An Appreciation of Nausicaä: Volume 7

nausicaa volume 7 cover“A life is a life, regardless of how it comes into being.” – Nausicaä, volume 7, p. 133

In this installment I examine volume 7, the conclusion of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and discuss the theme of the book: judgment.

Note: I discuss ending spoilers for the entire series. You have been warned!

What Happens

On the deck of Namulith’s flagship, the newly awoken God Warrior takes Nausicaä in his hands. Nausicaä sees that he’s just a newborn, barely capable of speech, and doesn’t know which people are his enemies and which aren’t.

Namulith laughs on the command deck of the flagship at Nausicaä’s plight. Kushana questions him about the Master of the Crypt of Shuwa, whom he mentioned in connection with the God Warrior, but he doesn’t give any further information. Kushana grabs Namulith’s head from his disintegrating body and carries it abovedeck.

Desperate to stop the God Warrior’s carnage, Nausicaä orders him to fly away. Nausicaä tells Kushana that she’s going to the Crypt of Shuwa to find the answers to everything. Kushana gives Nausicaä her own cloak to replace the girl’s lost windrider jacket and heads belowdeck. Namulith’s head, left behind, falls off the ship.

Kurotowa and Mito follow the flagship, but they fall behind as the gunship’s engines are pushed beyond their limits.

Flying over the Dorok lands in the God Warrior’s hands, Nausicaä holds Teto close as the air grows colder. But the God Warrior needs rest, as his energy falters and he falls to the ground.

Nearby, the twin sons of the Vai Emperor of Torumekia are huddling within their ships. A scouting party alerts them to the presence of the fallen God Warrior, and the twins order them to investigate. The scouts find Nausicaä, who warns them to stay away from the God Warrior too late. It awakes, and it attempts to defend Nausicaä by vaporizing the scouting party. Nausicaä admonishes the God Warrior for attacking, but forgives him when it cowers. She gives him a name: Ohma, which means “innocence.” Ohma then names himself arbitrator for the human race, showing an increased intelligence from when he first awoke.

Ohma carries Nausicaä to the twin princes’ camp. Nausicaä gives them word of Kushana, but warns them not to fly to Shuwa, where she and Ohma are heading. Nausicaä, suffering from severe radiation poisoning from Ohma’s “poisonous light,” collapses. The twin princes give her medical care, asking Ohma to follow them as they head to Shuwa, despite Nausicaä’s warnings. Ohma knows they’re just using Nausicaä’s condition to lure him to Shuwa, but he follows to protect Nausicaä regardless.

Mito, Asbel, and the remains of Nausicaä’s retinue are preparing the gunship to follow Nausicaä to Shuwa when they’re approached by the Worm Handlers who were following on foot. They ask Mito to allow them to fly in the barge, but Mito says they’re too heavy with their belongings. Mito thinks this will dissuade them from coming, since worm handlers value their possessions over their lives, but instead they slaughter all of their domesticated worms, begging Mito to let them guard Nausicaä. He agrees, and everyone continues to Shuwa.

On a hill in land near the Daikaisho stands Kushana. Along with Kurotowa, Yupa, and Ketcha, she meets with Dorok refugees, who have Charuka, Chikuku, and the council of priests hostage. Kushana asks the refugees for a single ship to continue to Shuwa to assist Nausicaä, in exchange for the body of Namulith and native tribal rule. Most of the refugees refuse, including the Mani tribe, who plan an assault on the Torumekian ship. Kushana and Yupa catch wind of the assault, which involves Mani soldiers attacking from outside and bombs planted by Mani women hidden in breadbaskets; Kurotowa orders his soldiers to attack from the outside, while Yupa goes in to convince the women not to set off their bombs. When the Torumekian soldiers make it inside to assault the women, one of them tosses a grenade; Yupa catches it, blowing off his arm.

Meanwhile, Kurotowa gathers his troops to attack the advancing Mani soldiers, when Yupa intercedes, showing Kurotowa that Dorok civilians have formed a human shield around the soldiers, keeping both from attacking one another. However, the Mani soldiers spot Kushana, who has been standing alone outside, and try to attack. Yupa jumps in front of her, and the soldiers all stab him instead. His face transforms into that of the elder from the Mani tribe, the one who let Yupa go and was later killed by Miralupa. As Yupa dies, he tells Kushana that she shouldn’t think of herself as sullied because of the death that follows her, but instead should walk the righteous path.

Nausicaä is awakened by the telepathic effects of Yupa’s injuries to find Teto has died. She asks Ohma telepathically to find a spot to bury Teto. Ohma reaches into the ship, ripping apart its hull, and pulls out Nausicaä, and pulls out the twin princes as well. Ohma tells the Torumekian convoy to go back home, and he carries the twins and Nausicaä far away.

Ohma lands near an abandoned town. While Ohma keeps the twins from coming close, Nausicaä buries Teto under a thousand-year-old tree (almost as old as the Seven Days of Fire). An androgynous figure emerges from the town: he can speak ancient Eftal and the Dorok language, as well as communicate telepathically. He insists that Nausicaä and the twin princes come with him. After commanding his animal assistants to help carry the twins, he carries Nausicaä away from Ohma.

Nausicaä finds herself in an idyllic garden, populated by modern animals who act as the figure’s servants. Her health restored, she’s given a medicinal bath and new clothes. She wanders through the garden and finds the twin princes, playing music and reading literature from before the Seven Days of Fire. Nausicaä remembers Teto and Ohma, and realizes that the whole garden is a trap.

She tries to escape, but the servant animals block her every attempt. Climbing to the roof, she sees fields tended to by heedra, the artificial humans used by Namulith. The androgynous figure tries to dissuade Nausicaä from leaving by tapping into her memories of her mother, whom she recalled when she first entered the garden. Nausicaä resists, saying her heart closed when she named Ohma. The figure tries again, this time taking apart her righteous crusade, noting that the first Dorok Emperor was one of the garden’s visitors, who took four heedra with him in the hope of helping humanity, but eventually turning into a tyrant.

Meanwhile on the gunship, Mito and Asbel find that Ohma has left the abandoned town and headed to Shuwa. They follow its bloody footsteps until they reach that ancient city, to find Ohma attacking Torumekians, with half of its body rotting apart.

Nausicaä’s resolve breaking, she asks Selm to help her telepathically, so he and Nausicaä face off against the figure, which reveals itself as the Guardian of the Garden. Selm recognizes it as another heedra, one designed to manipulate the minds of others. It tries to break down Selm’s resolve, bringing out the insecurity and doubt that Selm hides from everyone. It says that the Sea of Corruption will leave a completely purified land, but that all life on Earth was deliberately engineered by scientists, before the Seven Days of Fire, to survive in a toxic environment. The entire ecosystem of the Sea of Corruption, including the mold and the insects, are artificial in nature. When the process is complete, the specimens of life before the corruption took place can be released from the Crypt of Shuwa.

Regaining her resolve, Nausicaä counters the false dichotomy of purity and corruption, saying that all life is sacred, no matter the source. She says she intends to continue to the Crypt of Shuwa to find the technology hidden there. That technology, the scientists from the Seven Days of Fire felt, is unfit to house in the Garden of Shuwa, where Nausicaä recovered. Defeated, The Guardian of the Garden shows Nausicaä out.

As Nausicaä emerges from the Garden of Shuwa, her retinue of elderly men, the Worm Handlers, and Asbel find her. They outfit her with new equipment. Nausicaä knows that Ohma has left for Shuwa to attack the Crypt, so she intends to follow on foot, with her retinue following behind.

At Shuwa, before Ohma arrived, the Vai Emperor of Torumekia finds it deserted, save for the priests of the Crypt and the vast Dorok treasure hoard. His soldiers attempt to break into the Crypt itself, but the Crypt’s defenses fire back. Just as the Vai Emperor is about to try again with bigger explosives, Ohma arrives.

Back in the present, the valley gunship arrives just as Ohma has begun to attack Shuwa. The Vai Emperor of Torumekia presents himself to Ohma in an attempt to appease him. Ohma says that he means to seal off the Crypt forever, but the Vai Emperor insists they must go inside. Ohma takes the Vai Emperor and begins his attack on the Crypt, cracking its outer casing. Then, under the strain of the Crypt’s attacks, Ohma collapses.

Near Shuwa, Nausicaä and the worm handlers witness the carnage wrought by Ohma. The worm handlers spot a fallen Torumekian ship and try to plunder it, but Nausicaä admonishes them. She then tells them why she’s going, leaving out the revelations spoken by the Guardian.

Still alive, the Vai Emperor of Torumekia climbs out of Ohma’s hand to find his jester, the sole survivor of the Emperor’s entire force. Then a retinue of priests, having lived within the Crypt for a thousand years, emerge. They greet the Vai Emperor as their new ruler and escort him inside.

Mito, mortally wounded, asks Asbel to go inside the Crypt and get Nausicaä to safety. Asbel leaves Mito behind, who takes two large shells and plants them in the flesh of the Crypt, hoping to detonate them. Meanwhile, Asbel finds a large, hive-like city of priests living within the Crypt, whose inhabitants try to kill him.

Nausicaä and her retinue of worm handlers reach the entrance to the Crypt as well. The priests first rebuff her as a true king, but when they take note of her telepathic powers, they allow her to pass.

The Vai Emperor reaches the heart of the Crypt, where a living data warehouse is kept. Nausicaä finds it soon after. Then the Master of the Crypt shows himself: an artificial intelligence, projected as a hologram to those present. It scans the minds of Nausicaä, the Torumekian Emperor, and his fool. The Master offers the technology of the old world in return for the cooperation of Nausicaä and the Vai Emperor, but Nausicaä refuses. She says they won’t become slaves to the world before the Seven Days of Fire, saying that because the intelligence in the Crypt can no longer change, but that life on Earth can still adapt. Incensed, the intelligence withdraws, and the heart of the Crypt begins to seal up.

The Master of the Crypt then tries to kill those inside by projecting its light into their minds. Selm, watching telepathically, blocks the light while Nausicaä summons Ohma, who lays prone at the foot of the Crypt. Ohma blasts another hole into the Crypt, crushing the eggs that carry specimens of life before Seven Days of Fire. The Master of the Crypt curses Nausicaä as it dies, crushed by Ohma’s hands until it gushes blood. Nausicaä realizes that she has committed genocide, wondering if the people that would have come after the Sea of Corruption would have been gentler and less violent. Ohma, injuried beyond repair, asks Nausicaä if he has been a good person, and dies after she gives him her blessing.

Asbel uses one of the elevator capsules from inside the Crypt to rescue Nausicaä, the Vai Emperor, and his fool, and they escape as the Crypt collapses. Kushana, Kurotowa, Charuka, and the Dorok refugees arrive in time to see Nausicaä and the others emerge. The Vai Emperor, who took the full brunt of the Master’s onslaught, legitimizes Kushana’s claim to the throne before he dies. Ketcha and Asbel reunite. Mito survives his injuries from the gunship crash. Charuka notes that Nausicaä’s clothes are bluer than before, darker than even Ohmu blood. Nausicaä and Selm agree to keep the secret of the end of the Sea of Corruption to themselves, hoping that humanity will find a way to survive after the Sea of Corruption purifies all the Earth.

My Thoughts

I had forgotten just how many characters meet their demise. Yupa, sacrificing himself for Kushana and bringing peace to the Dorok tribes; Namulith, unceremoniously left behind when his body falls apart and his head bounces off the deck of his own ship; Teto, succumbing to radiation poisoning; Ohma, the God Warrior who started all this mess back in Pejitei in the first volume; the Vai Emperor, King of Torumekia, who made peace with his daughter Kushana; and the Master of the Crypt, the artificial intelligence in charge of the knowledge from before the Seven Days of Fire.

But not just named characters, or even the countless who’ve died in the Torumekian-Dorok war throughout the series. Humanity — modern-day humanity — also goes completely extinct. The core mbiguity of this series is that Nausicaä, fulfilling her destiny as the blue-clad one, is both an omen of hope and of destruction. Stripped of her blue-clad garb for almost the entire volume, she’s lost and vulnerable until she leaves the Garden of Shuwa, given the knowledge that the old world must truly end for the new one to survive.

This is a long volume, nearly twice the length of the first in the series, but the story is of a piece and holds together well despite its length. There’s no filler here, yet everyone is given appropriate ends to their story arcs (except maybe Chikuku, who got lost in the shuffle after the refugee camp scenes.)

Every volume of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind passes the Bechdel test. Volume 6 barely did (with the key conversation happening in a flashback), but this volume has three conversations that pass. That most volumes pass effortlessly, and that all do technically shows just how well he writes his female characters.

Of all the deaths this volume, Namulith deserved his the most. His body disintegrating, his head, still conscious after decapitation, falls to the ground to be smashed (offscreen) into chunky bits. Everyone else, even the ruthless Vai Emperor of Torumekia, got noble deaths except him.

There’s a bit of epilogue at the end, telling differing accounts of what happened to Nausicaä and Kushana after the fall of Shuwa. I like that there’s no consistent story, that Nausicaä could have ended up back in the Valley of the Wind, or possibly joined Selm and the other Forest People, or something else entirely. Kushana’s future is more mundane, if immediately useful: she abdicates the throne, producing no heir, turning Torumekia into a democracy. I like to think of Kurotowa, still pithy and sarcastic in his old age, attending to her until death.

Above all, this volume demonstrates exactly how you should end a story. It was the right length, the climax was appropriately climactic, the resolution wasn’t too long but resolved everything in a single, heartwarming scene. And it brings home the theme of the series: all life deserves our empathy, no matter its origin.

“Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin”: The Concept of Judgment in the Nausicaä Universe

“I am arbitrator, warrior, and judge,” says Ohma, the God Warrior that Nausicaä adopts in volume 7. Ohma is the last of his kind; the other God Warriors disappeared after the events of the Seven Days of Fire.

The God Warriors, as explained by both Namulith and the Guardian of the Garden, weren’t intended as destroyers, but rather as judges. Rather than “gods” in the Shinto sense, they’re “God” in the Judeo-Christian sense, and they enact divine judgment with nuclear fire.

Judgment, both how it’s given and received, is the running theme of volume 7. The Worm Handlers express the belief that the Sea of Corruption is the result of a divine judgment against humanity for the sins committed by their ancestors before the Seven Days of Fire. Ohma wishes to give judgment, but looks to Nausicaä for guidance. He asks her “have I been a good person?” after he destroys the Crypt of Shuwa, the judge asking for judgment on himself.

The appearance of the God Warrior just after the Daikaisho brings to mind the Book of Daniel. “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin” were the words written on the wall of King Belshazzar, ruler of Babylon. Daniel, a Jew living in Babylon, says that the phrase, which literally means “two minas, a shekel, and two parts” but also means “numbered, weighed, divided,” is warning that Babylon’s days have been numbered, the kingdom has been found wanting, and that it will be divided between the Medes and the Persians.

The events of the series could be loosely interpreted as an allegory for the events in Daniel. In this case, Dorok is Babylon, Miralupa and Namulith are both Belshazzar, Nausicaä is Daniel, and the Daikaisho and the God Warrior are the Medes and Persians.

However, Nausicaä rejects the notion of divine judgment altogether. Although she doesn’t express it in so many words, the act of judgment itself is a kind of domination, at odds with the sacred nature of all life. “Purity and corruption,” she tells the Guardian of the Garden, “are meaningless.” The Master of the Crypt, the artificial intelligence in charge of the knowledge of the world before the Seven Days of Fire, says that history will record Nausicaä’s actions and judge her as a demon, but Nausicaä replies that she doesn’t need the judgment of the old world, that she already has a God in “even a single leaf and the smallest insects.”

Just as Nausicaä rejects the judgment of the God Warriors from before the Seven Days of Fire for the animistic God of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki prefers the animistic Shinto worldview over the harsh, judgmental Judeo-Christian one.

This and That

A trailer for “The Wind Rises,” Hayao Miyazaki’s next movie, has arrived. One of the voice actors is famous animator Hideaki Anno, the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion. You can view the trailer here.

Next time, just a few final thoughts on this whole series, and what it’s meant to me.