Princess Mononoke (project proposal)

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  • Title: "Mononoke Hime" or "Ashitaka Setsuki" [1]
  • Color, Vista, Digital Dolby, 110 minutes
  • Target Audience: Anyone older than 5th grade
  • Time and Place: Rural side of Japan in Muromachi Era (1392-1573)

Purpose of the project

To depict what constructs the unchanged basis of human throughout time, by overlapping the current era which is going through changes towards the 21st century with the confusing era of Muromachi, which went through the process of moving from the collapse of the system in the medieval era towards the modern era.

A period drama woven from the warp: the fight between humans and Mononoke over the head of the God animal, Shishi Shin, and the woof: the meeting and liberation of the girl who was raised by Inugami (Dog God) and hates humans and the boy who is under the curse of death.


Few characters typical of ordinary period dramas, such as Samurais, lords, or farmers appears in this film. If they do appear, they will play really minor roles.

The main characters will be the people who don't appear in the center stage of history, and the raging mountain gods.

They are the steel-making people, called Tatara Mono. They are engineers, laborers, blacksmiths, miners, or charcoal makers. They are porters with horses and cows. They are even armed, and have their own organization, which we can call as manufacturing.

Araburu kamigami (the raging gods) appear in the forms of Yama Inugami (mountain dog god), Boar god, and bear. Shishi Shin, who holds the key to the story, is an imaginary animal with a human face, animal body, and wooden horns.

The protagonist, the boy, is the descendant of Emishi (sort of northern barbarians -ryo) who disappeared in the ancient time, after being defeated by the Yamato government (the "legitimate" Japanese government ruled by the emperor -Ryo). The girl can look like a certain Doguu (clay doll) from the Joumon era (the pre-agricultural era in Japan).

The story takes place mostly in the deep forest of gods which refuses humans, and the Tatara Ba (steel-making place) which looks like a fort.

Castles, towns, or rice fields, which have been the main stage for ordinary period dramas are just distant backgrounds. Rather, we will try to recreate pure nature, the scenery of Japan in the time when there was no dam, when forests were deep, and when we had far less population, with deep mountains, ravines, rich and pure streams, narrow dirt roads without boulders, many birds, animals, and bugs.

The reason for these settings is to depict characters more freely, without being bounded by the existing commonsense, preconceived notion, or prejudice in the existing period dramas. Recent studies in history, anthropology, or archeology show that this country has had a far richer, more diverse history, compared to the generally believed images. The poor images in period dramas have been mostly built by movies. The Muromachi era, the time when this story takes place, was a world in which confusions and changes were the norm. It was the time when today's Japan was formed out of the confusion of rebellions, treason, Basara (sort of macho stuff - difficult to explain -ryo), bandits, and new arts. It is not the era of Sengoku (Warring States - the era after Muromachi), when the professional armies conducted systematic war, or it is not the era of Kamakura (the era before Muromachi), when Kamakura Samurais fought for their lands.

It was more ambiguous, fluid era. There were no clear distinction between farmers and Samurais. Women had more freedom. In such an era, people's life and death were clear-cut. People lived, people loved, hated, worked, and died. A life wasn't ambiguous.

Here lies the meaning of making this film towards the confusing era of the 21st century.

We are not trying to solve the global problems. There can not be a happy ending to the fight between the raging gods and humans. However, even in the middle of hatred and killings, there are things worth living for. A wonderful meeting, or a beautiful thing can exist.

We depict hatred, but it is to depict that there are more important things.

We depict a curse, to depict the joy of liberation.

What we should depict is, how the boy understands the girl, and the process in which the girl opens her heart to the boy.

At the end, the girl will say to the boy, "I love you, Ashitaka. But I can not forgive humans."

Smiling, the boy should say, "That is fine. Live with me."

I want to make such a movie.

April 19, 1995.

Translated by Ryoko Toyama[2]

( ) is added by the translator to supplement the words to make things easier to understand.

This is *not*, by any means, an accurate word for word translation. The translator simply does not have the capability, the patience, or the dictionary for that (excuses, excuses ^^;;).


  1. Transliterated as Ashitaka Sekki and translated as Ashitaka Story in Starting Point 1979-1996, page 272. Miyazaki invented a Japanese character, kanji, for his title creation. His written character is not in dictionaries. It is not part of standard kanji sets and is therefore not always printed the same way. In order to represent a legend transferred through an oral tradition of story telling, "a story told below the tall grass", he compounded the radicals for grass, 艸 (also as 艹), and for ear, 耳, to form a new ideographic character. Frequently other kanji, approximations of its appearance or his intended meaning, such as the kanji for whisper, 聶, are used as substitutes in print. The kanji is frequently accompanied by explanatory furigana, rendered as either せつ or せっ. In Turning Point 1997-2008 the title is printed as in the following image: File:Ashitaka_Sekki.jpg
  2. Ryoko Toyama kindly provided her own translation on the original website. Other English translations of this Mononoke proposal have since then also appeared in print, among other places in Starting Point 1979-1996 (page 272ff).