All right, so I wrote a big long intro to my blog before Safari forced me to "force reload" all the web pages I was on. I blame the new Facebook update because it was terrible. As a result, I'm gonna edit this out later and include most of the introduction I originally wrote after I post the blog.
My first assigned writing for my Visual Japanese Media course is due today. Based on the book Monster Theory and a class viewing of Princess Mononoke, I'm to analyze the visual elements of the tatarigami (or cursed boar god, who should have a character page along with most of the other Mononoke characters) and explain which visual elements make him monstrous. Most of my writing is tied back to Cohen's Monster Theory, so forgive me if the writing doesn't make perfect sense. I'll do a write-up on the seven theses of Monster Theory and eventually edit it into this introduction, though.
Also, I'd link a clip of the introduction of this creature, but it's literally the first three or four minutes of the film I'm discussing; nobody's uploaded a clip of it that isn't just the full film. If you're looking for a refresher, pop in the DVD or find a stream; the tatarigami only exists in the first scene. Here's a picture of our buddy before I go full-bore, though.
Every visual element of the tatarigami conveys the monstrous qualities it bears for the storyline. The first visual image we receive of the monster (just after the sun is clouded) is the rotted, eel-like cursed tentacles that have sprouted from the boar god seeping through a short stone wall. Already, we’re witnessed the monster defying our natural defenses, and the image of the tentacles either calls to mind snakes (a more Western fear, though also related to the traditional dragon Yamata no Orochi) or maggots (which recall disease.) In the next shot (after trees begin to rot,) we do receive a close-up of the tentacles to prove to us that they also are not snakes (or any other creature we’re familiar with) and they will continue to rot and grip onto anything they come in contact with. Through these tentacles, the tatarigami makes itself clearly dangerous without even showing us its full visage.
The beast then tears through the stone wall, and we are introduced most of its visual elements. Possibly the first one we notice is the fact that it seems to have very fluid dimensions as its head simply slides from a traditional mammalian structure of “head to neck to chest” immediately downward to below the (possibly longer) neck, which removes some of our ability to consider the tatarigami mammalian (which, when we find out he is the boar god, recalls its savage nature and adds to its monstrosity.) The creature is different from anything we’re familiar with, and the fluidity of its physicality is a trait that belongs to any species in the animal kingdom; tatarigami seems outside the realm of our reality.
The next visual element is the tatarigami’s glowing red eyes; this physical trait is a well-known trope of demons from eastern or western culture, with demons representing the inherent malevolence of the beast. Similarly, its many, many limbs call to mind spiders. While spiders in Eastern mythology call to mind Arachne or Anansi, more relevant again in this situation would be the Tsuchigumo or the seductive Jorōgumo; spiders are associated with trickery and lust. In this sense, the tatarigami subtly recalls the evil of man, as we cannot look at demons we create without looking at demons within us. When we discover that the source of the demon is a creation of man (Lady Eboshi’s bullet) it cements this concept.
Ultimately, most of the monstrosity of the tatarigami is in its visual design. It moves extremely quickly, it rots nature around itself, and it does intend to attack people within the village, but, ultimately, its actions merely infect Ashitaka with monstrosity. There is little horrific tension involved in the tatarigami’s assault, and although the monster does infect Ashitaka and “live on” in that sense, it does not “escape” quite as well as Cohen’s “Monster Culture” might desire. But visually, it recalls many elements of monstrosity outlined in said essay, and little about the visual design of the tatarigami is not monstrous.