Miyazaki: Fierce gods and Mankind

The clash of the fierce gods and mankind

In this work, samurai, lords, and farmers who usually appear in period dramas hardly show their faces. Even when they appear, they are very much in the background.

The primary focus is on individuals unseen on the grand stage of history and on the furious deities of the mountains. They include the technicians, laborers, blacksmiths, iron sand collectors, and charcoal makers of the iron-making group called Tatara. Additionally, it includes transporters who rely on horses or cattle. They are armed and have created their own organization, which can be described as a factory handcraft industry.

The enraged gods opposing the humans appear as wolves, boars, and bears. The key god in the story is a completely fictional creature with a human face, beast’s body, and tree-like horns. The young male protagonist is a descendant of the Emishi, who were wiped out by the Yamato regime in ancient times, while the female protaganist bears a resemblance of a certain type of clay figure from the Jomon period.

The central settings are secluded divine forests and the Tatara sites akin to iron-manufacturing fortresses. The customary period drama landscapes—castles, towns, and agricultural villages—merely serve as backdrops. Instead, the goal is to recreate pure nature: deep mountain valleys, abundant and clear flows, fine dirt roads without gravel, plenty of birds, beasts, insects, a landscape of Japan in an era without dams, deeper forests, and far fewer people.

The purpose of these settings is to shape a more free group of characters without being bound by the common sense, preconceptions, and prejudices of traditional period dramas. Recent studies in history, folklore, and archaeology have shown that this country has a much richer and more diverse history than the images generally circulated. The poverty of period dramas is largely created by film performances. The Muromachi period, which is the stage for this work, was a world where confusion and flux were everyday occurrences. From the top-down structure that began with the North and South Dynasties, the flamboyant style of Basara (excess in dress, behavior, and consumption in 14th century Japan), the rampant villains, and the chaos of new arts, today’s Japan was formed. It was an era starkly different from the organized warfare of standing armies depicted in Sengoku dramas, and from the intense commitment of Kamakura-era samurais.

This narrative situates itself in a more ambiguous transitional period where the lines between samurais and peasants were blurred, and women were represented as more liberal and unrestricted, much like in the paintings of artisans of the time. The stark contours of life and death were evident in such times. People lived, loved, harbored hatred, toiled, and passed away. Life was anything but ambiguous.

The meaning of creating this work toward the chaotic era of the 21st century lies there. It’s not about trying to solve the problems of the world as a whole. There can be no happy ending in the battle between the raging gods and humans. However, even amidst hatred and slaughter, there are things worth living for. There can be wonderful encounters and beautiful things.

We depict hatred, but it’s to depict that there is something more important.

We depict curses to capture the joy of liberation.

What needs to be illustrated is the boy’s understanding of the girl, and the process of the girl opening her heart to the boy. The girl will probably say to the boy in the end,

“I like Ashitaka. But I can’t forgive humans.”

The boy should smile and say,

“That’s okay. Please live with me.”

That’s the kind of movie I want to create.

Hayao Miyazaki


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