[special memorial issue] THE FINALE OF NAUSICAA;
NAUSICAA of the Valley of Wind
Thoughts of a Faithful Reader For 12 Years.
Killing People with a Smile on Her Face
It was a period when Suzuki Shinichi and I were writing a series for 'Animage' entitled 'Animation Schools'-about the creation and production of amateur animation. We met our editor, Kameyama Osamu, in the coffee shop 'West' in Ginza, where he told us that he had approached Miyazaki Hayao, who had just finished 'Lupin the 3rd-Castle Cagliostro' and was between jobs, about writing a manga series for the magazine. He told us that Miyazaki was even then enthusiastically creating a background, and designing giant insects and poisonous plants.
Our series finished in the December issue of 1981, and 'Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind' began in the February issue of 1982. The faces of the characters changed completely from the beginning of the series to the end. At the start, there was no set length (and it was interrupted after 16 chapters to make the movie) but it felt like a series that would have a very long run. At that time, the creator of the series himself could have had no idea how it would all turn out in the end, because Nausicaa herself gradually changed.
In the opening episode, when the Torumekian army invaded the Valley of Wind, Nausicaa and Kushana met for the first time. Nausicaa, aflame with anger, planted her sword in the ground and vaulted over it. From above, she thrust her knife, with her whole weight behind it, into the juncture between the helmet and armor of her unknown foe. Landing nimbly, she plucked the sword from the ground, and holding it defiantly, smiled. As the subheading says, she killed with a smile on her face. She was an amazing heroine.
Gentleness towards plants and animals, coupled with a passionate fighting instinct that swept all reason aside-these two facets of a charming girl were difficult to comprehend. It's possible to convince an audience of the presence of these two opposite natures in a long manga series, but it's impossible to do in a short 2-hour movie.
In a long series, the violent side of her nature could be played down and given its proper place-as the manifestation of a warrior's skills in answer to danger. But in the movie, it was too intense. Even now, I wonder at the scene immediately after her father, Jhil, is killed by the Torumekian army (In the manga, he dies slowly of poisons from the Sea of Corruption) where Nausicaa kills enemy after enemy in a wide swath around her. Although her weapon was a mere staff, we didn't need Kurotowa's words-"She's killed them all!"-to understand what had happened. The audience watching the movie was rather shocked by this violence. Afterwards Nausicaa, seemingly unbothered by what she had done, grieved for the lives of the Ohmu and cried over withering trees. It would have been better if Kurotowa had said nothing.
Applause for Kushana and Kurotowa
The story of the female general, Kushana, and her staff officer, Kurotowa, was a masterpiece with a twist-much like the relationship between Monsurii and Captain Daisu in "Future Boy Conan". (In the manga, that is-in the movie, they saw very little action. Also in the manga, Kurotowa did not witness Nausicaa's first fight, a significant difference.) It's very easy for readers to sympathize with characters such as these, who have many flaws. Unable to understand the sympathy and trust that Mito and and other old men from the Valley had for Nausicaa, Kurotowa muttered grouchily, "Princesses, princesses, it's always princesses!" I thought that that scene was great. Even though gravely wounded, his quick wit in firing the corvettes final retro-boosters was wonderful. One of the most moving scenes in the whole book was the one where Kushana, with hordes of insects flying overhead, and surrounded by a hell of dead bodies, held a mortally wounded Kurotowa in her arms, singing to him softly. (Only readers of the manga were privileged to see this scene.) So Kurotowa was an excellent corvette pilot, and this character was also Porco, from "The Crimson Pig". At the same time, I wonder if he is not a self-portrait of the artist...Those who only saw the movie can have no concept of how truly interesting this work is!
Kushana's greatness goes without saying. The daughter of the King of Torumekia, she was a superior commander who rushed to the battlefield, even though it meant leaving her mother, driven mad by King Vu's poisons, behind, and even in the face of her loathsome half-brothers' hatred towards her. She was a skilled leader, who could rouse her men to the point where they would all have gladly given up their lives for her. So where in the world did the movie version come from? That haughty invader, quivering in fear before insects, with a cyborg arm replacing the one lost to bugs?! I heaved a sigh of relief when the manga at last continued again, to see Kushana take off her armor, revealing her beautiful flesh and blood arms. I'd love to know what happens to Kushana and Kurotowa after they return home.
Those who have only seen the film are incapable of comprehending the dissatisfaction of the fans of the manga version. "How could you possibly be dissatisfied with that wonderful movie!?" they cry, looking at us as though we were traitors. The movie stands alone, its quality can be judged in a instant, it ranked #7 on Kinejun's top ten movie list, and it was the viewers' #1 choice. ("Cagliostro's Castle" was #54, with only one vote!) Thus, in 1985, Miyazaki's name became a household name.
According to the creator, who had never planned to make Nausicaa into a movie, that version was a condensation. Although it differed greatly from the original manga, it was nevertheless an excellent production. The movie "Akira", followed a similar path to success.
Thougts on the Artist's Influences
There are many hints as to models for the manga. The artist himself says that two models for the character Nausicaa were a character from "The Odyssey" and the character from the story, "The Princess Who Loved Insects". But there are many, many more.
The theme of people continuing to wage war, though their countries are on the brink of destruction, is one that is continued from "Future Boy Conan", but the culture and customs are like those of knights from the Middle Ages.
Techniques such as this have often been used in space operas such as "Star Wars", but can more accurately be attributed to Frank Herbert's SF novel, "Dune". ( The Japanese translation came out in 1972 and 1973.)
The stage in "Dune" was a planet whose environment was deteriorating. The hero was the son of a ruler. He was a skilled warrior who also possessed the powers of telepathy and telekinesis. There were other similar points-a major power waging war on an indigenous people, a legend of a saviour, and sacred water flowing silently under the surface of the sandy planet. Most of all, in a boundless sea of sand, swimming along almost like demons, there were giant, sand-colored...catapillars? Worms? Let's just call them giant sand snakes. Worm [uo-mu] and Ohmu[o-mu]!!
"Dune" was one of the first books to advocate ecological awareness, but because of its unique style in using many words native to that planet, the reader had to consult the glossary in the back of the book frequently. Because the book could not be read quickly, it did not become terribly popular[in Japan]. But ironically, because the movie version was released just a year after "Nausicaa", many people felt that they were somehow similar. This distinctly David Lynch film was full of weird homages to Disney, and was very enjoyable, but it was so complicated that it left many people behind. In the final scene, the long-awaited rain began falling, and the movie ended on the same hopeful note as "Nausicaa" did. Another influence was Ralph Bakshi's "Wizards", whose two-legged half-horse and half-bird creatures can clearly to seen in the toriuma that Nausicaa and Yupa ride.
In his high school days, Miyazaki was captivated by the movie, "Hakujaden" (Legend of the White Snake, 1958), and this influence remains. The flashback scene, where Nausicaa picks up the baby Ohmu reminds me strongly of the opening scene in "Hakujaden", when the baby snake is abandoned. Also the Dorok priest Charuka, who eventually became devoted to Nausicaa, resembles the monk Hokai, who started out fighting with Paiyan, but ended up understanding her true heart.
Another major work influencing "Nausicaa" was the movie "The Snow Queen" (1957). This influence can be seen in the fantastic garden near the Shuwa cemetery. This garden put Nausicaa-unable to sleep or rest, exposed to radiation, worn-out and tattered-to sleep. In addition to reviving her, the garden almost made her forget her mission completely, and thus was similar to the garden in which Gerda rested, among the blooming flowers. But Nausicaa's garden was probably destroyed along with the Shuwa cemetery. What happened to mankind's final legacy of beauty and music, and of the seeds of flora and fauna?
As might be expected, Nausicaa's spirit journey, during which she purifies the soul of the Dorok Holy Emperor's younger brother, is strongly reminiscent of the 'Lost Forest' in "Taiyo no Oji Horusu no Daiboken" (1968). The stages by which "Nausicaa" became a movie were very similar to the stages "Horusu" went through.
I've written about this before, but the first scene of Eisenstein's "Alexander Nevski", among others, provided many ideas as to background. The female warrior, Washirisa, was an excellent character.
LeGuin's "Earth-Sea Trilogy". The image that Miyazaki loved in this book was incorporated into "Castle Cagliostro" as well as into "Nausicaa". Particularly the lines,"I give you my name", and " I'm going to close the gate to the cemetery" were influential. "Earth-Sea Trilogy" (3 volumes, Iwanami Shoten) is an American fantasy which I highly recommend. But I wouldn't bother with the 4th volume, released 16 years later.
But still....when the movie premiered, I would never have imagined that the God Soldiers would become Nausicaa's children. And I still don't understand the strange words Kurotowa muttered in the movie when the God Soldiers began moving-"Too soon....they're rotting!" And in the manga, when the God Soldiers fired two nuclear-type bombs into the Valley of Wind-surely everything was destroyed? I'd really like to know.
When an innocent young girl shouldered an unbearable burden, Selm of the Forest People appeared, to replace Asbel.
13 years ago, Miyazaki Hayao, who had just finished "Castle Cagliostro" and "had no particular plans", began to write a manga. Now having become one of the major animation directors, representative of Japan, he has finally brought it to an unimaginable close. (Halfway by force...) The artist, the readers, Japan, the world, all changed during this time. "Ecology", which no one knew anything about at the time, has now become a watchword, or rather and indulgence. The era has outrun the manga, and conditions have worsened.
"If I live..." These words from the final panel, brimming with emotion, sink deeply into the hearts of those readers who have followed "Nausicaa" for 13 years.