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Fire Bad -- Tree Pretty
Princess Mononoke
This is, indeed, a beautiful production; real eye-candy.

I had no difficulties with the voices -- i particularly liked Billy Bob Thornton, who caught just the nuance with his characterisation that Jack Elam at his most comically villainous brings to live-action films.

The story isn't all that complex, but the characters and their relationships are.

Is the hunter, who wants the head of the Forest Spirit to win a fabulous reward that the Emperor has promised, an evil man? Certainly, many of his actions are what one might call evil or lead to evil, but i'm sure he doesn't think of himself as anything but a business man.

Is the Lady of Irontown, who wants to kill the Forest Gods (demiurges incarnate as huge talking animals) and destroy the forest, so that she can mine ore more easily, evil? Certainly, evil will come of that plan -- but the community she wants the ore to support consists in large part of girls she has rescued from brothels and lepers whom no-one else will take in, whom she has not only taken in but made respected and respectable members of society, which certainly indicates she is something other than evil incarnate.

Are the Forest Gods themselves, turning fang and claw and tusk against humanity and battling in blind fury when nothing else seems possible, evil? Hardly. But they are representative of a way that *must* pass with the coming of humanity, and hard as it seems, their time is over.

Is "the system" evil? Is human civilisation, in and of itself, evil?

Is it possible to reduce the whole issue, as TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer does at one point, to "Fire bad -- Tree pretty", saying that wildness and trees absolutely take precedence over human progress and expansion?

Or, conversely, to assert that, of course humanity's needs take precedence over those of nature and wilderness?

The answer -- to either of the last two questions -- of course, is "No, it isn't." Everything must proceed by compromise, in balance, or we and the world we live in will go down to disaster.

The earlier parts of this film look as if it may turn out to be a pure tree-hugger's "ecology" spiel, but by the end, it is obvious that the survivors (on both human and forest sides) have taken the lessons of their adventures to heart, and are probably going to manage to come to some sort of modus vivendi that will enable both to exist and to interfere only minimally with each other.

Would the real world could learn such lessons.

((BTW -- i didn't read the subtitles, i listened to the English-dubbed version [which is excellent in terms of sound quality and voice selection], and i didn't notice anyone being referred to as "Princess Mononoke" or any variant thereupon. Is the title a descriptive phrase that merely sounds like a character name -- "Princess of the Wolves", or some such -- or were names changed for the dubbed version?))