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

Part IX: San is a Monster in a Girl's Skin

San was thrown into the woods as a sacrifice while still a baby and raised by mountain dogs. Considering that she can communicate with animals it's clear that she is connected to Lana and Nausicaa, but it might not be quite right to call her a magical girl. The "mononoke" (hybrids between beasts and gods) world is San's headquarters, and San herself is something of a "mononoke." So what in the world is a mononoke? If we think about it the answer turns out to be very simple. Mononoke is another name for monster [kaijuu], the same monsters that Anime Land (the Boys' Land) has been using modern logic to dispose of since "Ultraman."

San speaks human language, calls the mountain dog that raised her "mother," wears a white blouse and skirt costume and has earring and necklace accessories dangling. She has fashionable "make-up" (tattoos) on her face and in battle transforms [henshin] into a costume with a Jomon-style mask and a white mane, skillfully wielding weapons, spears and short swords. She
is not just a monster, and in the scene when she appears in the Tatara-ba alone and the people put their strength together to defend the village and kick her out for example, we're shown that she's also more than just a girl.

Crying out, "I'm a mountain dog!" and with only the straightforward determination that "I hate humans!" she dashes headlong into an attack on human society/Tatara-ba. San is a suicidal terrorist and a unique "Pretty Girl-Monster" [bishoujo kaijuu].

The mononoke living in the ancient forest are a society of weaklings; just children and the elderly. The parent who raised San is Moro no Kimi, a 300-year old mountain dog who is just waiting to die. We see Okkotonushi, a 500-year old wild boar, reaching the final stages of his life as a senile old man. Okkotonushi says with regret, "Look at my clan! Everyone is becoming smaller and stupider." Whether it is the boar group, or the ape group, or the kodama forest sprites, all of the mononoke/monsters are, to put it kindly, innocents. To put it badly, they lack intelligence.

So why then is San in the form of a human? There is just one reason--so the boy Ashitaka can fall for her at first sight. She finally makes a human-like expression when Ashitaka shocks her by saying, "Live! You are Beautiful." It's a scene that makes one wonder, what would have happened if she hadn't been beautiful? As the monster-beast she is we could call this a
sort of primal eroticism.

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