Posts Tagged ‘Hiyao Miyazaki’


Nausicaa 0f the Valley of Wind

May 4, 2014

I had been a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s work since first being introduced to it back in the late 1980’s, having seen “Castle in the Sky: Laputa” when it first came to the US and finding his manga in my comic book shop. “Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind” is a powerful cautionary tale of ecology and the human condition. It dives deeply into philosophy and what it is to be human as well as how we affect our environments.

The animated feature of “Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind,” is more of an encapsulated version of this, delving into the issues of war, and fighting for the right reasons. It too shares the message of how we humans have abused the Earth and how it is healing on its own without our help. It adapts the work of his manga, which was still ongoing, giving the story a bit of levity- it has a beginning and ending, where we learn that we must stop fighting amongst ourselves and work with nature instead of against it. This theme is among many of Miyazaki’s films, giving them that extra warmth and urgency.

I was fortunate to find that the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco was showcasing a screening of most of his and Studio Ghibli’s work. I was able to procure tickets to see he screening of “Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind” and hope to see additional screenings as well. This was the original Japanese language film with subtitles.

“Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind” begins with Master Yupa exploring another village destroyed by the ‘Sea of Corruption’- a vast stretch of swamp-like land with huge fungal plants populated by large insects, the largest being the Ohmu- a noble, multi- eyed creature in essence is a giant potato bug. Master Yupa encounters the young Nausicaa who had been exploring the nearby toxic forest, collecting samples and finding a large molting of an Ohmu. She had deftly saved Master Yupa from the Ohmu, who was enraged by the accidental death of some insects.

They both return to her home village, the Valley of Wind, where the small village had survived thanks to a consistent wind keeping the encroaching toxic forest from spreading into their area. Master Yupa meets with the Village chief and Nausicaa’s father Jhil, where he learns of the spreading of the Sea of Corruption. Master Yupa has been seeking the meaning behind this forest for many years and hoping to help other with the means to keeping the forest at bay.

During the night a Tolmekian aircraft had crashed just outside of the Valley. It had carried prisonsers from the city of Pejite, including the Princess Lestel. Despite Nausicaa’s efforts to redirect the craft away from the village, it had crashed in the nearby cliffs. She tried to save Lestel, but she had died from her injuries.

In the wreckage of the plane, there was a giant pod containing some form of life form. It was the rumored God Warrior, a relic of the Seven Days of Fire, where the modern world was destroyed by these powerful creations. Not soon after the Villagers had taken the painstaking task of clearing the crash of its dead as well as clean their fields free of the powerful fungi that make up the toxic forest, the Tolmeckian Army led by Princess Kushana and her aid Kurotowa, invade the Valley. In the process, they had slain Jhil. Enraged, Nausicaa killed the men who had slaughtered her father, only to be stopped by Master Yupa.

She regained her senses and had the villagers stand down to the Tolmekians. The village was then set up to play host to the giant God Warrior, while Princess Kushana takes Nausicaa hostage as a prisoner of war to prevent the villagers from rebelling. She is taken along with her friends to Pejite.

Along the way, she is attacked by Asbel, prince of Pejite, taking revenge for the destruction of Pejite. In his atack, he is distracted by Nausicaa, who bears a resemblance to his twin sister. He is shot down by the remaining corvette fighter.

Meanwhile Mausicaa and her trusted friend Mito prepare a daring escape from their doomed aircraft. She also saves Princess Kushana in the process. They burst free of the cargo plane in the valley’s gunship, which resembles a large moth. They circle back to find their comrades who have made a landing in the ‘Sea of Corruption.’

They had landed in a Ohmu’s nest, where Nausicaa was able to commune with the monstrous creatures. She then pursues Asbel to save him from the wrath of the insects. She and Asbel crash into the forest below sinking into a sandy pit.

Meanwhile Mito and the others circle the toxic forest and then return to the Valley, where Kurotowa and his men set up a chamber to revive the God Warrior. Master Yupa spies on them, then finds Mito and his men on the outside of the village on the shores of Acid Lake. Here he confronts the imprisoned Kushana about her intentions with the God Warrior.

Nausicaa and Asbel has survived the crash and found themselves in a clear clean area deep underneath the forest. The water and ground have been purified by the large, now petrified plants of the toxic forest. It was the missing piece of the puzzle that Nausicaa had been trying to solve- the purpose of the Sea of Corruption. It was there to help cleanse the world after man had destroyed it. The results were that it was now a clean arable place with fresh water.

Nausicaa and Asbel fly on her glider to the city of Pejite, only to find it completely destroyed by insects. It was the countermeasure that the Pejtian army used against the Tolmeckians. They would use the insects to rampage and destroy the Valley of the Wind, the God Warrior, and Princess Kushana and her forces. Nausicaa tries to escape with Asbel’s help, but is overwhelmed and captured.

The villagers of the Valley of Wind had taken up arms, not against the Tolmeckians, but against their own protective forest, which had been invaded by the dangerous spores of the Sea of Corruption. They burned down the forest that helped protect their village for centuries. They then turned against their captors after a long struggle with the forest.

Nausicaa is aided by Asbel and Lestel’s mother, whom they smuggle out of captivity to where Nausicaa could escape on her glider. Her escape is cut short by Tolmeckians who were hunting for the Pejitian frigate. She manages to flee as the Valley Gunship comes in to stop the corvette fighter. Master Yupa saves the Pejitians as Nausicaa and Mito race towards the Valley to stop the oncoming rampage.

This anime makes use of key elements found in the manga while making it both a cautionary tale as well as a cinematic adventure. While you want to hate some of the characters, you won’t as they are portrayed as being human and flawed. The scenarios that they are thrown in are subtly dangerous, much like a war movie where you can’t really trust a side. It does end well, making the story stand out as a single saga, and not necessarily a long drawn out epic. The manga does that, which give the characters real depth and gives the world a even grander scale.

The heroine of Nausicaa is a powerful character, both a capable woman and skilled at flying as well as fighting. She proves to be both a strong, yet vulnerable character who bears the weight suddenly thrust upon her with dignity and a layer of hope.

The story unfolds well, centering around the Valley of Wind, making it a character itself. It is the life and shelter for a village of people. The role of the Ohmu also lends to a bit wisdom and philosophy- much like a whale, this intelligent creature shows that there is a role that nature is playing and they are the guardians of that role.

“Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind,” is one of Miyazaki’s more personal efforts, breathing life to his manga creation. It limits the character to its cinematic trappings, but does so deftly that it does not lose its strengths after its near 20 years since its inception. His works get better and better, but this is where it began for him- one of his greatest creations. It is a must read manga as well as a must see film