Hello all, this is your favourite anime loving Aladdin here to take you on a wee magical journey through some of the best Anime has to offer. You see, when we put together the Ghibli+ Double Feature it was out of a love and sense of celebration for this art form and the way Miyazaki brought it to its greatest heights. It is legitimately hard to debate against the statement that Miyazaki is the greatest anime director/creator of all time. So how do we pick what films we showcase? Well it's not random. Every Double Feature we put on explores a common thread between two films. So let's take a look at what our last 2 featured films had in common. On the surface Ponyo and Princess Mononoke appear to be polar opposites. The former a celebration of the absolute innocent joy of childhood and the former an exploration of the unending grey cynicism of adulthood. But I would argue there is more to it than that. To me, the two films are about the responsibilities and traumas of the world and how we approach them at different times in our lives.
Within Ponyo, Souske's situation is actually fairly harsh. His mother is essentially raising him herself because of the near utter absence of his father. He is responsible for himself to a very large degree for someone that young. The film also features a city wide natural disaster in which he is separated from his primary care giver, and an honest to God near apocalypse which all centers around him and his relationship with Ponyo. By the end of the film he and Ponyo are tied together in what could be interpreted as a child marriage. But how does he respond? With a shrug and a "Yup" and on to what he feels he has to do next. He responds the same way most children would to the adult world, that what for the rest of us would be traumatic and daunting, for a child is adapted to and normalized.
In Princess Mononoke we see a similar pattern. A young man has to defend his village and in so doing is fatally cursed. His quest to save his life is impacted by political power grabs, conflicting needs of various populations and the moral ambiguity of the real world away from his isolated village. There's also another near apocalypse. The interesting thing is, for Ashitaka, the impact of these traumas are the grounds for his coming of age. To cure himself he must see what is happening with clear eyes but built into that is this implicit idea of judgement. We see how he quickly realizes that matters are not as simple as "this side is wrong/right" as all sides present him with reasonable motivations for their actions. Unlike Souske, Ashitaka doesn't normalize any of this into his world view, he actively works to try and solve the tangle of problems the various players get themselves into. Because he is older. He is more mature. He is able to recognize danger, trauma and injustice for what they are but more importantly, he is able to learn from them rather than simply accept them as the norm.