Table of contents

Mononoke-hime 3

Why is the spectacle of nature a political crisis?

It seems to be the case that the core of the story is an investigation into immortality. Ashitaka may be trying to save his life from his deadly curse–or maybe he just wants to learn what it means to die. His early show of piety & fight suggests he does not know anything about killing. Indeed, he seems to be the mourned last prince of a village that needs none.

The Lady, who is named for her military headgear, on the other hand, came to people who needed her to do their work as miners safe from nature. She in turn seems to hold out a twofold promise to people: A science of medicine that will cure lepers &, implicitly, remove all ugliness & shame from human life; & a new science of nature, essentially atheistic, the core of which is the silence of being. She seems to believe that if you destroy all piety concerning nature, then you can get the kinds of powers to save life that people really need.

The story of the Lady, as well as her dress, suggests she turned to savagery in imitation of human savagery. Like San, the princess of the angry spirits, she has no family. San turned savage in imitation of animal savagery. They’re both good fighters, but only society can teach you guile & planning. What seems to be true of nature is that natural beings do not live with a tension between what’s good for them & that at which they’re good. Another way of saying that is, natural beings cannot really be individuals. San does not belong in the forest–she cannot embody the wolf whose fur she wears.

Ashitaka’s name is some combination of pious & confidence. Three times he goes through the sacred grove. First, he is roused to anger & curiosity by the uncanny buck. Then, he’s taken there, unconscious, to heal. Finally, he goes there to see, powerless to act, the desecration humans & monsters perpetrate. This is supposed to show what combination of strength & weakness or activity & passivity is required to see nature.

The buck is uncanny, but its look conceals something, is opaque. The Godzilla monster into which it turns, however, is transparently full of stars. Its look reveals the look of the universe. That’s morality & metaphysics turning into one another.

Now, I can offer an answer to the question, why does this story have to happen, or what does it mean for Ashitaka to be a prince or be confident? He had no right, so to speak, to kill the demon-boar. He had never suffered alike. He is mostly the privileged spectator of the actions to which the women drive each other. This is his education about love.