“The concept of portraying evil and then destroying it […] is rotten. This idea that whenever something evil happens someone particular can be blamed and punished for it, in life and in politics, is hopeless.” — Hayao Miyazaki
Here are my final thoughts on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, including some nit-picking and how my enjoyment of the series has changed over time.
Over nine (!) blog posts, I’ve praised this manga series a fair deal, and rightly so. It gets so many things right that other manga series, even many prose stories, get wrong:
- A compelling female protagonist that isn’t just a man with woman parts attached
- Complex, ambiguous moral problems that are kept exciting to the reader
- Three-dimensional antagonists with complex motivations
- Imaginative worldbuilding that still makes sense
- Effective use of both eastern and western symbolism that doesn’t drag down the narrative
That said, there are parts of the story that haven’t aged well, don’t work with western readers, or never really worked at all. Because I admire Miyazaki’s storytelling so much, I feel it’s my duty to point out where it fails. Some of these complaints are trivial, some aren’t.
Cultural Stereotypes and Gender Roles
While there don’t appear to be any gender roles in-universe for women, breaking out of those roles doesn’t happen unless it’s a character trait. Any woman that’s older than Nausicaä, apart from Kushana, is inevitably a mother.
Apart from Nausicaä and Kushana, there are no female soldiers portrayed anywhere in the series. Where are the female generals? Why aren’t there any female Worm Handlers, or female Dorok priests? What about a Vai Queen or a Dorok Empress?
This isn’t an issue in later works by Miyazaki. In Princess Mononoke, there are female street vendors, forge workers, gunsmiths, and industrialists like Eboshi. Spirited Away has twin witches, neither of whom appear to be mothers or grandmothers. None of his other works share this trait, so why is it endemic to this series? Does he think that a post-apocalyptic future will fall further into gender roles than today?
How Green Is My Valley of the Wind
We don’t see much of Nausicaä’s homeland later in the series. The glimpses we do get are few: a new windrider taking Nausicaä’s place, a Dorok refugee ship landing nearby. Much of the action of the first few volumes took place nearby.
Where’s the Oil?
Torumekia and Dorok both equip numerous convoys of carrier-sized corvettes. What’s their power source? Given how prone they are to fire and explosions, I would guess they use petrochemical fuel sources. But how did they get them?
I doubt, given how little arable land there is left in-universe, that these two empires would dedicate whole crops to producing biofuel. Where, then, are the oil wells, and would there be oil left after the fall of civilization? I might imagine scraping together enough fuel for Nausicaä’s mehve, but nowhere near enough for a large Torumekian corvette.
Roasted God Warriors
The God Warriors are clearly shown “growing,” so they’re not assembled like a large robot would be. If the God Warriors are powered by (implicitly stated) nuclear power, wouldn’t their flesh be susceptible to radiation poisoning? Could that be why they died so quickly after the Seven Days of Fire? The ancient civilizations didn’t design them very well if that’s the case!
Along the same lines, if God Warriors are organic, how do you convert their nuclear power source into proteins, sugars, and other nutrients necessary for organic life?
Bland Forest People
Selm is really, really bland. With great male characters like Asbel, Kurotowa, and Mito, why did Selm get the short end of the characterization stick? Did Miyazaki feel he needed a counterbalance to Nausicaä’s righteousness? He’s one of the few characters that just don’t work.
If the Ohmu are a hive mind, then wouldn’t they know that the baby Ohmu was safe once Nausicaä stopped it from going into the Acid Lake in Volume 2? Or are they not a hive mind at all, and was Nausicaä merely talking to the same individual Ohmu on several occasions?
And why do the Ohmu have blood? Insects don’t have blood like we vertibrates do, although they do have other bodily fluids.
And One More Thing
In a world where malnutrition and poisoning are rampant, how is Master Yupa still in great shape in his old age?
Then and Now
When I first began reading Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, I sympathized most with Nausicaä and Asbel, who were close to my age. I was also far more radical in my politics, advocating an ecologically-aligned anarchism. Nausicaä was my personal iconoclast and role model.
Having re-read the entire series over the past couple months, I feel much more in tune with Kushana and Kurotowa. Kushana knows the value of compromise for the better good, is willing to take enormous risk, and has a cool head in tense situations. Kurotowa knows exactly what he wants but can be persuaded with reason, has great lateral thinking skills, and seems unable to die. These two are both flawed as well, Kushana with her quick temper, Kurotowa with. . . whatever psychological condition Kurotowa has that makes him a jerk.
Even with its progressive politics and thought-provoking themes, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is still a favorite of mine because of its compelling characters of all ages. Younger audiences love Nausicaä, Ketcha, and Asbel; those my age like Kurotowa and Kushana; those older than my generation would like Yupa, Obaba, and Mito.
I still expect to love it when I pick it up in another ten years. I ordered the hardbound edition just in case my paperbacks fall apart, get lost, or are gifted to someone else. If I have children, I hope they can pull out those hardbound volumes, open the cover, and walk into the Sea of Corruption with Nausicaä for the first time.
This and That
A documentary on Studio Ghibli, “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness,” is being released this fall. It’ll cover the production of Miyazaki and Takahara’s newest films, which were produced simultaneously. I hope it gets an English release sometime!