone wants everything, that's the way the world works, but I might actually get it!
  • Comforting Comforter: When Ashitaka goes back to the cave to sleep off his injuries San wakes up, setting up the perfect opportunity for him to tuck her in with his blanket. Ashitaka wakes up the next morning with the blanket on him. D'aww.
  • Cool Horse: Yakul, despite being an elk.
  • Cool Mask: San wears one during her attacks.
  • Cooldown Hug: Ashitaka gives one to San after she stabs him in the chest.
  • The Corruption: The plot begins when Ashitaka is attacked and infected by a corrupted boar-god. While Walking the Earth, he discovers that his infected arm has supernatural strength and a will of its own.
  • Cranium Chase: The film plays this for horror with the Forest Spirit, whose body turns into an enormous Eldritch Abomination draining life from nearly everything in sight, seeking reunion with its severed head, which can still move.
  • Crapsack World:
  • Cross-Popping Veins: Gonza is prone to this when angry.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The animals get slaughtered whenever they try and attack the humans head on. Asano's forces also seem to be on the receiving end of this, due to Iron Town possessing gunpowder and the enemy only having conventional weapons. Despite this, they do manage to break into the city near the end.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Despite their grievous losses, the boars are shown to have broken through the human lines and killed a fair number of people.
  • Cutting the Knot: Referenced by Lady Eboshi when Ashitaka shouts to her, San and the townsfolk that the curse in his arm will slowly kill him by hate. She says that she could just cut off his arm and it would solve the problem. No, it wouldn't.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Hate very much begets hate. Ashitaka is the only one to see how pointlessly self-perpetuating the violence of both sides is and actively works to stop it.
  • Darker and Edgier: Princess Mononoke is the darkest of Hayao Miyazaki's films and one of the darkest Studio Ghibli films in general. It is also the first Ghibli film to receive a PG-13 rating in the United States. It depicts explicit scenes of decapitation and dismemberment, which no other Studio Ghibli films does.
  • Dark Is Evil: While the movie thrives on Grey-and-Gray Morality, darkness is still representative of the gods' worst side. Gods who fall to fear or hatred become demonic creatures covered in purple or black worms (who can infect humans and manifest as dark energy on them), the apes are black with red eyes, and the Shishigami becomes a creature made of darkness once his head is ripped off. There are no positive spiritual aspects of darkness seen on screen.
  • Deer in the Headlights: When the demon in the beginning of the story appears, Yakul does this as the demon that curses Ashitaka rushes at him. Despite Ashitake shouting at him to run, he just stands there, staring and trembling slightly—finally running away when Ashitaka shoots an arrow in his direction.
  • Determinator: One of the reasons the land suffers so much is that Okkoto, Moro and Lady Eboshi are all implacably determined. Then a new Determinator shows up...
    • Not even getting shot through the lung slows Ashitaka down.
    • Moro spends most of the film with a bullet lodged in her chest and absolutely refuses to give up despite being paralyzed at one point. She may be a god, but she's getting on in years. She still bites after her head was cut off. It doesn't get much more determined than that.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: San cannot bring herself to leave the forest and live with Ashitaka because she hates the human race. But they seem happy enough to just go see each other now and then.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Less blatant than many examples, as Gods and spirits are shown to be more vulnerable than in most stories, but still obvious at points.
    Eboshi: He's a god, you fools—it'll take more than one shot.
  • Disappeared Dad: Neither of Ashitaka's parents are ever even mentioned in passing, which seems odd as his father would be the leader of the Emishi. For that matter, the father of Moro's wolf cubs is never mentioned either. The original language seems to hint that just as the women want to avenge their husbands, San has come to avenge her own tribe—sounds like there were more wolves before.
  • Dramatic Slip: Early on, one of the girls slips when being chased down the hill by Nago. Cue a Big Damn Heroes moment for Ashitaka.
  • Dramatic Wind: Played with—rather than merely being the usual dramatic convention for Miyazaki's characters, this effect seems to signal the presence of magic in action—usually the actions of the Forest Spirit or of Ashitaka's curse.
  • Dying Race: The Emishi are nearly extinct due to a genocide 500 years before the movie. It's implied that Ashitaka's curse and exile dooms them.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • Any of the tatari-gami; they don't drive people mad, but they can lay a death curse on anything they touch. The Forest Spirit becomes one after it gets decapitated.
  • The unidentified "things neither human nor animal" which the apes warn San of are implied to be this.
  • Elite Mooks: Eboshi's snipers wield what are essentially miniature cannons that can punch cleanly through samurai armor and play a part in mortally wounding Moro. There are also Jigo's warrior monks, who are experienced hunters and trackers that use the normal Iron Town troops as cannon fodder.
  • End of an Age:
    • It is implied that with Ashitaka being sent into exile, the Emishi culture will vanish from history.
    • The old gods of the forest are all dead by the film's end, including the Forest Spirit itself. This tips the conflict between civilization and nature firmly in humanity's favor and sets the stage for the rise of the modern world.
  • Epic Movie: The film was the largest box-office draw in Japan when it came out, features an all-star cast of characters in a dark and serious mythological setting, and cemented Miyazaki's reputation as Disney's partner overseas.
  • Equivalent Exchange: When San takes Ashitaka to the Forest Spirit to heal his gunshot wound, she takes a sapling as an offering. The Forest Spirit breathes on the sapling, which withers and dies, and breathes on Ashitaka, who comes back from death overnight.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Ashitaka is established as The Hero early on when saving the village from Nago. San is introduced as a Wild Child when she and Ashitaka meet by the river and he watches her Suck Out the Poison.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Anti-Villain Lady Eboshi apologizes to Ashitaka when she learns she was indirectly responsible for his curse. She does appreciate that he doesn't want to kill her in turn.
  • Everyone Has Standards: When San is told by the apes they plan to eat Ashitaka in order to become as powerful as the humans, she tries to tell them that would just make them into something far worse than humans.
  • Everything's Better with Samurai: Averted; practically every samurai in the film is a murderous asshole, which according to some historians is a much more accurate depiction than what we normally get in pop culture.
  • Eye Scream: Ashitaka shoots a demon in the eye early in the film, which happens to be its only weak spot.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Deconstructed with Okkoto, whose desire for a glorious death in battle only leads to his entire tribe being massacred in a Curb-Stomp Battle and he himself being corrupted by his hate and pain into a mindless demon. Played straight with Moro, who calmly accepts her doom and states that she has lived long enough.
  • Feuding Families: It has an element of this as part of the main plot. Who started the vicious cycle of disrespect? Eboshi by not asking if they could clear a way to the mountainside, or Nago for refusing to listen to a human? After all, the boars are a "proud race", according to Moro.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Played with—simply put, it's rare to see one that's pulled off with Tranquil Fury.
  • Foreshadowing: "Cut off a wolf's head and it still has the power to bite," Lady Eboshi tells her men in one early scene. Much later, she finds herself on the receiving end of this, courtesy of Moro.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Right after the strong hail caused by Forest Spirit's dead body falling on the Iron Town subdues, there is a shot of the townsfolk standing in the lake. One of the leper women gunsmiths previously shown talking with Toki checks her own body in disbelief, now healed of leprosy.
  • From Bad to Worse: Pretty much the entire plot. The ending is a minor deviation from the general trend. Things still suck, they just suck a bit less.
  • Full-Boar Action: Cranked Up to Eleven; this isn't any old boar, it's the boar kami (god).
  • Gaia's Vengeance: The situation that Iron Town has found itself in.
  • Gambit Pileup: The human world is filled with these.
  • Ghibli Hills: Well, it's by that studio... and the whole film seems to be set there.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The wolves have these at night, due to eyeshine. However the apes seem to keep their bright red eyes at all times.
  • Graceful Loser: Jigo, though he seems to have learned nothing in the end.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Emperor, who sent Jigo on his mission to retrieve the head of the Forest Spirit so he could use it to become immortal, thus causing a large part of the story's conflict. Despite this, he is never seen on-screen or even given a name, let alone confronted.
  • Greed: This is Jigo's main motivation. It also plays a role with Eboshi as well, though ambition is clearly the stronger influence in her case.
  • Green Aesop: It might seem like that at first glance, but Miyazaki uses the "humanity vs. nature" theme to thinly veil the other major message: a blatantly pacifist one that, in particular, shuns the "us vs. them" mentality so commonly seen in society, as clearly evidenced numerous times throughout the story. Additionally, it shows that while technology has a tendency to pollute and corrupt the natural world, it also allows people to become strong.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Okkoto freaks out when he becomes the only survivor after the battle between boars and humans. And the Assassins disguised as boars to kill him don't help.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Inverted with the enigmatic Lady Eboshi. She's "saving" her people from the gods, though, not vice versa...
  • Hairy Girl: Averted. Despite being literally raised by wolves and obviously being a post-pubescent young woman, San has exactly zero visible body hair, her legs and underarms perfectly baby-smooth.
  • Hanlon's Razor: Ignorance on both sides is a bigger cause of violence and suffering than outright maliciousness.
  • Happily Married: Toki and Kohroku, although she does give him a bit of a hard time.
  • Henpecked Husband: Kohroku puts up with all the verbal abuse Toki throws at him and almost never talks back.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Ashitaka gets one in the film's climax. See The Power of Love.
  • He's a Friend: Subverted. San explains to Yakul, Ashitaka's pet elk, that she is a friend.
  • Historical Fantasy
  • Honor Before Reason: The boars are a Proud Warrior Race and would rather fight and die than to make deals with the humans about the usage of the forest. They all die in a final Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Former hookers, anyway. Toki and many (if not all) of the other women in the town used to work in brothels. They are very kind, if sarcastic, and all bravely take up arms and defend Iron Town from the invading samurai.
  • Hope Sprouts Eternal: Though the forest has been ravaged and most of the old gods are dead, the film's final shot shows a single kodama appearing on a tree. Since the kodama are inextricably linked with the forest, living and dying as it does, its presence signifies that the old spirits are still alive to some extent and the forest will eventually rejuvenate.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Ashitaka's faithful red elk, Yakul. In addition, San often rides one of her wolf brothers into battle.
  • Humans Are Bastards:
    • Played with. Most humans are normal people, and Eboshi has a lot of good as well as bad. Some others, however...
    • Moro tells Ashitaka that San's parents abandoned her when facing the wolf gods just so they could get away faster, which cemented her opinion of humans.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Averted. Where most other Green Aesop works make complete caricatures of both humanity and nature, Mononoke goes to great lengths in humanizing villains like Eboshi and Jigo and highlighting the shortcomings of the nature-themed characters, such as San's immaturity (her first spoken line is "Go away!") and the barbarism of (some of) the nature spirits.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Ashitaka is shot through the torso after a woman nervously pointing a rifle at him is jostled by another townsperson.
  • Immortality Seeker: Jigo's attempt to take the head of Shishigami/The Forest Spirit for the Emperor, who believes that it will grant immortality.
  • Immortality: What the Emperor believes the head of the Forest Spirit will grant him. While this is never proven, it at least heals Ashitaka's curse (and the injuries and diseases of other humans in the area). But only after making the curse a hundred times worse.
  • Important Haircut: As a symbol of Ashitaka's eternal banishment from his people, he takes a knife and slices off his topknot, leaving it behind. It's odd because the gesture is samurai in nature and Ashitaka's people quite clearly belong to the descendents of the Ainu, who lived in Japan before the arrival of the modern Japanese people. The symbolism must have been too good to pass up.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills:
    • Eboshi's matchlock-men, all things considered. Especially since their "guns," as opposed to the actual muskets used by her guards-women, more accurately resemble small cannons on the end of pole-arms and are much harder to aim. The only reason San wasn't blasted ten times over was that she's supernaturally agile too, but every single shot was a close call, and even she couldn't avoid all of the shots.
    • Eboshi takes the cake. She got Nago, and Moro, and two Samuraï generals from a very long range, and the Forest Spirit, in the head, twice.
  • Informed Species: Yakul is referred to as a Red Elk, when he really looks more like a wild sheep or antelope.
  • Intellectual Animal: Wolf mother Moro and the elder boar Okkoto definitely count.
  • Intimate Healing: San feeds a wounded Ashitaka, who is too weak to even chew, by chewing up the meat for him and then transferring it from her mouth to his—without using her hands.
  • Irony: When Ashitaka intervenes in the fight between Lady Eboshi and San, Eboshi exclaims that she's tired of Ashitaka's cursed right arm, before shouting "let me just cut the damned thing off!" Later in the film, Eboshi loses her right arm to Moro.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: After Moro's head charges and bites off her arm, Eboshi tells Ashitaka to leave her and save himself. Ashitaka tells him that's not happening; he promised Toki that he would bring her back to Iron Town.
  • Jerkass Gods: The animal gods do not exactly endear themselves to the human race. Since Nago and his underlings retaliate against Iron Town's earliest settlers encroaching on their territory with violence right from the off; at least, according to the townsfolk... Even Moro states that the Boar Tribe has and will always be guilty of the Fatal Flaw of Pride.
  • Jidaigeki: Set during the late Muromachi period, though it's a very atypical example of the genre.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Jigo precipitates a plot that destroys an ecosystem and pretty much gets away scot-free.
    • Lady Eboshi turns two gods into demons and kills two other gods, including the god of life and death himself. She is also as responsible as Jigo for the destruction of the forest and preferred to continue hunting for the Forest Spirit instead of returning to defend her people. Possibly hundreds of people died after she shot the Forest Spirit's head off. She suffers for her actions — she's maimed and sees the beloved town that she built demolished — but the punishment could still be considered light considering her crimes.
    • Due to not appearing in person, Lord Asano and the Emperor presumably get away scot-free too, though it is entirely possible that Asano was consumed by the Forest Spirit.
  • Kill All Humans: The general attitude of the apes and the boars. Narrowly averted with San, who definitely hates the human race, but only wants to personally kill Eboshi for her actions and doesn't attack people who aren't directly threatening her.
  • Kill the Cutie: Happens to the kodama en masse as the Forest Spirit goes berserk during the final battle. Thousands of them are seen falling from the trees like dead leaves and dissolving on the ground.
  • Lady of War: Lady Eboshi, quite literally. Though her favored weapon is a very unladylike gun.
  • Large and in Charge:
    • The most powerful gods, such as Moro, Okkoto, and Nago, are all huge, whereas their subjects are smaller. This makes sense as they're the oldest, and it's implied that as time goes by and the gods lose power, they become smaller.
    • Eboshi is also a very tall woman, and leads the ladies of Irontown.
  • Laugh of Love: A lot of the women of Iron Town giggle and blush when they're around Ashitaka.
  • Le Parkour: San pulls this during her assault on Iron Town, vaulting over walls and leaping from rooftop to rooftop while simultaneously avoiding hails of gunfire from below. The girl can move.
  • Lip Lock: Not really, but the gods seem to have the ability to speak without moving their mouths. There are animal noises in the background of them speaking, which sync up with the mouths just fine. Presumably there's some sort of Translation Convention at work.
  • Losing Your Head: Played for Drama and Up to Eleven; the body of the Forest Spirit goes on an omnicidal rampage to reclaim its head.
  • The Lost Woods: Where the Forest Spirit dwells.
  • Love at First Sight: Ashitaka for San. It's especially striking because her face was covered in blood at the time (above picture).
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Yakul. (The wolves are more like relatives).
  • The Magic Goes Away: Despite everything, the Forest Spirit is killed and the elder gods have died. Earlier on, Okkoto had bemoaned the fact that the spirits were getting smaller and stupider, and would eventually devolve into dumb beasts. It isn't completely gone though, as in the final shot, a single kodama appears.
  • Major Injury Underreaction:
    • Ashitaka gets shot through the chest, but doesn't collapse until he's pushed open an impossibly heavy gate, lifted San onto Yakul, gotten on himself, and ridden away. Possibly a result of his Iron Woobie or The Determinator nature, possibly the fact that the demonic curse won't let him die by mundane means.
    • Ashitaka seems more distraught by the fact that his girlfriend said she hated him than by being stabbed. (Granted, that dagger's blade is tiny.)
    • Eboshi gets her whole arm ripped off, and not even a scream (though she does pass out). Her only reaction is, "I told you it can still bite..."
  • Maniac Monkeys: While they're not evil, the apes are nevertheless always depicted in a sinister light, expressing a desire to eat Ashitaka so that they may take his strength.
  • Mascot: The kodama (tree spirits).
  • Maybe Ever After: Ashitaka and San both admit their love for each other, but San will not live with the humans due to their actions and Ashitaka feels he cannot abandon the people of Iron Town after all they have suffered. Instead of giving up on a relationship, Ashitaka makes a compromise by living near the forest where he can visit San whenever he has the chance. The film ends there, leaving the ultimate resolution of their romance to be ambiguous.
  • Memento MacGuffin: The crystal necklace. It's almost an Orphan's Plot Trinket since Ashitaka gets it from Kaya for good luck and so he won't forget her. He later gives it to the wolves, as a token for San.
  • Mohs Scale of Violence Hardness: It rates a 7, being the most violent Hayao Miyazaki film to date. Ashitaka gets cursed by Nago, leaving his skin badly discolored. Later, Ashitaka gets shot by an Irontown villager with bloody results. By the end of the film, Okkoto and Moro get covered in blood when they become demons.
  • Mood Dissonance: The Love at First Sight moment between Ashitaka and San, mixing Meet Cute with Gorn.
  • Mouth To Mouth Force Feeding: After Ashitaka is injured to the point of almost being unable to move, San tries to feed him some dried meat so that he can regain his strength but, even then, he's too weak. This leads an annoyed San to chew the food and feed it to him mouth-to-mouth in one of the more tender moments in a brutal story. Possibly justified in that San was literally Raised by Wolves and this might be the only way she can understand to do this kind of thing without any notion of the significance of mouth-to-mouth contact between humans.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Arguably Ashitaka, the one young, attractive male in the cast who frequently performs feats of great badassery and/or takes his shirt off.
  • Ms. Fanservice: On the other side, the female residents of the Ironworks do their work in skimpy kimonos because of the intense heat of the forges. Some of them have to remember to cover up when Ashitaka comes to visit their work place. Others don't bother, since they find Ashitaka attractive.
  • Multishot
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After she witnesses the decapitated Forest Spirit laying destruction to the forest, with Jigo bailing out on her and knowing Iron Town will be destroyed, Eboshi looks horrified as Ashitaka ties up her severed arm and tells him to leave her. She rallies her spirit at the end, telling the survivors they're not going to make the same mistakes again.
  • Nature Is Not Nice: San starts out as brash and intractable, the boars are bloodthirsty, and the apes are psychotically superstitious. The human characters aren't much better.
  • Nature Spirit: Lots of 'em, including the kodama (mentioned above) as well as several deities.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery":
    • Ashitaka's arrows are almost like medieval cruise-missiles. Justified in that this is due to the super strength provided by his curse. Non-powered humans can't do this.
    • Also, it's implied to be averted for everyone else. A later battle shows characters holding umbrellas up to protect themselves from arrows. Numerous arrows, when observed from Ashitaka's POV, are visibly dropping while closing toward him. All arrows that hit something, especially at long range, end up angled.
  • Normally, I Would Be Dead Now: When Ashitaka gets shot in the torso, he continues walking away while everyone is wondering how he could sustain such an injury.
  • Oblivious Adoption: San considers herself a wolf; even though she knows that she's human, she identifies with wolves.
  • Oh, Crap!: Ashitaka's reaction when the Forest Spirit looks into his direction during their first encounter.
  • Opening Monologue: The original Japanese version places a brief text narrative at the beginning of the film; the English-dubbed version replaces it with a verbal narrative explaining the setting to viewers.
  • Parrying Bullets: Ashitaka parries arrows with his sword while swimming across the lake.
  • Pet the Dog: Eboshi gets a number of these moments, such as when it's shown that she gives shelter and work to lepers. The movie is unusual for Green Aesop stories in that the traditionally evil Humans Are Bastards representative gets several chances to Pet the Dog, while the environmentalist side represented by San is more often kicking it. See Hanlon's Razor; it's shown that both sides are capable of quite a bit of good, and the source of their conflict stems entirely from their refusal to coexist.
  • Physical God: All the gods are physical. In fact, "god" in this film essentially means "sentient animal." The exception is the Forest Spirit, who lives up to both parts of his name quite well.
  • Pistol-Whipping: A sword variant. Ashitaka stuns Lady Eboshi by pushing the blunt end of his sword into her guts.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Poison darts are being used at one point.
  • P.O.V. Boy, Poster Girl: Ashitaka is the POV protagonist and The Hero, while San is the wild Princess Mononoke who serves as the film's titular character and poster girl.
  • The Power of Love: During the climax, Ashitaka gets knocked out and is slowly drowning in the lake while San is trapped inside Okkoto's demon-flesh. At this point Moro calls to Ashitaka's love for San which then gives him a Heroic Second Wind. He comes back up to the surface and manages to pull San out of Okkoto's flesh.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Okkoto and, supposedly, Nago. The boars in general are a proud warrior race.
  • Raised by Wolves: San, literally. Her parents were "defiling the forest" Moro lived in, and threw the baby San at Moro when she went to attack them. Moro took pity on her and brought her up as a daughter.
  • Rampage from a Nail: Nago, the boar Ashitaka kills at the beginning of the film to save his village, was being driven mad from a bullet inside of him, slowly poisoning him. Moro averts this; while she too is shot with a bullet, she decides that she has lived long enough and prefers to face her impending death calmly.
  • Recursive Translation: In an amusing twist, the Woolseyist English dub (including a script translated by Neil Gaiman and featuring several rather big-name actors) was considered so well made that it was re-released in Japan ...with Japanese subtitles!
  • Redemption Equals Death: Downplayed, as several characters learn better without dying, although most are faced with near death or life changing injuries first.
  • Revenge Before Reason:
    • San breaks into Iron Town to kill Lady Eboshi, telling her wolf brothers to wait outside. She's alone, outnumbered and outgunned since San only has a knife while the entire town has rifles. Although she and Lady Eboshi are evenly matched, San wouldn't have made it out alive if Ashitaka hadn't interfered and tried to reason with them.
    • Defied by Moro. She says she was saving her last bit of strength to take on Lady Eboshi. When the demon tendrils try to infect San, she turns her focus to saving her daughter when Eboshi is in the area. Moro uses her last bit of strength to revive a knocked-out Ashitaka and asking him to cleanse her daughter. Her severed head, however, is another story once San is safe, and Ashitaka agrees that Moro avenged the forest by biting off Eboshi's arm.
  • Reverse Grip: How San holds her knife most of the time. In this case, it also makes it easier for her to block.
  • Roof Hopping: San does this at one point to get to Lady Eboshi, with Ashitaka following her.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Most of the major characters are generally good people, and from their point of view are totally justified in their actions to protect their way of life from outside forces.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Lady Eboshi gives permission for Ashitaka to tour the town and shows him all that it does. Even when his cursed hand wants to kill her, she calmly waits for him to get it back in line. Although he leaves on bad terms with them — knocking out Lady Eboshi and carrying San out to safety — they help him when they return.
  • Scenery Porn: Oh so very much of it! Ashitaka's journey west in particular is full of this. Shortly followed by Scenery Gorn as everything goes to hell.
  • Schizo Tech: Iron Town's metalworks are making crude iron that is still shown to be hammered, all while using blast furnace. Which itself is using bellows powered by feet and in the same time having rotory pump in the background, spinning by the power of... something, doing unspecified work. Eboshi's soldiers are carrying Chinese hand-cannons, while her gunsmiths are experimenting around arquebuses. All while Ashitaka is still using stone arrowheads.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The last of Lord Asano's four cavalrymen chasing Ashitaka wisely turns his horse around and books it after seeing his buddy decapitated by an arrow.
  • Secondary Character Title: The titular character of San is only a supporting character in the film.
  • Shades of Conflict:
    • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Everyone has their own reasons for fighting, and Audience Surrogate Ashitaka finds it hard to blame anyone completely. Heck, San hates all humans—but she can't bring it in herself to kill anyone but Lady Eboshi, who has hurt her. Lady Eboshi meanwhile indeed sets out to kill gods and animals who get in her way, but it seems to be out of a genuine desire to help (human) people: the lepers say she's the only one who looked at them as human and she regularly buys women from brothels to give them a home and work. It is interesting to note that Eboshi initially favors the smooth method to assert the domination of humanity on nature—it is when Jigo threatens her that she turns to more drastic measures.
    • White-and-Grey Morality: Ashitaka is very much an All-Loving Hero, but both Lady Eboshi and San had valid reasons for their actions. The enemy samurais seemed to be bad, but then, you feel if they had been explained then they too would have fair motivations.
  • Shirtless Scene: Ashitaka steadily loses more and more of his clothes throughout the run-time, until he is running around in just his pants and his... sleeves?
  • Shown Their Work:
    • It isn't amiss to call this film an animated Shōgun. There are quite a few elements from Japanese history and culture that aren't obvious to non-Japanese audiences:
    • The movie is set in the Muromachi period of Japan, when the central government was weak, local warlords (the shogunate) were powerful and bands of samurai were not at all above sacking and massacring peasant villages in their paths.
    • The Emishi tribe was a real ethnic group until around the 9th century, when they were wiped out by the shogunates; the presence of a holdout village in the 14th century was Rule of Drama. This is lampshaded by one of the Emishi elders saying that it's been 500 years since their people were exiled, and that in that time they've become more Nihonjin than Emishi, presumably by intermarriage with other tribes over the centuries.
    • The presence of both Shinto kami (gods) and yōkai, including one (Daidarabotchi, the Night Walker,) well known example from Japanese folklore. Moro's two tails, much like a kitsune yōkai's multiple tails, are a sign of her age and power. The "demons" are actually tatari-gami—curse-gods; they can either be kami or yōkai completely overtaken by rage. Etc.
    • Not counting the rotory pump in the background (which serves no purpose other than spinning), the entire smelter is a very accurate model of tatara, a traditional Japanese furnace. Even the four-day shifts are an important detail, as it takes eight days to produce metal using tatara.
    • All the farm tools used by different characters have only their cutting edges made out of metal, everything else being made out of wood, including shovels and alike. This was a common practice world-wide until metallurgy advanced enough for high grade iron and then steel to become cheap enough to make more than just edges of different tools.
  • Significant Double Casting: Yuriko Ishida not only voices San, the titular princess of the film, but also Kaya, who was Prince Ashitaka's betrothed before his exile in the Japanese version (she only calls Ashitaka brother because they lived in the same village). Surely enough, Ashitaka falls in love with San.
  • Silence Is Golden: There are several times in the film where the dialogue and the score are absent, leaving only the animation and occasional sound effects.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Zig-zags back and forth on the scale.
  • Smug Snake: Jigo. He's playing everyone, including Lady Eboshi, to his own ends, but his plans are neither grandiose nor successful as he likes to think.
  • Solar Punk: A village in the throes of industrialization clashes with the forces of nature, but they ultimately learn to coexist? Sounds about right.
  • Soft Water:
    • Averted when the demon tendrils knock off Ashitaka into the nearby water. He's knocked out for a few minutes before Moro begs him to save her daughter. Then he's able to save San by using the water to wash off the tendrils.
    • Zigzagged in the climax. The residents of Iron Town are told to go into the water where the lake will slow down the Forest Spirit's corruption and save their lives. It's still a close call, however, and the corruption comes very close to reaching them.
  • Spiritual Successor: To the early Miyazaki manga The Journey of Shuna and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
  • Stepping-Stone Sword: San uses her spear as one while vaulting over the wall of Iron Town.
  • Suck Out the Poison: San tries this with Moro's bullet wound. It apparently didn't work, as Moro later says the bullet is still inside, slowly killing her.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: A brief moment. Ashitaka takes a turn on the bellows that work Iron Town's forges (which are so large that they require whole crews of women pushing with their legs) and demonstrates that he's very strong even without using his demon arm by doing the work of a whole crew and then some. Toki admits that she's impressed, but tells him that he'll never keep up that pace for long. Ashitaka agrees, "It's hard work," and when he does so, he's already winded.
  • Talking Animal: The animals of the forest talk to one another, and to Ashitaka and San. Yakul cannot speak but still seems to be able to communicate with San.
  • Tap on the Head: Ashitaka ends the fight between San and Lady Eboshi by knocking them both out with a couple stiff shots to their respective abdomens. To be fair he is imbued with superhuman strength.
  • Technicolor Eyes: Despite the realistic design for human characters and the action taking place in Japan, both Ashitaka and San have blue eyes. Could be Hand Waved in case of the prince, since he's Emishi (still highly unlikely), but not even the flimsiest excuse exists for San.
    • Her hair having a bit of green in them in certain lighting also stands out.
  • This Means Warpaint: Just before the boars attack the mining town, there's a sequence of them using their snouts to warpaint each others' bodies with mud.
  • The Time of Myths: When the great forest covered all the land... "For this was the time of gods... and of demons."
  • Too Long; Didn't Dub: "Mononoke". Unfortunately, it quickly got Lost in Translation and then went even further with following foreign translations, almost all of them based on the English one.
    • "Tatara" in the Tatara women's work song lyrics. It simply means iron smelter, but would be too long for the song to keep the melody.
  • Tranquil Fury: Ashitaka when striding slowly in to break up the fight between San and Lady Eboshi.
    • When Eboshi tells him how she plans to defeat all the gods with her new guns, he is noticeably angry, but then his right arm moves to attack her by itself. He holds it back and calmly states that he would kill her with his left if he thought it would solve anything.
  • Unbroken Vigil: After Ashitaka awakes the day after his gut shot, San mentions that he should thank Yakul who hasn't left his side the entire time while he was asleep.
  • Unconscious Objector: The detached head of wolf goddess Moro wiggles across the ground and bites the arm off of her Arch-Enemy, Lady Eboshi.
  • Understatement: "A little crisis and they panic!"
  • Unexplained Recovery: Averted. Eboshi tells Ashitaka earlier in the film that it is said that the blood of the Forest Spirit could potentially grant immortality, heal her lepers and cure Ashitaka's curse. It could be said that the Forest Spirit's blood has the power to heal all things, and it ties into the aforementioned 'power to give life/take life away'.
    • It also heals Iron Town's lepers. At least those who first survived Night Walker's destruction of the town.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Eboshi indirectly sows the seeds for the events of the first half by corrupting Nago. Nago further unleashes the doom by cursing Ashitaka towards the end of their battle.
  • Walk, Don't Swim: Ashitaka recommends this to non-swimmer Gonza.
  • Walk on Water: A habit of the Forest Spirit. After the first time he's shot, he briefly sinks into the water, then begins walking on it again as if nothing happened.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: Ashitaka gets two of these moments in the aftermath of his gut shot injury. San has moved him into safety underneath a tree by the forest lake, so the first thing he sees on waking up is the crown of the tree. He tries to get up but falls back because he is too weak. The next time he wakes up is in a bed of leaves in San's cave.
  • War Is Hell: Miyazaki has nothing positive to say about war. Despite some admirable acts of bravery from certain characters, he also shows fields of corpses, soldiers being slaughtered en masse by guns and bombs, decapitations, dismemberment, and innocent civilians being massacred by marauding soldiers.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The animals all want Iron Town gone, and united they could probably wipe it out fairly easily, but that whole "predator-prey relationship" issue creates friction.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Moro, and Eboshi as well. San, being Moro's adopted daughter, is also this. Sure she hates humans, but the only one she really wants to kill is Eboshi.
    • The boars came to the forest to fight for it, but Moro can hear how the woods are screaming under the disturbance their presence causes.
  • Why Can't I Hate You?: San on her opinion of Ashitaka. "I hate him! I hate all humans!" Then when she gets Ashitaka's necklace, "From Ashitaka? For me?... Pretty..."
  • World-Healing Wave: After reattaching the god's head.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Some of the characters do not recognize gold. This is justified by the fact that peasants are extremely unlikely to have seen gold up close before and would be hard pressed to recognize it. However, once Jigo points out it's a gold nugget, a small pack of thugs forms almost instantly and starts following Ashitaka.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Ashitaka knocks out both San and Eboshi to keep them from killing each other.
  • Wretched Hive: Completely subverted, as in the case of the Ironworks the first impression from a distance is highly misleading.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Ashitaka, who is forced to leave his tribe due to the curse. For them, he is dead, even if he manages to lift the curse.
  • Youkai: The forest gods, as well as the kodama.
  • Your Days Are Numbered:
    • Ashitaka is told his curse will eventually kill him, and that his chances of finding a cure are very slim indeed.
    • Moro to some extent. She tells Okkoto that she's dying from Eboshi's bullet.
  • Zerg Rush: The boars' primary method of attack. It works really well at first, until the humans get firearms. In the climactic battle, the humans have the high ground AND are armed with grenades and bombs, so it... doesn't work out very well for the boars.


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