“Personally I am very pessimistic,” Miyazaki says. “But when, for instance, one of my staff has a baby you can’t help but bless them for a good future. Because I can’t tell that child, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have come into this life.’ And yet I know the world is heading in a bad direction. So with those conflicting thoughts in mind, I think about what kind of films I should be making.”
How Studio Ghibli Makes A Hero A Shadow
- Princess Mononoke (1997) directed by Hayao Miyazaki
- Lady Eboshi outline
Process & Style:
- Traditional 2d cel animation with 20 mins of computer assisted animation
- First Ghibli film to incorporate digital colour
- Realistic Attributes – Grounded in reality
- Reflects complexity of characters
. Once there, Ashitaka encounters Lady Eboshi, a strong leader dedicated to protecting her people from neighbouring hostile forest spirits and warlords with the use of iron guns, a new and deadly technology. Lady Eboshi confesses that it was her guns that drove the boar-god to madness. She is sorry for the suffering she has caused Ashitaka, but does not apologize for her desire to destroy the forest spirits. She believes that out of the forest’s destruction she can build a better world for her people
Hard-working people have been doing it…
…After all, this film is just reenacting what humans have done historically. After Shishi Gami’s head was returned, nature regenerated. But it has become a tame, non-frightening forest of the kind that we are accustomed to seeing. The Japanese have been remaking the Japanese landscape in this way.
While doing some research on Princess Mononoke, I came across an interview with Hayo Miyazaki about the film and his thoughts on some of the characters, including Lady Eboshi.
The interview has been translated on a Studio Ghibli fan site here: http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/interviews/m_on_mh.html
In the interview, he talks about Eboshi’s back story.
“I thought up a story that she was a wife of a Wako boss (Japanese pirates/smugglers who raided the Chinese and Korean coastlines)”
“What Eboshi is trying to do is to build a paradise as she thinks of it.”
He infers that establishing Iron Town is a reaction to her previous life as a smuggler’s wife. This could be because she was abused, explaining her sympathy and respect for the sex workers that she’s employed and empowered in Iron Town. However this doesn’t account for her sympathy for the leppers. Perhaps she’s just an accepting person with a place in her heart for the outcasts of society?
Although she’s a wise and reserved character, she has a lot of hate inside her that she takes out on the forest; A profitable use of her demons. Perhaps this back story is the source of her un-wavering drive?
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.
Movement is crucial to making us believe something is alive.
Movement should tell you a lot about a character, so what can I tell about Lady Eboshi by thew way she moves?
- The first scene we meet her, she is standing upright, relatively still amongst a lot of chaos, overseeing her people.
- She holds her ground, unflinching as a giant wolf mauls its way through her men towards her, timing a shot perfectly to fire at point-blank. Her movements are calculated and sure.
- This contrasted with her men fleeing and being dragged by spooked cattle.
She is fearless, determined and decisive.
- Her next appearance is brief and again, her movements are sparing.
- She stands elevated above the characters she’s speaking to.
- She never turns her body, only her head to face them. She raises her chin and turns her head away before swiftly walking off. Ashitaka is left in awe.
This reminds me of the scene we first see the Forest Spirit. The spirit walks across the frame in between some trees before pausing to turn its head to face Ashitaka before promptly walking off. There is the same sense of power with each of these characters.
She’s someone who doesn’t need to move a whole lot to tell who she is. Her lack of movement and body language tell us all we need to know.
Her facial expression is interesting as she seems to have a petetual scheming smirk on her face, be it in polite conversation, in a fight for her life or just after having her arm bitten off. This constant subtle grin gives the viewer the impression that she’s one step ahead of the game – which is more or less where she is more or less over the span of the entire film.
The workshops this week focused on walk cycles and character design, both of which I enjoyed throughly. The walk cycle session put the pressure on stepping up the complexity of the hand drawing on a much larger frame count than the other sessions. It put my ability to draw consistently to the test more than normal, that being something that I struggle with sometimes, but all went fairly well. The walk looked fine, but if you looked closely, you could see the claves shrink as they left the floor. Next time I’ll have to keep an eye on the limbs and make sure they maintain their size.
I was pleased with the outcome of character design and feel I’ve made something I quite like and want to progress with. The character is distinctive and amusing with their enormous nose. I’m not entirely sure about the religious iconography because I don’t want to upset anyone, but I like him being in a spiritual leadership role. It fits his his ‘holier than thou’ look and attitude with the turned up nose and head rocked back. I still like the idea of the character being a witch, but I want to see how they would look as a polititian – that’s another good possible role.
Life drawing this week was an improvement for me, I enjoyed the focus on tone. One task was to use chalk on black paper and mark only the higlights of light on the model without any outline. This isn’t something I had tried before, but I was supprised and pleased with the result. Its amazing how much can be infered by so little drawing. However, I do need to start speeding up with the 2 mins and less drawings, I found myself with a few unfinished sketches.
As for character research, I chose the character Lady Eboshi from studio Ghibli’s ‘Princess Mononoke’. She’s always been a character that’s stuck in my mind since I first watched it when I was small. I never knew where I stood with her when I was younger, she is a great example of blurring the lines between black and white, good and bad. I’m sure there’s a lot to learn about her.