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.

Ashitaka faces off with Nago

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 gets infected by the demon curse.
Deer God heals Ashitaka’s gunshot wound.
Ashitaka shares a meal with the men of Ironworks, collecting stories about the town and the men’s lives.
Ashitaka helps the women work the bellows.

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 told 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 infiltrates Ironworks, stands on the rooftop.

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 attacking Lady Eboshi.
San with her wolves.
San lending a hand to the Boar Tribe as they fight Lady Eboshi’s army.

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.

Spoken like a true colonizer.

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.

First photo: Scout Leader works on getting into Ashitaka’s good side. Second photo: Scout Leader spies on the Deer God. Third Photo: Scout Leader schools his soldiers on war strategies.

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.

Lady Eboshi shoots the Deer God with the Scout Leader watching by her side. Two peas in a pod.

Fifth and last are the villagers, victims of the power struggle between parties that just wouldn’t listen to each other.

Villagers of Ironworks fleeing the chaos caused by the death of the Deer God.

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.

San and Ashitaka lifts the Deer God’s head as peace offering.

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.

The plants blooming again after the Deer God died.

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?

San leaving Ashitaka.

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.

San and Ashitaka bid goodbye.

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.

Moro bites off Lady Eboshi’s right arm. Poetic justice.
Ironworks burning down.

The Scout Leader gave up but there will always be someone else to replace him.

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. ◾



***

❤️ BONUS GIFS OF ASHITAKA AND SAN ❤️

San stabs Ashitaka, angry that the Deer God died. (For context: the knife she used to stab him with was a gift from Ashitaka himself so in a way this was San throwing Ashitaka’s broken promise to his face, well in this case, heart).
San holds a blade to Ashitaka’s neck but Ashitaka says she’s pretty so San takes a step back, surprised.
Such an iconic scene! San tends to Moro’s wounds with Ashitaka watching behind some logs.
San finally decides to spare Ashitaka’s life.
San feeding a weakened Ashitaka.
More of San wielding a knife against Ashitaka.
Ashitaka watches a sleeping San.
Ashitaka puts a blanket over San.
Ashitaka holds San tight as they offer the Deer God’s head.
Ashitaka carries an unconscious San out of Ironworks, gets shot in the process.
San and Ashitaka riding the wolves, working together to stop the Scout Leader from taking away the Deer God’s head.
San and Ashitaka on the grass after the Deer God’s death.
Ashitaka pleads San to help him save everyone. The rare time San agrees to help the human race. Such is the power of Ashitaka but in the end we know that it’s not enough. San would leave because she has yet to learn how to forgive. In time, it will come, through the help of Ashitaka of course, but Hayao Miyazaki didn’t see fit to include this in the movie because he knew forgiveness takes time.
San and Ashitaka gazing out the new forest.

GIFs and images all mine.