“It’s over. Everything’s over. The forest is dead.”
“Nothing is over. The two of us are still alive.”
– San & Ashitaka, Princess Mononoke
“We’re done for! Once the forge burns, that’s it! That’ll be the end of Iron Town!”
“We’re still alive, Koroku! We’ll manage somehow!”
– Koroku & Toki, Princess Mononoke
I’m afraid I just couldn’t decide between these two quotes, in the same movie, that say the same thing.
There is a great deal of death and destruction in Hayao Miyazaki’s classic, Princess Mononoke. It features multiple sides fighting to dominate the same things. The humans of Iron Town want to clear the forest so they can get at the iron ore in the sand and make their living, and the animal gods of the forest protect it. The humans of Iron Town are also threatened by a vast army of invaders led by a neighboring lord. A monk, of sorts, leads a band of ruthless hunters and mercenaries in the act of killing the greatest forest god of them all, in hopes of a great reward. There’s plenty of bloodshed on all sides, and when the monk actually succeeds, things get even worse. An untold tide of death sweeps everything away before it, and all anyone can do is flee.
Everything was already on the brink of collapse before, but now everything and everyone is at risk of ultimate, immediate destruction.
It’s only natural for people to sink into despair. San sees her beloved mother die, and then the forest they fought so hard for dies all around them. Koroku sees the black wave of death sweep through the home that he and others also fought very hard for, and sees it go alight in flame, along with so many friends. Both are on the brink of succumbing to the agony of murdered hopes.
But Ashitaka and Toki know better, and lift their respective love interests up, as couples do. Whatever they have lost, whatever they are still losing, they’re not dead yet. They are alive. And where there is life, there is hope. All that matters in that moment is that they pick themselves up and keep going, keep surviving. Together, they can endure even this.
I’m sure you can see why I find that so inspirational. It’s exactly what we need to remember when we are knocked down, in the most devastating of ways: get up, keep going. As long as we are alive, we can keep going. Nothing can stop us.