The overriding theme I got from watching Princess Mononoke today was the blurred lines between good and evil and not just through the character of Lady Eboshi; A good portion of the cast have dubious morals; The wolves and their vicious blood lust for the humans, Jiko and his manipulative endeavour for the head of the forest spirit, the Boar tribe and their blinding hatred and pride, lady Eboshi and her belligerent industrialization and unforgiving progress. There’s a good deal of seemingly terrible characters in this film, but the badge for the antagonist seems to go to Eboshi.
From the beginning, Lady Eboshi and Iron Town are painted as a dark force. The wise woman in Ashitaka’s village professes that “There’s evil at work far in the west” and our introduction to Eboshi and her people is very cold, stark scene; Eboshi, dressed in black and crimson, is overseeing her men driving a convoy of over-loaded cattle through the splintered remains of a forest on a rocky cliffside in the pouring rain. When the wolves attack the convoy, we see that Eboshi is smirking as they are attacked by wolves, even as her people are thrown off the cliff by the chaos. She relishes the fight and gives us grounds to call her blood-thirsty.
But looking at this less superficially, I can see a very different painting. Eboshi is a devoted leader, who wont see her people embark on a deadly journey for the sake of her own progress without joining and protecting them with her own two hands – even if it means risking her own life. It’s bold and noble move for her to take and something she wouldn’t do if she didn’t have any respect for her people.
However, it’s undeniable that the filmakers intention is to serve her to the audience as an antagonist. Most obviously her outfit and colour scheme fit the bill; She sports a dark blue cloak over a deep red robe. She quite often tops it all off with a red hat as well. Blue conitates calmness and stability while red gives off blood, war, power and strength. This is quite fitting for her character as on the face of things she is particularly calm and stable person but on the inside, she is terifically vicious and powerful.