It’s not a very well-kept secret that Japanese Samurai movies tend to translate very well into westerns. Consider “Seven Samurai” and “The Magnificent Seven”, or “Yojimbo” and “A Fistful of Dollars”. Only two examples, but two more than you would think upon first blush.
“Princess Mononoke” is not a samurai movie, but it is a movie with samurai in it. And it strikes me that it would translate very well into a western…to a point.
Imagine Ashitaka as, instead of the Prince of a small tribe, a young man living with his family in a tiny, quiet western town. Their peaceful life is shattered by the arrival of savage American Indians who raid the town and attempt to kill protagonist’s family; his father is shot and wounded, but not killed. The Indians are, barely, fought off. One survives long enough to tell them that they’ve been driven out of their homelands by Irontown, a new town even further out west.
A meeting is held and it’s decided that somebody needs to go down and figure out what’s going on with Irontown, and why out of nowhere they’ve decided to become aggressive and warlike. Protagonist is picked to go, along with sidekicks. When they arrive the scene is strange. Irontown is run mostly by women, and guarded with vast walls. The leader of the town reveals they have been in near constant conflict with a brutal Indian tribe, and the new leader has decided it is necessary to take the conflict out to them in order to protect their town properly. And you have the base conflict: On one hand, a new frontier town who under the leadership of a mysterious woman has decided to go from defenders to aggressors in an effort to protect their land. On the other hand, a dangerous and territorial Indian tribe who are starting to get the idea their days are numbered but aren’t all ready to go off peacefully.
That would be the base of a Mononoke-Western. The third party aggressor is an important of the story, of course. I’m imagining a gang of vigilantes masquerading as federal officers – think something like Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Ride against the Cowboys, a technically federal but practically lawless group who agree to work with the leader of Irontown to help out the Apaches; perhaps the leader of the Vendetta Ride group has a grudge against this particular group of Apaches themselves and wants them wiped out.
Now the really interesting thing is where stuff would change. You may well notice here that the supernatural element of the story is entirely gone; how this would change the dynamics of the characters and the decisions they make, not to mention future story decisions, is a fascinating exercise.
So we have a western based around the idea of an aggressive frontier town teaming up with a bloodthirsty vendetta group made up of outlaws and bandits as much as any real government officials to take down a tribe of violent, territorial Indians, while an outsider worried about the fallout that will hit his own small town tries to mediate the conflict.
I shall have to think on this; there may well be a novel here.