Mononoke Hime Title

Frequently Asked Questions

First of all, a remark: I hate repeating myself so this FAQ will only cover subjects that are not explicitly explained in the movie. For example: I won't go to the trouble explaining here why San attacks Tatara Ba because that becomes very clear if you watch the movie. If you have questions about one of the characters in Mononoke Hime I suggest you try the Important Characters and Places Page first. If you think you have an item that should be in this FAQ just mail it to me. If I decide to include it I'll credit you for it. The same goes for errors you might find.

Special thanks to for the latest info regarding the US name and release of Mononoke Hime.

How do you translate "Mononoke Hime"?

Mononoke Hime is the designation used by other people when they refer to San but how do you translate this? This is not an easy question! Ask 5 different people and you may get 5 different translations and none of them is necessarily wrong.
The Japanese word "mononoke" can either mean "monster" or "spirit". Spirit has to be taken very generally. It can be used to refer to the spirit of both animate (living things) as inanimate(dead things, objects, ...). In all of these cases however it is used in a negative sense so a "mononoke" is a malevolent spirit (or capricious at best) .
In this case, the translation of "mononoke" is somewhere between "monster" and "spirit". In this movie the Forest Gods are called mononoke. Their size makes them monsters and the fact that they can speak and behave as intelligent beings gives them something supernatural hence the monster/spirit mix.
"Hime" can only be translated as "princess". No argument here.
So "Mononoke Hime" translates as "Spiritmonster Princess" or "Monster Princess" or "Spirit Princess" or "Monsterspirit Princess" There simply is no English word that exactly describes mononoke. The best proof of this is that the Japanese themselves can't find a sufficiently correct English equivalent because the English title given by the Japanese to Mononoke Hime is "The Princess Mononoke". If you refer to the Mononoke Hime movie, I advise to either stick to the Japanese title "Mononoke Hime" or the English title given by the Japanese themselves "The Princess Mononoke".

San is human. Why do people call her Mononoke Hime?

San is indeed human but she was raised by a mononoke, i.e. Moro, and fights at their side. This explains the Mononoke part but not the Hime part. There is no indication that San is of royal blood. There is no information whatsoever about her parents' whereabouts or their social status. However, humans, consciously or unconsciously, place themselves above the animals. If a human is part of a group of animals other humans naturally assume that that human is the master of those animals. Since San often leads the attacks against the humans it looks to them that she leads the other mononoke, that she commands them in some way. That is, in my opinion, why they use the word Hime. In reality, San doesn't really command anyone. She is part of the Inu Gami clan but she doesn't lead the Inu Gami and she certainly doesn't lead the other Forest God clans.

Why is the title Mononoke Hime? The movie focuses on Ashitaka, not San.

True. The main character of this movie is indeed Ashitaka and not San. The reason why it is called Mononoke Hime can be found in the past. In the early 80s Miyazaki originally had a story in mind about a princess (a real one) who is forced by her father to marry a mononoke. Unfortunately, that movie never went beyond the stage of the image boards because it was decided that Laputa would be the next project after Nausicaa instead of Mononoke Hime. Apparently, in the late 90s there were resources available to make the Mononoke Hime movie but the story has been changed. It was about a girl who was raised by a mononoke instead of married to one and a new character appeared: Ashitaka. As a matter of a fact, the Ashitaka character has been made so dominant that Miyazaki has considered changing the title of the movie into "Ashitaka Sekki" which can be translated as "The Legend of Ashitaka".

What is the connection with Nausicaa?

"13 years after Nausicaa" state both the trailer and the LD cover. After watching both of these movies one will understand why: this is the second Ghibli movie that focuses on the relationship between Mankind and Nature.

Some similarities:

·         Both San and Nausicaa stand in between the two fighting parties Mankind and Nature.

·         Both movies show the tremendous disrespect certain people have for Nature and its creatures although this is shown more clearly in Mononoke Hime. The quest for the head of the Shishi Gami symbolizes the selfish attempts of humans to secure Nature's treasures for them alone at any price.

·         Both San and Nausicaa can communicate with Nature's creatures. Nausicaa has some limited (semi-telepathic?) form of communication with the giant Ohmu while San has entire conversations with the Forest Gods.

·         Both movies end with some kind of miracle. (Don't know how to describe it otherwise.) In Nausicaa, Nausicaa is being resurrected by the Ohmu while in Mononoke Hime, the Didarabochi heals everything (the forest, San, Ashitaka and the lepers) before disappearing.

Some differences:

·         Although they both stand in between Mankind and Nature, San tends towards Nature. She lives with the Forest Gods and despises humans. San has clearly chosen to fight against Mankind while Nausicaa keeps a much more neutral position. She lives among humans and tries to understand Nature and to communicate that understanding to others in order to ensure some kind of peaceful coexistence.

·         In Nausicaa, mankind has already destroyed most of Earth's old ecosystem and must live with the consequences while in Mononoke Hime they have just started their destruction.

·         The formidable Ohmu in Nausicaa remain unbeaten at the end of the movie. They were in a position to destroy the humans but they didn't. The Forest Gods in Mononoke Hime were defeated and in this movie the humans were victorious. They were in a position to destroy the forest and history learns that they eventually did.

What is Miyazaki trying to tell us with this movie?

Very simple: Watch the movie and judge for yourself :)
What follows is my own interpretation which is, of course, very subjective.
In my opinion, both Nausicaa and Mononoke Hime are two unmistakable warnings that Mankind shouldn't mess too much with Nature. The only difference between these two movies is the point of time that is shown in this destruction process. Mononoke Hime shows the starting point of the destruction process: the beginning of the quest of Mankind to obtain powerful technology and the start of its hunger for raw materials and energy to produce that technology. The Shishi Gami is the personification of the natural balance in a healthy ecosystem. The human's attempts to kill the Shishi Gami is the symbol of the destruction of the natural balance in Japan's ecosystem by the hands of man. As a result of this, Nature starts to wither and will eventually die at some point in time if this continous. Nausicaa shows the situation beyond that point in time. The movie depicts a hypothetical future in which Nature as we know it has been destroyed, and it shows the desperate struggle of Mankind to safeguard what little of friendly Nature is left.
Mononoke Hime says: "Look what we have done already."
Nausicaa says: "Look at what will happen if we continue."

When does the story take place?

It takes place somewhere between mid 14th and mid 15th century during the Muromachi Era. It is around that time that firearms were introduced to Japan by Portuguese sailors. That explains why in the movie not all parties have firearms. The Tatara clan has them but the samurai don't.

How long is the movie? On what formats is it available?

The movie is 133 min. In Japan it is available on NTSC VHS and NTSC LD. It is possible that by now also a DVD version is available. I only have precise information on the LD:

·         Price: 7800 Yen

·         Serial number: TKLA-50300

·         2 discs, 3 sides

·         CLV

·         Contains movie (133 min) and commercial trailers (18 min)

·         NTSC

·         Japanese spoken, no subtitles

·         Stereo sound

What other Mononoke Hime goods are available?

Probably tons of them. I'm not going to try to list them all. I'll just limit myself to what I personally have:

CD, Mononoke Hime Soundtrack (by Joe Hisahishi)

·         Price: 3000 Yen

·         Serial number: TKCA-71168

·         Contains all music and songs of the movie.

·         33 tracks

·         Running time: 62m 56s

Artbook, Mononoke Hime This Is Animation

·         Price: 900 Yen

·         ISBN 4-09-101542-5

·         Contains the storyline and scenes from the movie

·         50 pages

Artbook, The art of The Princess Mononoke

·         Price: 2900 Yen

·         ISBN 4-19-810002-0

·         Reads from left to right

·         Contains (among other things):

o        The text of the trailer in Kana/Kanji and Romaji

o        Background illustrations from the movie

o        Sketches and characterdesigns from the characters

o        Chapters about the use of Computer Graphics, Multilayer Composition and Digital inking and painting

o        Image boards

·         223 pages

Artbook, Mononoke Hime Roman Album

·         Price: 1200 Yen

·         ISBN 4-19-720026-9

·         Contains (among other things):

o        The film story with a mixture of moviescenes and image boards

o        A special interview with Miyazaki and the seiyuu of the main characters

o        A chapter about the Staff

o        Early characterdesigns

·         130 pages

Artbook, Set of two hardcover picture books

·         Price: 1500 Yen each

·         ISBN 4-19-860762-1 and ISBN 4-19-860763-X

·         Contain the the storyline and scenes from the movie

·         All Kanji have also Hiragana readings

·         114 and 122 pages

Postcards, Mononoke Hime Card Collection

·         Price: 857 Yen

·         ISBN 4-8203-9658-7

·         Book with 32 postcards containing keyscenes from the movie

What are the lyrics of the song and how do you translate them?

Japanese lyrics

Haritsumeta yumi no furueru tsuru yo.
Tsuki no hikari ni zawameku omae no kokoro.
Togisumasareta yaiba no utsukushi.
Sono kissaki ni yoku nita sonata no yokogao.
Kanashimi to ikari ni hisomu makoto no kokoro o shiru wa mori no sei.
Mononoke tachi dake.
Mononoke tachi dake.

English translation

The quivering string of a stretched bow.
The moonlight moves your heart.
The beauty of a keenly sharpened blade.
Its edge resembles thy face in profile very well.
The forest spirits know that your sincere heart is hidden behind sorrow and hatred.
Only the mononoke.
Only the mononoke.

Remark: please keep in mind it is always very difficult to capture the correct atmosphere when translating song lyrics. My knowledge of Japanese is far from perfect and English isn't my native language. That is why I chose to stick to a more literal translation instead of trying to capture the atmosphere of the song into English words.

Is it true that Disney is going to make an English version?

Yes, it is. Originally there were plans to call it "The Legend of Ashitaka". That way they avoid the problem of translating Mononoke and questions such as to why the movie focuses on Ashitaka while, according to the title, the main character is San. As it turned out Disney chose (or was forced to choose) the English title the Japanese gave to this movie "Princess Mononoke" which also avoids the tricky part of translating Mononoke.

When will Disney release Mononoke Hime in the US?

It is not that hot a topic for me since I already have the original Japanese version. Complete and uncut, 100% guaranteed. ^_^. It was released in the US around the beginning of November and will probably run for several weeks.

Why did the Tatari Gami attack Ashitaka's village?

There is no indication that he deliberately chose to attack that particular village. It was just coincidence that his mad run led him there. If you don't like the word "coincidence" you may replace it with "fate".

Is Ashitaka Kaya's elder brother?

No. Although she calls him "Ani-sama" which translates as "elder brother" she is not his sister. However, the fact that she calls him like that indicates that they are very close.

How did Ashitaka obtain his supernatural strength?

It is a side effect of the curse. The Tatari Gami Curse will eventually kill its bearer but at the same time bestows a part of the Tatari Gami's strength and hatred upon him. Each time the bearer is in a state of anger the Curse will amplify that anger together with the bearer's physical strength to make it easier to destroy the cause of that anger (and to cause a lot of harm at the same time). This way the victim starts to act as a Tatari Gami himself: taking revenge upon and destroying the source of his anger/hatred. On the other hand this reaction also seems to be triggered by the presence of the person(s) who are directly responsible for the Forest God's transformation into a Tatari Gami even if the bearer has no particular grudge against them. Examples of this are:

·         When Ashitaka spots the Shishi Gami for the first time, the mere sight of the Forest God who refused to heal Nago, triggers the Curse.

·         When Eboshi reveals the secret of the bullet found in the Tatari Gami, Ashitaka's right arm involuntarily tries to pull his sword. Ashitaka can barely control it.

Fortunately, Ashitaka quickly understands the nature of the Curse ("Everybody look! This is the Curse of Hatred that destroys the body and invites death!") and is able to control it, bend it to his own will and use it to his advantage.

Where the Shishi Gami's feet touch the ground plants sprout and die off again. What does this mean?

This symbolizes the Shishi Gami as both giver and taker of life.

Why did San plant a young twig near Ashitaka's head?

It is a gift for the Shishi Gami. By planting a twig near Ashitaka's head, San asks the Shishi Gami to save Ashitaka's life and take the twig's life in return. That way the balance is maintained.

Did they kiss?

It all depends on your definition of kissing. Because Ashitaka is still too weak to chew the meat, San chews it for him and brings it from her mouth into his mouth. Fact is they have touched lips. However touching their lips was in this case not an expression of love but for the purpose of exchanging food. We can't be sure about the emotional value for both of them. Ashitaka showed some reaction but that was more out of surprise. However he didn't object so the feeling must not have been an unpleasant one. San on the other hand took her time before their lips parted again so it is possible that besides feeding Ashitaka she did some experimenting. Be that as it may, the movie clearly leaves it to the imagination of the viewer so you'll never be absolutely sure.

Why did the samurai attack Tatara Ba?

Primarily because their lord wants his share of the iron the Tatara clan produces but he is also after the ishibiya technology.

Is the Didarabochi dead?

It was touched by a ray of sunlight so it died. However, as Ashitaka stated, the Shishi Gami is both life and death so it is possible it will revive again in some way or another. It is possible that it already has revived because by using its lifeforce to heal the forest (among other things), it continues to live through the forest. The appearance of a Kodama at the end of the movie is an indication of this.


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This page was last updated on November 28, 1999