It all starts like this: an infected animal meets a human being, the virus spreads and boom, a pandemic starts. Okay, maybe it didn’t exactly go that way in Princess Mononoke but the similarities between this movie and with the COVID-19 pandemic we have right now are worth taking note.
How did they handle such an astronomical problem? Let’s break it down one character at a time.
First, we have Ashitaka, the “mediator.”
Ashitaka is probably the wisest of all the characters in Princess Mononoke but remember that he didn’t start out this way. He’s an admirable warrior before the infection, yes, but he wised up through experience having lived as a human, getting infected by a Demon, being healed by the Deer God, and having seen the situation at Iron Works.
Ashitaka, therefore, understood what every party is fighting for and stubbornly tried to mediate for everyone’s sake. He became a gateway for important information. He talked to Lady Eboshi about the destruction her iron is wreaking into the forest, told her that the Deer God is not the enemy. He taught the people how to handle the infection and told the wolves keeping San is wrong because she is a human. He wanted peace so he fought for it.
In a way, Ashitaka is like our scientists who keep warning us about climate change, about a possible pandemic YEARS back but we didn’t listen and look where it got us.
Next we have our fierce warrior, San.
San is the forest’s little child. She grew up among the wolves, lived as a wolf herself and is unerringly loyal to this life. She’s made it her mission to end Lady Eboshi and her iron business. She fought for and fought with the animals be it wolf or a different tribe.
San is the modern-day environmentalist, a passionate advocate of nature and is ever ready to face-off with the power-hungry capitalists like Lady Eboshi.
Speaking of Lady Eboshi, she’s the third character we’re going to talk about and she represents the capitalists.
Just like any ‘well-meaning’ capitalist, Lady Eboshi gave a home and jobs to “helpless” ladies and laid-off men via her iron business. Yes, she had good intentions, but she has greedy ones as well. It’s a set-up that perfectly offsets the good and the bad: she’s ruining the environment but she’s providing shelter to thousands of people.
Fourth is the Scout Leader, a quiet but intellectual player.
He gathers intel on all sides before he makes a plan. He notes of each and everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and proceeds to use them to his benefit.
The scout leader and the scouts represent the government (or at least the government’s minions) who often collude with the rich (aka Lady Eboshi aka the oligarchs and the capitalists) to achieve their selfish goals to attain more power. These two players hold the most control but their greed often result in internal conflicts that create more problems.
Fifth and last are the villagers, victims of the power struggle between parties that just wouldn’t listen to each other.
In the end, it was San and Ashitaka (aka the environmentalist and the scientist) who saved the day. But what’s the resolution at the end of all this? The answer is: no one wins.
The Deer God died, destroying everything in its wake at first but eventually healing the land with his own life. Maybe this COVID-19 situation is Earth healing itself of man’s depravities.
San left because she still couldn’t stand to be with the humans—an understandable reaction for she saw how evil man is and how could she live as anything else when this is all the life she’s ever known?
Ashitaka chose to live at Iron Town but promises to visit San at the forest, ever the mediator just like our scientists who spend their lives serving as bridge between the human race and nature.
Lady Eboshi lost her arm and her iron business, a great setback I would say, but she’s not a capitalist for nothing. She will rebuild, she said so herself, and maybe she will change some of her ways but humans have a tendency to forget and repeat the same mistakes over again.
The obvious conclusion is that the cycle repeats itself.
But that shouldn’t stop us from trying. You can be any one of these players but remember that nobody is perfect in this scenario or in the actual COVID-19 pandemic. You can choose the best aspect of each character and apply it to real life. Your contribution, whether big or small, matters.
Humans may be a hopeless bunch but fear not—we are also resilient. We will always find a way to survive just like the characters in Princess Mononoke did. ◾