"The Heroine Image in Anime" by Minako Saitou, Part VIII

The Girl who Penetrated Heroism--"Mononoke Hime's" Failures

Part VII - "Mononoke Hime" is the Battle Between Evil Civilization and Weak Nature

Miyazaki anime critique the Boys' Land and rewrite the Girls' Land. They draw a logical confrontation between the two, and by initially giving victory to the girls, have won the support of adult women--something that is quite rare in anime. However we can't quite say that they show an awareness of the contradictions embraced by hero and heroine images in anime.

This lack of awareness was exposed in Miyazaki's latest film. As soon as "Mononoke Hime" was released in the summer of 1997 it became a great hit, setting new postwar distribution and attendance records. It could very well be considered the pinnacle of Miyazaki's work.

It would be best to say that "Mononoke Hime" is a parody of the Boys' Land and Girls' Land. In that sense it is an extremely interesting work.

"Mononoke Hime" is set not in a post-apocalyptic future, but in a forest land modeled on medieval Japan. We could say it's a return to a "Once Upon a Time..." type fantasy, but the modern vs. anti-modern, civilization vs. nature setting appears even more strongly than in "Future Boy Conan" or "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind". In "Mononoke Hime" the former side is the iron-producing "Tatara-ba" commune and the latter is the Shishi-gami's forest, a commune in a primeval forest where a group of confused animals live crowded together.

Following the examples set so far, the Tatara-ba would be the Boys' Land. Iron production, the pinnacle of scientific advancement, is the camp's occupation. The people manufacture rifles called ishibiya and organize a defense force to protect themselves from invaders. On top of that, they try to hunt down and kill the Shishi-gami, the monster-like deer creature who is the master of the forest. The Tatara-ba residents work within the principles of the Boys' Land, yet the people holding up the supports of the Tatatra-ba are women. Their boss, Eboshi Gozen, is also a
woman.

Following the models we've seen, the Shishi-gami's forest is the Girls' Land. The forest is a magical land, but it's also a little unusual. It's a great land of super-animism where mountain dogs and wild boars, beast-god hybrid-like "raging gods," as they're called, run rampant. The mononoke hime herself, a girl named San, is the lone human. Instead of "kouitten," one woman in a group of men, it is "hitoitten," one human in a group of animals.

Rather than following the long-established models of these "lands," the Boys' Land and Girls' Land that appear here are caricatures [giga] of them. It's inevitable that the heroine in this kind of setting will also become a caricature.

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