Part X: Eboshi Gozen is an Evil Emperor with Red Lipstick
Eboshi is the woman boss who leads the Tatara-ba. The Tatara-ba is an iron-producing factory (industry) as well as an armed, self-defending commune (military) and Eboshi heads both sides. Part of her character is a veteran who doesn't even fear the gods. She is also an open-minded figure who actively accepts oppressed minorities, such as ex-prostitutes and people who apparently have Hanson's disease (leprosy). Her people adore her.
What's interesting about the Tatara-ba is its unique atmosphere. Of course it has men, but they are totally spiritless. In the Tatara-ba (historically, a place where women were prohibited) the people stomping on and pumping the tatara bellows are women. The people using ishibiya rifles
to defend the camp are also women. Generally, the women here shoulder "male" physical work and military activity. It's the same kind of negative-positive flip as in "Evangelion"--a reversal of male and female social roles. However, we must also note that the women here behave like
men from the Boys' Land. Chewing out their husbands is a piece of cake. "You lazy pig!" They also don't hesitate to aim and suddenly fire at the enemies outside the gates. When the boy Ashitaka arrives from the outside, the women casually surround him and call out, "what a handsome fellow" as if to imitate some kind of sexual harassment. There is even a lighthearted
scene where they tease a large man, laughing together heartily. "You would have been better as a woman!"
However, we must not see this as evidence of a "utopia of sexual equality" or the achievement of "feminist" ideals. The Tatara-ba is a caricature of the traditional Boys' Land. It's a macho, woman-centered society that simply copies the foolishness of traditional 'manliness'. Perhaps for that reason, the women of the Tatara-ba are all aunties with manners like middle-aged men [oyajippoi nori]. In contrast to the Shishi-gami forest where San lives, the Tatara-ba is a society without children or the elderly.
There are some ill present in full-body bandages but they are there as grotesque victims of discrimination, not as a non-working group. (They take part in developing the rifles.) They are dressed in garments for the poor and ill but here there are only adult men and women who are capable of being part of the workforce. This could be called the pinnacle of modernism.
So why is Eboshi Gozen a woman? If the production and weapons groups were led by a man here, the Tatara-ba would appear no different from today's modern society; just the same Boys' Land, or a plain old Evil Empire. Eboshi's sensuous appearance (with deep red lipstick, for example) adds some color to the bloody story-world, and that's it. She isn't an "evil queen," she's more like a masculine "evil emperor." She's the master not of magical spells, but of rifles at the forefront of technology. If we left the story as is and just changed the picture of the character to a male, Eboshi Gozen wouldn't be much different from "Space Battleship Yamato's" Commander Deslar.
In the later half of "Future Boy Conan," Lana and Monsley made peace and became friends. In "Nausicaa," Nausicaa and Kushana continued to oppose each other but left some room to negotiate. The formation of peace negotiations is set up in both of these cases. However in "Mononoke Hime" San and Eboshi are both extremists, living in a world where neither can
understand the other, destined for eternity to tread along parallel lines. Basically they're drawn as a couple of bitchy, short-tempered sisters, and words can't connect between stubborn girls like them. They're bound to keep fighting forever.
Let's remember that generally female monsters [kaijuu] (for example the witches in "Sailor Moon") are the villains in the Girls' Land [aka in girls' anime], and heartless commanders (like "Yamato's" Deslar) are the villains in the Boys' Land. Here, the battle between the Boys' Land and Girls' Land is changed into a fight between the usual "enemy" characters.
One outstanding sequence in "Mononoke Hime" is the direct confrontation scene between Eboshi Gozen and San, which plays kind of like a kaijuu movie parody; San climbs over walls like an animal and flies from roof to roof while Eboshi Gozen mercilessly orders her troops to fire their cannons...what we would expect from the culmination of Miyazaki's work. This kind of scene, which is anything but rare when it features male characters, becomes a bit more interesting as a confrontation between women.
The boy Ashitaka rather stupidly jumps into the rift of the dispute between the women. In "Mononoke Hime," the women fight and the men advise. The women are impulsive and the men are rational; this is symbolized in the scene where Ashitaka picks up the unconscious San and Eboshi in his arms. In "Future Boy Conan," the boy from a "developing nation" (sangokujin)
intermediates on Lana's behalf and overwhelmingly becomes an ally of High Harbor. In "Nausicaa" Asbel, also from a developing country, becomes an ally of The Valley of Wind by cooperating with Nausicaa. Ashitaka on the other hand slips in the gap between the Shishi-gami's forest and Tatara-ba, San and Eboshi, moving back and forth like a cockroach... "There is a demon inside you, and inside the girl!" "You mustn't entrust yourself to hatred any further!" Ashitaka proclaims these ideas triumphantly, a Mr. Smarty Pants from the outside. He's like an honor student who volunteers to mediate in the fight between the two female gang leaders, or like Ultraman, out to preach to the monster and Commander Deslar. However, the story brings forth a rather convenient resolution. The conflict stays the same, and the women on both sides just take a liking to Ashitaka.
San says, "I love you Ashitaka, but I cannot forgive the humans." Even after losing an arm in battle, Eboshi urges her troops: "Let's thank [him]. Somebody go get Ashitaka." Full of himself, Ashitaka keeps showing a good face to both women until the end.
At any rate, if they're just going to be two stubborn women, neither one willing to flinch, at least they should have used this chance to conspire to kill the boy. Thanks to hero-faced guys like him, the anime world has treated women like doormats.