Humanity, once a technologically advanced and thriving civilization, has been pushed to the brink of extinction following a cataclysmic war known as the "Seven Days of Fire." The remnants of the human race now live in scattered kingdoms to avoid the unrelenting spread of the "Sea of Corruption," a colossal forest infested with dangerous mutant insects and fungi that produce poisonous spores.
Nausicaä, sole heir to the throne of the agricultural kingdom Valley of the Wind, is thrust into a war after an ally kingdom, the imperialist Torumekia, invades the Dorok Empire. Forced to fight alongside the Torumekian military and their cunning princess Kushana, Nausicaä witnesses firsthand the horrors of war and its effect on both humanity and the environment. With her uncanny charisma and gentle nature, Nausicaä may be the only for hope for humanity as the ongoing war and the Sea of Corruption hasten the extinction of mankind.
Set against the backdrop of a devastated world, Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä depicts the aftermath of human folly and the immortal power of nature.
VIZ Media has published Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä in English as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in five different formats since 1988. The two most recent releases pertain closest to the original format: A 7 volume release under the Ghibli Library imprint from February 11 to September 7, 2004 and a complete box set with two hardcover omnibus volumes published on November 6, 2012. (For more details, see the more info section)
The series was also published in Spanish as Nausicaä del Valle del Viento by Planeta DeAgostini Cómics from May to October 2001 and republished in November 2013 in two omnibus volumes box set.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is not a very popular manga, and it is a shame at that. For those of you who enjoyed the movie (the film only barley skims the surface of the first and second volume), I highly suggest taking the time to finding the series and reading it, 7 volumes in all.
Nausicaä was written and illustrated by who may be one of the best filmakers of all time, Hayao Miyazaki. That alone should be an incentive enough, but the series itself is monumental.
Taking place thousands of years in the future after all industrial life has come
to an end, humanity is desperately trying to cling to life in a dying world where poisonous spores fall from trees daily and most are forced to wear masks. Different countries are always at war with each other, trying to scavenge the last of all resources. People turn to worship of bizarre and diverse gods all over the planet, not knowing where else to turn. A princess of one small village, the Valley of the Wind, fight's for her people's survival among invaders and gigantic, monstrous insects. Over the course of the story, the main character, Nausicaä, grows from an innocent, nature loving girl, one who has been hardened by death and loss, yet still manages to keep her peaceful persona and optimistic view. The story itself, besides the characters, is an adventure. The characters never stop to take a breath, always striving to keep humanity safe (sometimes from itself) and all the creatures of the world. All of this, paired with breath-taking artwork which defies the average manga style, makes Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind one of the most fantastic and epic mangas ever created.
I would like to clarify something before moving on with this review. It is important for my readers to realize that a 9/10 for a manga is not the same as a 9/10 for an anime. Manga’s in my opinion are the superior form of storytelling...I think this opinion of mine needs clarification. Anime as a form of media is saturated with many restrictions. What is allowed to be showed (censorship), how long the animation must be, how many viewers, etc… While manga itself does have some restrictions, they are much more minuscule when compared to anime. This is perhaps the main reason why the
manga of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki is perhaps undoubtedly his greatest work of art. Think of the comparison between novels and movies. Novels will most of the time always be better due to them having more time and less restriction in adding massive detail that expands the story and characters within a specific world. Censorship in manga is practically none existent thus Miyazaki was able to go all out in terms of narrative in order to deliver to us his most poignant and thought provoking story ever penned. With all that said, the reason why I give Nausicaa a 9/10 instead of a 10/10 is because my standards for manga are simply higher than that of anime’s. If this was an anime show, it would have gotten a 10/10 perfect score no doubt about it (a point I should have specified in my earlier reviews such as in Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan...woops). With that out of the way, let us delve into the beautiful world that is Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
Going back to my point on how censorship sometimes limits writers, this argument is completely nullified when reading Nausicaa and my god does it show. Miyazaki pushes the envelope of what he usually does by giving us his most violent story ever. The brutalities of war, limbs flying off, women and children burning, fantastical environments fighting back, etc… He really wanted to show and give us an anti-war and environmentalist message that depicted in an accurate way the horror’s that men can do to themselves and their world. Religion and politics is also a very large topic and theme that Miyazaki delves into. Very controversial stuff that makes you wonder just what exactly is Hayao Miyazaki trying to say here? Nausicaa is a very religious and morally incorruptible figurehead who basically saves the world, humans and animals alike. The people and animals in the manga worship her as a savior and the political leaders view her as a threat, but they eventually learn that she is graceful beyond human comprehension. Is Miyazaki trying to tell us that the world needs religion and a messiah in order for it to be saved? Or maybe does it just need a strong leader that can inspire people? Whatever the case may be it would seem that Miyazaki is much in favor of a socialist world where in which the people are in charge of their own lives. Nausicaa and Kushana are both great inspirational leaders, but they refuse to take long lasting charge of their own populace. They consider themselves equal to everyone and they never believe for a second that they are superior. In fact that is how the manga ends, the world at peace and saved but also left without a ruler. Nature versus nurture is also a subject very much discussed within the story. Miyazaki never really takes a stance for one side but rather finds an equal balance between the two which in turn also shows his views on just how precious life in general is. It’s a fascinating story filled with heart, emotion, and intricate themes which are almost all very well thought out.
One also must ask himself whether Miyazaki was partly inspired by Shakespeare caricatures when he wrote Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Many of the characters within the story, especially the King’s, are tragic figures that draw many parallels from Shakespeare’s classic works. I would hate to spoil anything but story elements such as brother killing brother to gain power (hamlet) and mad king paranoid of his own children (King Lear) all make an appearance. The Torumekian King actually has three sons and one daughter which is very similar to the tragedy of King Lear where in which Lear has three daughters and one son. It could just be a coincidence, but it is still hard not to notice these similarities. Actually the Torumekian King by the end of the story gets a sort of redemption just like Lear does and he even walks around with his own personal fool who kind of acts like his crazy adviser…actually forget what I said, this can no longer be a coincidence. This is definitely a parallel and homage to the tragedy of King Lear. Nausicaa and Kushana as described previously are head strong religious and political leaders. Nausicaa can definitely be related to a messiah figures such as Jesus or Buddha but with her own unique personality and moral qualities. She even at one point leads someone into the afterlife, if that doesn’t scream religious leader to you then I have no idea what will? Bravery, unwavering in the face of challenges, loving, caring, motherly, and selflessness are all qualities Nausicaa develops throughout the plot and it is fascinating to read. Kushana on the other hand is noble and honorable when dealing with her own people. She exhibits many signs that make her great political leader of men but she is also vengeful, vengeful towards her father and brothers who constantly fight over power. It is Nausicaa’s influence that cleanses the hate away and turns her into the right leader she was born to be. Her gaining that experience towards the becoming of a better person is the reason why she is the most interesting character in the manga. There are also many other interesting sub characters that help Nausicaa on her journey, the prime example being her mentor called Master Yupa. Many of Nausicaa’s teachings and morals came from him and he has many great moments throughout that story. The roles of the many characters within the story are very well handled and defined.
Remember how back in paragraph two I stated at the end how all the themes are “almost” all very well thought out…well this almost comment needs to be brought up since all stories have flaws. The biggest flaw in this manga is the drop in a specific character trait found in Nausicaa, being her uncontrollable rage and battle prowess shown in the first volume. It is as if Miyazaki completely forgot about it and never spoke of it again. One can argue that the inner rage was controlled once she traveled and developed herself as a morally incorruptible leader, and I would have been willing to buy that excuse if there were at least one or two signs of violence exhibited by Nausicaa later on in the plot…which there isn’t. She always does the right choice and violence is never an option she comes across or even thinks about. She always rejects it completely and chooses the non violent method. No display what so ever of inner turmoil about the use of violence. Why bring up that character trait if it is never going to be seen or read of again? If it had been used then it would have made Nausicaa much more interesting. Even under all her moral perfection, even she is not immune to human violent tendencies and instincts. I could see the potential right now. Kuchana learned from Nausicaa how to overcome the path of vengeance and Kushana in turn could have taught Nausicaa how to control her violent instincts. Makes sense since Kushana is a proper warrior and army general. I would expect her to have control and training over her own combat skills. Kushana herself in the story does not get proper closure. She becomes a much better person thanks to Nausicaa but then the story kind of forgets about her and puts her on the sidelines for the ending climax of the series. It is a shame because the ending climax has to do with her father’s redemption (the Torumekian King). The redemption itself could have had much more impact and emotional investment if it involved Kushana in some way. Kushana helping her father see the error of his ways would have been a very rewarding conclusion to all the experience she amassed throughout the story. Instead she is just tossed to the side after volume 5 and becomes a normal sub character.
The art style Miyazaki employs in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is very well detailed and beautiful to look at. The fantasy world itself, the creatures, and people are rich with emotion and life. My only problem with the art in the manga is the panel sizes. While the art itself is well detailed, it is sometimes hard to depict what is happening due to how small the images are on the page. It’s like Miyazaki crammed all panels into seven volumes just because he wanted seven and nothing more. I would have welcomed an eighth volume in order to see better what was going on. In order to prove my point even further, the last volume is about 230 pages long which is about 70 or 80 more pages than the average earlier volumes. He really did want seven books for some reason? For symbolism maybe, I have no idea but it does hurt the quality a bit...just a bit.
Whether you agree or not with the morality themes found in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, it is impossible to deny the intricacies and fantastic execution of the plot. Many if not all characters are likeable in their own way and almost everything including story and themes blend in together thanks to fantastic writing and art. The characters and story do reference to many other works, but the references in and of themselves are unique in their own way. That word “almost” popped up again didn’t it, and yes I did have complaints about the story but one must not let that get to them. This is a definite must read and remember that my 9/10 is really a 10/10 when being compared with anime. The rating scale says a 9/10 is “great” but that is an underestimate because it is more a masterpiece than anything else. No doubt about it.
This series undoubtedly deserves the place among top ten manga titles, which it currently has on MAL.
Though the film is failry good, it does not cover even half of what is depicted in manga. There are a lot of post-apocaliptic series about humankind trying to make ends meet in severe conditions of wreched world. But they are not as deep and moving as this one. Of course, you should keep in mind that bringing up a topic of world's balance, of our race's place in it, is Miyazaki's forte, be it manga or animation.
This series not an easy read, it has a lot of ideological
clashes. However in contrast to all the violence and agression we have right now emerging in manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind remains a pivotal oasis of its genre.
Are comics allowed to call themselves literature? That's a question that has been asked for along time. The obvious answer is to mention Watchmen (a good answer) and Maus (a better answer).
But in manga circles, the first thing people would do was mention Osamu Tezuka and his most famous works (Astro Boy, Black Jack, Kimba etc). Sorry, but as revolutionary as they are, they fall short. Sasameki koto may be a life-affirming love story, but it's not true literature either.
But there is one title I can think of which says, quite loudly, YES. This one.
The art is immaculate, the characters are Miyazaki characters (which should
explain itself), and the story is possibly the best story in any manga series. At the very least, it's the best story in any manga series I've ever read.
Before he was one of the greatest anime directors of all time, Satoshi Kon was a manga artist. From early success in college to ambitious collaborations with the likes of Katsuhiro Otomo and Mamoru Oshii, his manga work is highly recommended to better understand his genius.