Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (impressions)

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From The Revolver @

"Based on a 12th Century Japanese folk tale (“The Princess Who Loved Insects”), Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans struggle to live amongst poisonous fungus forests, mutant insects, and herds of giant blue-eyed slugs called Ohmu. The heroine, Nausicaa, is a chieftain’s daughter, lives in a small nation in a protected valley, and shares an empathic bond with the insects of her world; she firmly believes that humans and insects can peacefully coexist, despite the ever-present threat of the growing forests. She’s the archetype of the Miyazaki heroine: strong-willed, confident, and full of spirit.

The Valley of Wind suddenly finds itself in the middle of a war between two warring nations, Torumekia and Pejitei. The combatants disrupt the relative peace of the Valley and start shoving their weight around. A God-Warrior, the ancient weapons responsible for the destruction of civilization, is unearthed. Both sides vow not only to defeat their enemy, but to burn back the forests and reclaim nature. This sets the stage for a number of action set-pieces (including some terrific aerial combat scenes), moments of quiet introspection, a fair amount of light humor, and a search (by Nausicaa) to solve the mystery of the mutated environment."

- Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind review on The Ghibli Blog

Nausicaa of The Valley of the Wind is definitely a classic in my book. It's one of Hayao Miyazaki's finer works, for sure. The plot was so original, moving, and unrivaled, you'd only expect something like it from the mind of Miyazaki.

Let's begin with the story, the plot, the most important part of the film. It's original, unique. No one can pull of an adaptation of a folk tale like Hayao Miyazaki. He blows the mere folk tale up to epic proportions, adds political twists that greatly impact the story, builds on the characters to sculpt them into believable, yet unbelieveable people, and inserts a great musical score. The story alone is certainly magnificent, in this timeless story of courage and compassion in the face of danger.

Next up are the characters, or most importantly, Nausicaa. She is not your typical princess. She would not shriek at the sight of large, revolting insects. Instead, she would approach them and speak kindly to them, and make friends with them, because she believed that insects and humans could coexist. She is not a stereotype. She isn't a "damsel in distress" that sits around and waits for her fated prince to save her. No, Nausicaa takes action, takes matter in her own hands, and even if she may be reckless at times, she ends up doing the right thing, for the better. That includes saving a tyrant that took over Nausicaa's village from a burning ship. That also includes standing on that burning ship, high in the air, and making herself completely susceptible to enemy fire, only to tell them to STOP. Nausicaa takes risks, but not foolish or petty risks, like dumping that boyfriend to get with that guy, or buy those heels over those flats. She takes risks for the better, for her people, for her home, and for the ones she loves.

The music is another reason why this film is worth watching. Haruomi Hosono is an extremely talented songwriter and composer. The music is a fourth of the reason why I loved the film so much. The compositions are individually unique; not a single one sounds like anything you've ever heard. They also vary greatly, from somewhat Indian tunes that give you an uplifting sense, to dramatic tunes that hold your attention, making you want to see what happens next, making you feel as if something unexpected would appear on the screen when nothing actually does, it's just the excellence of the tune. And then there's that mainstay tune that plays several times throughout the movie. The one with a child humming the same couple notes over and over. You're probably thinking this would get annoying. It doesn't. First off, the voice is indescribably cute, no questions asked. Secondly, everytime the tune is hummed again, more instruments and swells are added, making the piece even more and more epic. Add the nostalgic, slightly surreal scenes that always accompany this tune, and you have a surefire film that will be the talk of film composers for years to come.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is one of the best films I have ever watched. Ever. It is significantly different from the rest; it doesn't teach the same morals in a cheery, bright way like Disney does; it cannot be classified as an action or adventure film, although there is a lot of that. The meaning of the film is too deep, magnificent, enchanting, and the storytelling is too great, to be given that shallow label. The film Nausicaa should be in a category of it's own, and that category should simply be called "epic".


Nausicaä & Dune - Japanese Animation News & Review - July 1991

"Nausicaä" and "Dune" - The Intertwined Worlds of Frank Herbert and Hayao Miyazaki

By David Moisan

Many readers of this fanzine have read Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. As Miyazaki relates in Part 1 (Book 3, "On Nausicaa," p. 48), Nausicaa was inspired by a 5th-century Japanese princess who loved insects, and the girl of the same name that rescued Odysseus in Homer's "Odyssey."

Many of you may also know Frank Herbert's Dune, one of the great masterpieces of science fiction. Ever since I saw the film version of "Nausicaa," I have always wondered if Miyazaki took his inspiration from Herbert's novel.

One wonders: how can a story about a desert planet, a galactic empire and an emerging messiah be like a story about a toxic forest, the remnants of humanity and a girl trying to understand her world and save her kingdom? After reading both books, I've concluded that "Dune" was indeed the catalyst for Miyazaki's work. (Note: I'm referring to the graphic novel version of the story.)

Consider first the ecologies of the two stories. What impressed me most about the stories is the sheer intensity of the portrayal of their respective ecologies. Herbert's Arrakis is a desert planet almost devoid of water; its inhabitants, the Fremen, wear stillsuits that recycle their bodies' moisture. Water is life; water is wealth. The quest to conserve water has driven the Fremen to become the greatest practicing ecologists in the Imperium.

Compare this with Nausicaa's world: 1000 years after an apocalyptic war (the Seven Days of Fire), Earth is buried under a great toxic forest whose atmospheric exhalations are poisonous. An entire ecosystem has evolved - giant insects roam the forest. The few humans which have survived wear masks against the poisonous atmosphere and guard their soil and water against poisonous spores. In the depths of the forest, a tribe - the Forest People - has learned how to live with the forest and the insects.

Arrakis has its "makers," huge sandworms that move through the desert, devouring all in their path, including humans. Makers are part of a complex ecological cycle that produces melange, that unique spice that prolongs life and brings prescient visions and makes Arrakis the richest planet in the empire.

Earth's toxic forests are home to the Ohmu, giant (100'+) 12-eyed, sentient insects that also play an active role in their ecosystem; every 300 years, in the "Daikaisho" ("Great Wave of the Sea"), enraged Ohmu and other forest insects thunder through human settlements in great herds. The Ohmu then die from exhaustion, toxic plants sprout from their corpses, and the forest expands its boundaries.

Furthermore, the forest is also changing. Gradually, the trees of the jungle are absorbing the toxins in the soil and disintegrating, leaving a desert with clean air. Both Yupa and Nausicaa have discovered this, and both wonder about the implications.

Let's now turn to the people of "Nausicaa": in Miyazaki's Earth, three groups predominate: the Dorok Principalities, the Torumekian Empire and the Periphery, the small kingdoms (including Nausicaa's own, the Valley of Wind) that were once part of Eftal. As mentioned earlier, the Forest People live in the depths of the toxic jungle. The Torumekians are at war against the Doroks, for reasons unexplained, and the Doroks are waging an especially brutal counterattack. The Periphery tribes, officially affiliated with Torumekia, are caught in the middle.

The Dorok Principalities have a ruling priesthood that is not unlike the Bene Gesserit, adepts who could detect falsehood and control others by the sound of their voice. Most tribal priests are telepathic, and have other similar talents.

But the real power of the Doroks lies in their research on genetic engineering, which plays a large role in Miyazaki's story. Remember the Bene Tlielax from "Dune" - they were mercenary, amoral scientists who didn't concern themselves with the consequences of their work as long as they profited from it; they specialized in the creation of synthetic life (like "twisted" Mentats, killer Suk Doctors and so on).

The Dorok scientists are just like that. There's a crucial scene in Part 2 (Book 2, p. 41) where Charuka, the warrior-priest charged with finding Nausicaa, is talking to one of them about a newly-developed spore that is more poisonous than anything in the toxic forest, and gets a reply that suggests that the scientists were not thinking of its possible effects.

Indeed, this is borne out when one of the spores escapes from a Dorok air-monitor and grows to an enormous size on the surface - putting the entire Earth at risk!

Taking the place of the Imperium is the Torumekian Empire. Actually, the Torumekian royal family has many of the attributes of House Harkonnen: they are brutal fratricidists who've no compunctions about turning family members against one another for personal gain. It helps that the Vai Emperor, and the Three Princes all resemble the Baron in physique! (Baron Karkonnen was that "floating fat man" who needed suspensors to support his great weight.)

On the other hand, Princess Kushana, fourth daughter of the Emperor, is quite different from her brothers. She is a brilliant tactician who trained her army, the 3rd, into the finest of Torumekia in much the same way that Duncan Idaho and Gurney Halleck trained the Duke's army. Despite having been betrayed by her father and her brothers by having her army stripped from her, she still maintains a great sense of honor and integrity that Duke Leto might have understood - like his, her army's loyalty to her is legendary.

There are further parallels - like the Fremen and the Forest People. On Arrakis, the Fremen dream of making the planet green. Pardot Keynes, the Imperial Planetologist, taught the Fremen about their planet's ecology, and set into motion a plan that would make Arrakis green within 500 years. The Fremen are secretive about their plans - they bribe the Spacing Guild to keep weather satellites from the skies. The Fremen are underestimated and under-recognized by both House Harkonnen and the Emperor, to their peril.

The Forest People have a similar history. During the last Daikaisho, 300 years before the events in the story, they were subjects of the Kingdom of Eftal, destroyed in a brutal civil war that sparked the Daikaisho. They were led into the forest by the "blue-clad one," who showed them how to survive there. One can easily imagine that the Doroks and the Torumekians would have the same disregard for the Forest People as House Harkonnen and the Emperor had for the Fremen.

They also seem secretive. When Yupa meets the Forest People for the first time, he asks one of them, Selm, about the change in the forest:

"As the trees fossilize and crumble, the cavities should expand upward from the roots of the forest. What happens when they reach the surface? Please... tell us! It's been a thousand years since the forest was formed - somewhere on this planet must be lands where it has already happened." (Part 2, Book 2, p. 48)

Selm rebuffs him: "It is forbidden to speak of these things."

We now come to the real pivot of both stories: Nausicaa and Paul Muad'Dib. Throughout Herbert's story, Paul Atreides struggled to learn his true purpose, and we see him evolve from a naive son of a duke, dimly aware of life's realities, into the Kwisatz Haderach, the man who can see all realities, past, present and future. Paul glimpses his "terrible purpose" - a jihad, and tries in vain to stop it. Paul, like his father, has tremendous personal magnetism which he uses to unite the Fremen and overthrow the Emperor.

Nausicaa apparently follows a similar path. Like Paul, she has an uncanny ability to lead and direct; but, like Keynes, she is also one with her environment, able to communicate with the Ohmu and the other insects. Nausicaa has a talent much like the Voice, the Bene Gesserit means of command.

Gradually, Nausicaa realizes that she has a purpose, though she doesn't yet know what it is. At first, when the Torumekians order her to war as the representative of the Valley, she's afraid, both of the war, and of what she might herself do in anger - she killed a Torumekian soldier with Kushana's search party at the beginning of the story. After her encounter with the baby Ohmu in Part 1, Book 5, she becomes determined to find her purpose.

There's something else: Herbert developed the concept of racial memory; the Fremen are able, under controlled circumstances, to directly experience the memories of their ancestors, aided by the Water of Life, the exhalations of a drowned Maker. Paul uses the Water of Life to make his final transformation into the Kwisatz Haderach.

As we've seen in "Nausicaa," the Ohmu are sentient and telepathic. When Nausicaa is unconscious under the forest, an Ohmu speaks to her:

"Little One, our race has known of your coming since years gone by... Our hearts speak across time and space..." (Part 1, Book 3, p. 22)

So, the Ohmu are telepathic and possibly prescient! Midway through the story, the Dorok priest of the Mani tribe has a vision of the "Blue-Clad One" - Nausicaa!! When the Forest People mention the "Blue-Clad One," Yupa wonders:

"Is the Blue-Clad One just the hope passed down by the aboriginal Dorok religions based on an historical person? Or are they real people, created by the very lifeforce of our species, *reaching across space and time* in our moment of need . . . ?" (Part 2, Book 2, p. 50, emphasis added)

It would seem that Miyazaki is headed for a conjunction of events that is every bit as portentous as the final chapters in "Dune." Whatever happens, like the Daikaisho, there'll be a wave like the one that made Paul Muad'Dib Atreides into the Emperor of the galaxy. Of course, there's much in "Dune" that is unlike "Nausicaa"--CHOAM, the Great Houses, and the Spacing Guild are among many things that don't appear in the story. Paul Atreides was brought up in a militaristic feudal society; Nausicaa, in a peaceful agrarian society (the Valley of Wind). Both are products of their respective societies. It's unlikely that Paul and Nausicaa even have the same philosophy; Nausicaa probably wouldn't want to be Emperor any more than Paul would want to study the trees and the forest.

However, Miyazaki, like Herbert, understands the most important principle behind ecology: the study of consequences. And he is, in his own way, exploring the messianic impulse as Herbert did. Ecological messianism is the "real" parallel between "Nausicaa" and "Dune." It's a great example of literary cross-pollination - what a shame that Herbert and Miyazaki will never meet! (Frank Herbert died of cancer in 1987.)

Nausicaä in Lum [Urusei Yatsura, Ed.] episode #185

Nausicaä in Unexpected Places

19 May 1994

Written by: Jefery Roberts

Recently, I've been seeing Nausicaä pop up in unexpected places.

First an "unexpected" place that I already knew about and was searching for...

One of the first things I acquired when I became an anime fan was a tape of the "Urusei Yatsura Karaoke Parade". In the "Rock the Planet" track there is a short clip, of just a few seconds, which shows Tomobiki Cho with plumes of smoke rising from what appear to be factory smokestacks. From this rather thin "miasma" a glider rises and comes toward the camera. Atop this Mehve-like glider is a figure in a light orange flying suit, very like some of the pictures in "The Art of Nausicaä" from the time when her color was orange rather than blue. (There's also an example on the cover of part 2 of Viz's 3rd Nausicaä series.) The figure is lying prone, suspended above the glider in "flying position", and as she comes closer you can see the blue hair streaming out in back. She then pulls off her very "Valley of the Wind" face mask to reveal herself as Lum.

People have told me that this is from a Nausicaä parody episode which features Megane, and ends with a shot of Megane's glasses taking the place of Nausicaä's mask, lying on sand with a small sapling growing nearby.

I recently got the Urusei Yatsura LD50 complete TV episode laser disk collection, so, of course, one of the first things I did with it was to search it for this episode. It's episode #185, first broadcast on 19 June 1985, about a year after Nausicaä's Premier. The title is "Daimajin araware! Ramu no kiken na kaimono", or "The Great Devil Appears! Lum's dangerous purchase". In addition to the two scenes I described, there is a stampede of computer controlled tanks that Ataru fails to stop and is tossed into the midst of, a legend of someone rising in a red field, which is fulfilled by Megane, whose unconsious body is raised above the schoolhouse by the computer tapes from the tanks, and the "Great Devil" himself, a giant robot which Lum purchased from a mail order catalog and assembled herself, and which makes for a rather useless God Warrior. There are doubtless many other allusions to Nausicaä that I missed on one viewing with my rather limited understanding of Japanese.

The second unexpected place was in the film section of Kodansha's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Japan. In 1989, the film critcism magazine, Cinema Jump, celebrated its 1000th issue by asking 86 film enthusiasts, including writers, artists, entertainers and people from the film industry, to choose the ten best Japanese films of all time. From the response they got, they decided to expand the list to the top 20, and as part of a seven-way tie for 20th place, the encyclopedia included a picture from Nausicaä, with the description: "An adventure-story animation film". They had more to say about "Gojira", which was also tied for 20th place, but the captions were limited to three lines, and "Gojira", with its translation and director's name, didn't take up almost all of the space like "Kaze no Tani no Naushika", with its translation and director's name did.

The third unexpected place Nausicaä showed up in was in Mektron II for the Super Nintendo. My sister's sister-in-law's son (Got that relationship straight? His name is Orion.) told me that he had seen Nausicaä's mask, glider, and body at the entrance to the room containing one of the Big Bosses. He brought his Super Nintendo to our house, and while he was playing the game, he told me to come look at the baby Ohmus. Unfortunately, they were part of the random menaces that have to be avoided, neutralized or killed in that room, and he told me that the mother really was bad news. I don't think he actually killed any of them, so maybe Nausicaä's ecological message wasn't entirely lost by the game designers who transplanted the Ohmu here.

I sat down to watch as he continued playing, and eventually he entered a room with three squirrel foxes in it. They also had butterfly antennae, but they definitely were squirrel foxes. They took off, jumping from wall to wall up a shaft, and the technique, while difficult, did seem to work for his character, although he didn't succeed in scaling the shaft and finding the goodies at its top until he came back to the area after I had stopped watching.

Another room had a toriuma (rendered as "horseclaw" in Viz's translation) in it. By imitating its actions Orion was able to escape and to free it, although when he returned later the toriuma was back tending an egg. After I stopped watching, Orion eventually found a way to properly rescue it and was rewarded with more goodies.

I was concerned and annoyed with the game designers for including Nausicaä's body in the game, but apparently it wasn't her, or she wasn't dead, since Orion tells me that, at a later point, he was forced to jump from a dangerous situation, and Nausicaä flew up on Mehve and rescued his character. He also says that according to a friend who's gotten farther, that his character will end up flying Mehve herself (the game character is female) for a short time later in the game.

None of the Nausicaä references is explicitly identified, and Orion's friend didn't recognize them (he had never watched Nausicaä), although Orion recognized them immediately from his descriptions, and, of course they were obvious once he had seen them himself.

I wonder when Nausicaä will surprise me again from an unexpected place.

Fan Impressions