Thursday, August 30, 2007

Princess Mononoke: A window into the Soul of Japan

This is one of the presentations I did at Cornerstone Festival in June. "Princess Monoke" is an outstanding anime movie produced by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. My perspective is that the Mononoke story is rooted in Japanese mythology/beliefs and therefore reveals "the soul of Japan."

I don't know if this video, actually a slide show, "works" or not. There is no audio so it is just an outline, but it does include some photos. There are also a couple of technical glitches I know not how to fix. So, it is as it is. If you have seen "Pincess Mononoke you will get something out of this. If you haven't seen it, you probably won't get a thing out of it. If you think it is lame, let me know and I will delete it (two votes for "delete" will probably be enough to get it off this blog). On the other hand, if you think its good, let me know that too.


Scot Eaton said...

I can't really view the video, but I did rent the movie and watch it at your recommendation, and I was astounded! Not only did it display some of the complexities of the Japanese worldview, as you said, but it also had some strong spiritual messages.

I think you may have painted Ashitaka wrong though. I would not consider him a "savior" type character. Instead, I view him in much the same role as Christians are. He was neither on one side nor the other, but trying to mediate peace between the two. He saw the good and the bad in both sides. In a sense, he was "in the world(s), but not of the world(s)", which is the position Christians should often find themselves in. It's not that either side is right or wrong; they are both. And yet, there is another way that we point people to.

I will second Paul's recommendation of this movie to anyone trying to understand the complexities of the Japanese/Shinto worldview and where to begin building bridges from that to what we are trying to share.

Paul Nethercott said...

Thanks Scot for your excellent comment on Mononoke. If readers want to dig deeper into the concept of Ashitaka as "mediator" there is an excellent on "liminality."

The title of the article is:
Between the Worlds: Liminality and Self-Sacrifice in Princess Mononoke

The link is:

One of the interesting aspects to Miyazaki's characters is that they are generally not black and white, good or bad, but complex in their motivations and degree of "goodness."

Michael Hamblin said...

For my part, I might suggest that Miyazaki is reflecting a Buddhist humanism of Japanese culture, blended in artfully with the animistic mythology of Japan. But it might be more appropriate to talk about Princess Mononoke as a reflection of the soul of Miyazaki; while Miyazaki is clearly drawing on Japanese tradition his spiritual and philosophical synthesis is clearly of his own creation.

Further, his views have been far from static during his career. The clearest example of this is the differences between his views in the early parts of the Naussicaa manga and subsequently the anime adaptation of his Manga, and the final chapters of the Naussicaa manga that were finished many years later. Any discussion of the spiritual dimensions of Princess Mononoke, IMO, must look deeply into the themes in Naussicaa which would be more properly considered Miyazaki's magnum opus.

Paul Nethercott said...

Michael thanks so much for your great comment! And, good to be back in touch with you after several years.

I would really like to hear more from you about the soul of Miyazaki. That is a different perspective, and an important one, in terms of understanding Mononoke and Miyazaki's other films.

If you have anything written already please send it to me, if you don't, how about doing some writing on the subject?

Thanks again for your comment. BTW, I followed the link on your name (in your comment) and it seemed to land on a random site with no connection to you...

Warmly, Paul