Antagonist or Hero? The complexity of Lady Eboshi – Princess Mononoke

Lady Eboshi: one of the main characters
from Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke Based on her design, fans speculate that she
might have been a Shirabyoushi Some define Shirabyoushi as prostitutes I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. Yes, some of them were concubines like Shizuka, concubine of the great samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune But that was not their intended purpose. They were entertainers. Not only they danced, they also told tales,
played music, acted, etc. Still, is easy to imagine that before becoming
the manager of Iron town Eboshi must have endured many hardships. A scene that comes to mind, is when Ashitaka
tells her that he came “to see with eyes unclouded” and Eboshi looks perplexed at first and then, she laughs seemingly amused at the idea. That moment, plus her indifference towards
Ashitaka’s curse made me ask myself: “Just what has this woman been through to become
like that?” As the leader of Iron town Eboshi’s a woman
of progress In fact, just being a woman with her role already makes her a revolutionary. In a film set in medieval Japan her views
represent modernization. She cared little about nature fixating only in how she could use
it to her advantage. However, she did cared about people. In times that showed no mercy to lepers and
prostitutes Lady Eboshi took them and built a home with them. Professors Eun Jung Kim and Michelle Jarman
have written about the modern social systems that can be spotted in Eboshi’s Iron Town such as (and I quote) industrialization gendered division of labor, institutionalization of
people with diseases and the militarization of men and women. Lady Eboshi encouraged women to be strong
and take charge. She gave them a hard work, yes, but it was
one that keep them away from the hardships they would have faced with their former profession. She washed and bandaged a group of lepers
that society disregarded as people cursed by “bad karma”. She gave them a place in her secret garden
where they wouldn’t be bothered and where they could keep themselves busy designing
the guns that would aid her in her ambitions. It’s worth to notice that some people might
see Lady Eboshi as exploitative of her people, and it’s true that she use their work to
pursue her goals. But she also treats them with respect and compassion. She has a tough personality but you can notice in her treatment that she values those she
takes under her care. In turn, you can notice it in the way they
speak to her the townsfolk have nothing but love and admiration for her. There’s definitely an exchange going on,
with people working for her and she granting them her protection. And their dependance cement Eboshi in her
position as leader. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, is
debatable. Lady Eboshi’s desire to rule makes sense. As the head of a society of outcast she wants
to take their destinies in her own hands, to take action to improve the quality of their
lives. Her goal also contemplates getting rid of
the enemies of Iron town, like other humans or the creatures of the forest. And one of the biggest obstacles to achieve
that is Princess Mononoke, or San. When you look at Lady Eboshi from San’s
perspective, she’s clearly the antagonist. For San, the forest is her home and its creatures, her family. She respects its sacred deity: The Deer God, whereas for Eboshi, the God was someone to be removed. That way, the creatures would be easier to
handle and the God’s blood could be used to heal the lepers. Lady Eboshi complete disregard for the creatures
and their environment feed the hatred they felt toward humans. At the same time, their violent actions forced
the humans to attack in order to defend themselves. Eboshi wanted the forest resources to protect
her people and herself, which the creature saw as an invasion to their territory. Both sides had the same reasons to fight:
to defend their homes. The creatures wanted to live in peace. And the people that were taking resources
from their homes weren’t bad either, they were hard working people looking for a way
to survive. Yet none of them had any desire to reach out
and understand the other. With the mission of seeing with eyes unclouded,
Ashitaka’s the neutral ground between them. He respected nature and the gods, but he also sympathized with the town’s folk. As he witnessed the hatred consuming both
sides, he yearned for a peaceful solution, a common ground between them. Their conflict torn him apart. Without this conflict, he wouldn’t have
been there in the first place. Eboshi’s gun injured the Board God. Consumed with hatred, he went rampage on Ashitaka’s
village who fought him to defend his people. By killing the God he gained the deadly curse
that brought him to the forest, and to the Iron Town. Lady Eboshi, just like how she saved her people, her actions also brought a lot of pain to others. If she’s aware of that, she’s indifferent. If she isn’t, it’s because she’s too
fixated on her own goals to look beyond that. Eboshi strikes me as the kind of person that doesn’t hesitate to make sacrifices. Yet the creatures don’t care for the other
side either. Other humans want the iron from Iron Town
and if they don’t do anything about it, their fates won’t be too kind. When Lady Eboshi receives the Emperor’s
orders to kill the Deer God, she doesn’t look fazed by his authority. Gods, Emperors, wild beasts: it seems like
there’s nothing Lady Eboshi fears. She goes along with the plan and successfully
kills the Deer God, in spite of San and Ashitaka’s efforts. Her actions compromised the already precarious
balance between nature and modernization, which brings immediate disaster. At one point in the movie, she says “Cut off a wolf’s head and it still has the power to bite”. These words resonate when Moro, the Wolf God
decapitated head, attacks with the last of its strength, leaving Lady Eboshi crippled. When San and Ashitaka retrieve the fallen
God’s head, the God is able to die in peace. But hatred left lost and scars on both sides. After all is said and done, there is a sense
of peace. A sense that there is something to look forward. In a way, it might seems like nothing have
changed. San still resents humans Eboshi still wants to improve the lives of her people. But with the destruction Iron town, I felt a
subtle shift, in Lady Eboshi. In her, there is hope, confidence and strength. There is the promise of a new life and perhaps, an even better home. I believe her scars served to show her that
her approach was too extreme. With her people around her, Eboshi who at one point disregarded Ashitaka’s views about balance and compromise is left with a wish to thank him. And she says it with a smile. It shows that her shortcomings only served
to make her grow into a better person. The article titled “Nature, Technology,
and Ruined Women: Ecofeminism and Princess Mononoke” argues that this is the fall of
Eboshi from grace, the moment where she loses her power to Ashitaka and that she has been
punished for being a female with her role. While I think that’s a very interesting
perspective, I don’t entirely agree. Eboshi’s scars, I believe, was the product
of the hatred that flowed in both sides and, while I think there will be changes in the
town they built along with Ashitaka, who decided to help them, I don’t think that her people’s
feelings have changed. I see that in their concern for her, in the
way they all gathered around her to hear her plans for their future. For me, there’s no doubt that whatever she
decides, they’ll follow. For her people, Lady Eboshi is a hero But I can see how her actions can be seen differently when examined through
different lenses. Like many other characters in Miyazaki’s
filmography, she’s a complex being. Considering our own quest for modernization
and our struggle with taking care of our environment, I would say that the themes of Princess Mononoke and a character like Lady Eboshi are still relevant today.

Comments 20

  • very nice video, keep it up!

  • Ghibli isn't Disney. Eboshi isn't a one dimensional villian like Malificent or Jafar.

  • I agree, Eboshi is the strongest Ghibli antagonist and one of the best female antagonists in the medium, and I think a lot of people don't register this for the reasons you've said here. She doesn't seem like a villain at all, she IS a hero for the side of the humans. I just think she can still be registered as an antagonist simply for the fact that she opposes Ashitaka the protagonist.

    Great start, would really love to see more, I think you seem a lot more grounded than most in our little niche of YouTube, and you look like you have a lot more to say. Looking forward to more from you ^_^

  • Wonderful video essay. I think what is wonderful about the character is that in the end she is very human, and i would say she is neither antagonist nor hero, just rather like in Akira she is a person reacting to situations in the best way she see's fit to help her people the most. Definitely one of my favourite charecters.

  • combined with the theory that she lead the protagonist to Irontown this is even better

  • This doesn't have enough views

  • There is a clear line between good and evil when it comes to a person's actions. That line, however, becomes blur when people are able to see the motives behind those actions. Emotions, empathy, and sympathy… it is bias that blurs the line.

    Before I start, I would like to establish some understanding first. There is something fundamentally different between being good and being right along with being wrong and being evil. Being right is all about balance. And eye for an eye and justice for all. If you take something that you shouldn't have, it is the right thing for you to return something in equal value. Being good on the other hand, is all about being selfless. Your actions are purely beneficial to others and not yourself.

    Take this for example. You and your partner decided to go to a dinner party. You each order your own food and you respectively ate it on your own while enjoying each other's company. When the check comes, the both of you have to decided how you would pay for the meals. Now, the right thing to do is for the both of you to pay for your own respective meal. It is only right because neither of you had any say or any enjoyment in ordering or eating the other person's meal. You are under no obligation to pay for a meal that you neither ate or ordered. However, the good thing for you to do is to pay for both meals. That's because it is a selfless gift to your partner to show them that they matter more to you than a couple of dollars.

    Moving back to the topic at hand, Lady Eboshi is certainly an Antagonist. That's because her intentions and actions are neither good or right. Everything that she does is for herself and her ambition to rule the world and the things she does is far beyond fair. She invaded the life of the forest spirits and leave behind the people who entrust their lives to her. She's even willing to deceive those who's willing to fight for her and endanger their lives in the process. The only thing that is different about her and other villains is that we get to see her reasons. We get to see why she's doing what she does and what her motives are. And in return, we get to sympathize and empathize with her actions. But just because you understand why someone does something, that doesn't justify their actions. Just because you've suffered in life, that doesn't give you the right to bring pain to others.

  • The answer of this video is simple: Eboshi was a good person, but she was ambitious

  • Now this is an objective video that portrays her just like in the movie, not like a certain other YouTube video about her that deliberately cut parts of the movie in order to antagonize her u.u

    I hope this video will get more views!

  • That was nice. Thank you

  • This video is so much better and more insightful than that "Lady Eboshi is Wrong" video that got semi popular on YT a few months ago. Like, duh, her methods are clearly condemned in the movie, but just talking about why she's "wrong" to try to destroy the forest while dismissing what she has done for the downtrodden and outcast people she's built her community around completely misses the point of the film.

  • That was really well rounded, it shows how there is no true good side or bad side o(`ω´ )o more people need to understand this

  • This was really well done, congratulations.

  • I like lady Eboshi even though, she cares little about nature. You can see that, even though she might have done bad things, she can still be good.

  • Great video, well done!

  • This video is how you analyze art , not what innuendo studios made taking advantage of it and manipulate it to put forth their own agenda and naive thinking while ignoring several nuances for the contrary.

  • I really curious about who she is. I mean she knows about sword fighting, how to use a gun, iron and being really wealthy since she bought all the protistues. She's also really strong and independent. Who the heck is she?

  • What if she and San are actually relatives?

  • When I was a kid, I always admired her. a strong person that bows neither to nature, demons nor gods.

  • "Now watch closely, everyone. I'm going to show you how to kill a god. A god of life and death. The trick is not to fear him." Lady Eboshi

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