Studio Ghibli fans, or followers of the career of Hayao Miyazaki, will know that as well as being the famous animator and creator of films like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, Hayao was also an illustrator and writer of manga. I recently read perhaps his most influential manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. In this Nausicaa manga review, I hope to bring some of this great work to life in the hopes that you’ll make time to read it.
If you are like me, and had only enjoyed the animation of Miyazaki, then this multi-volume manga is the perfect place to start expanding your palate.
When we begin this story, it is hard to believe that Nausicaä, princess of the small kingdom called The Valley of the Wind, will later be known as a goddess of death and destruction. What’s more difficult to believe, is that this death and destruction will be necessary, and become something of a relief.
Yet, before she is a revered angel, Nausicaä is simply the naïve child who has much thrust upon her in a post-apocalyptic world.
As a teenager, she inherits the throne from her sick father, and becomes embroiled in the war–a world war, really–between Torumekia and Dorok. On one side is the corrupt political royal family running the Torumekian Empire, who can, for all of their flaws, boast one respected warrior princess of their own, Kushana. On the other side are the ancient brothers who serve an even more ancient evil, and utilize science and sorcery, while their own people suffer.
Nausicaä, herself, has a gift. As I may have mentioned previously, the young princess has the ability to connect with the insects who have overrun the world. Specifically, she has a strong kin to the ohmu, the most powerful and sage of these insects.
Already wise beyond her years, she learns through communing with them, that there can really be no winner in this conflict. Human beings are mere bystanders in a cycle of cleansing that Nature must exact. Although, history tells her that human beings were the catalyst for much of what goes on in the first place. As I read, biblical phrases such as ‘beat your plowshares into swords’, and this from Leviticus, repeated in my head:
I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted.
When the war of empires does eventually end, it is not because of any olive branch, or any decisive battle. Only the Daikaisho, which is the wild spreading of poisonous forest and insect miasma, can put a hold on human affairs, as both Torumekia and Dorok are threatened with annihilation.
At the culmination of this wrath, Nausicaä, now a messianic figure, appears to die among the ohmu she loves.
However, in true Japanese style, the princess will return, grow in psychic abilities, and eventually take control of a giant God Warrior. Although this is an organic bond, the only thing to compare it to, really, is the ‘giant mech’ anime which Miyazaki himself has been a strong critic of, where child characters pilot huge robotic fighters. The God Warrior listens to his ‘mother’ Nausicaä, but is tough for anyone to control due to its original purpose and programming in bygone days—destruction.
When the God Warrior is revived, his new purpose is to aid Nausicaä in her quest.
Following the Daikaisho, she finds herself in a race against the king of Torumekia to confront the mysterious Master of the Crypt, the power behind the Dorok throne, and keeper of many secrets of their world.
The phrase ‘all will be revealed’ was invented for a story like Nausicaä. The death and rebirth of their world, sins of the past, and the engineered future that the ancients planned, is all set before the reader’s eyes. When Nausicaä comes face-to-face with the Master of the Crypt, will she accept his eons-old status quo, or reject him, making a decision that will define her generation of humans forever?
Now, even though I have given you something of a blow-by-blow, it is still hard to capture all the struggle, mysticism, and pathos of this manga. Miyazaki is not afraid to kill his characters either, so prepare yourself.
Are you ready to strap in for a thousand or so pages of classic graphic content? Remember to read from right to left, respect the environment, and to trust in the girl clad in blue. When you get to the end, you might even find you’ve fallen in love with her.