Studio Ghibli is known for creating fantastic worlds and characters in their movies. This even includes the antagonists, as some of them were never portrayed as truly evil. Among all of them, Lady Eboshi from Princess Mononoke stood out. She is by far the most complex character Studio Ghibli has ever put out in the role of an antagonist. Hence, a lot of fans wonder if Lady Eboshi is really a villain.
It is natural to feel torn about her. Yes, she is considered an antagonist because she opposed the protagonist, Ashitaka, in the film. But being an antagonist does not necessarily mean that they’re villainous or evil. In this article, a run-through of who Lady Eboshi is will be able to answer fans’ confusion about her moral compass.
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Leader of Irontown
Irontown is the human village Ashitaka got to encounter during his journey. This is where he get to meet the highly esteemed Lady Eboshi. The way everyone in the village respected and revered her so much gives an idea on how she leads her people. The state of the villagers seemed happy, they even welcomed Ashitaka with an air of cheeriness and fascination. They also give off a carefree air, so Irontown did not seem oppressive.
The villagers who welcomed Ashitaka are mostly women. These women were said to be former prostitutes, and Lady Eboshi brought them to Irontown. Lady Eboshi gave them jobs in forging metals for weaponry. These women seemed fine to be working at the forge, in which it is safe to assume that they were possibly forced to work in brothels before. It is clear that Lady Eboshi brought them freedom and a sense of empowerment when they moved to Irontown.
Aside from women, lepers are also present in Irontown. They also have jobs in crafting weapons, so they also work at the forge. They are in-charge of refining and crafting the guns. Despite their condition, they were still given jobs – an important one, as well. They are also being well taken care of. A leper acknowledged that Lady Eboshi is the only one who had not abandoned them. She, too, gave them a sense of empowerment that despite their illness, they are not completely useless in society.
Lady Eboshi’s Goal
Lady Eboshi is dedicated to improving and protecting Irontown. This is why she made herself an enemy of the forest and the nature spirits. She continues to destroy the environment for the sake of sustaining Irontown. It is a basically sacrificing nature in order to progress human development. Lady Eboshi has a goal of making Irontown to a bigger place. Blacksmithing weapons also served as the village’s driving economy, so she is intent on getting more resources from the forest. She wanted to gain more power so that Irontown can be strengthened.
Lady Eboshi’s Actions
Lady Eboshi’s goal can be considered typical from a leader of a village. She wants it to grow, and in turn, wants her constituents have more comfortable lives. By doing this, she relentlessly destroys the forests and fights the nature spirits. One of the reasons why Irontown is crafting weapons is for her disposal during her battles with nature spirits. She even has the ambitious goal of killing the Forest Spirit and did not look intimidated by it. This goal could have been encouraged by Jigo, an opportunistic monk. Yet at the end of the day, Lady Eboshi still made the conscious choice to kill the very spirit that sustains nature.
We can say that Lady Eboshi can be ruthless when there are factors opposing Irontown, which can be rooted from her genuine desire to protect it. Her ability to trample on the forests without remorse is rooted from her desire to make the village stronger and powerful. Her intentions can be perceived as noble, but her actions can be questionable. She disregards the lives of inhabitants in the forest, which prompted the forest to retaliate. She also made Nago, the boar king, die with a curse that eventually inflicted Ashitaka.
Lady Eboshi’s Remorse
Lady Eboshi, while initially not showing much remorse, underwent character development. When the assassination of the Forest Spirit happened, it destroyed everything in its surroundings. This included Irontown, unfortunately. This incident forced Lady Eboshi to reflect on her actions. In the end, she made it her goal to rebuild Irontown in a better way. She acknowledged her ruthless actions, and is seemingly on the path of self-improvement. This alone is a telling factor of Lady Eboshi’s character.
Ashitaka, the protagonist she opposed earlier, decided to help rebuild Irontown and live in it too. This alone tells us that Ashitaka sensed Lady Eboshi’s genuine willingness to change. She is now willing to consider the environment on pursuing her goal of progress.
So, is Lady Eboshi a villain? Is she evil? No. She is a complex character that cannot be labeled as black or white. She is more of an anti-hero whose morality is in a gray area. She is perceived as an enemy to the forest, but a hero to the humans. Her goal to secure Irontown and her people is valid and good. Her flaw is that she was ultra-focused on her own ambitions to the point of disregarding the environment. One can argue that she remained ignorant of the fact that destroying the nature may also affect her and her people. Her actions inevitably resulted in the destruction of Irontown, which is a smack of reality to her.
In the end, if she’s truly a villainous character, then the Irontown destruction would have embittered her instead. She just acknowledged her shortcomings and accepted her defeat. She’s also determined to rebuild Irontown with better considerations on her part. To conclude, Lady Eboshi is deserving of her position and the immense respect of her people. She will surely lead them to a brighter future.