Monday, April 2, 2018

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Manga Review

by The Wanderer  

Author: Hayao Miyazaki
Illustrator: Hayao Miyazaki
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC Deluxe edition
Genre: Manga, Science Fiction
Series: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Length: 1,104

After the Seven Days of Fire industrial society has been destroyed, but humanity survives. Most of the Earth is uninhabitable being covered by the Sea of Corruption, a forest that emits toxic miasmas and contains giant insects that can spread the forest over what little land that is left for humans to use. 

Centuries later, Nausicaä, a Princess of the Valley of the Wind, is set to inherit her father's kingdom. As a vassal state of the Torumekian Empire she is summoned to go to war against the Dorok's. The Torumekian's fear the Dorok's have found a God Warrior, one of the advanced technological creations believed responsible for the Seven Days of Fire, and that they intend to use it destroy the world again.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is over 1,100 pages and represents over a decade of work for Hayao Miyazaki.  The movie based off the manga was a huge success and the money made from that film was used to kick start Studio Ghibli, arguably the greatest animation studio in the world. Over a decade of time went into its creation so I believe it's fair to say this is a very personal and important work.

Having watched nearly every film by Studio Ghibli, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, has always been my least favorite of Miyazaki's work when he was creating in his prime (ie. 80's-00's). Then again the bar for Miyazaki's work is always set incredibly high. Regrettably I have to say the manga didn't impress me as much as I hoped it would either.

At the heart of the problem is Nausicaä herself. She's a complete Mary Sue to the point where it's beyond irritating and distracting. Her fatal flaw is that she cares too much. She always tries to the right thing, and although she has a temper, she is usually able to get it under control quickly thus nullifying the development of any potentially interesting source of conflict. She's constantly preaching pacifism, and her goodie-two-shoes act along with some heavy handed storytelling in the later portions of the story turn her literally into manga Jesus. 

Manga Jesus fighting against an apocalypse in a jet glider with giant insects. As a plot I've got to admit this actually sounds really interesting. And the plot itself is definitely one of the stronger points, but again this is story that works if you can get behind the main character. And in order to do that there needs to be some sort of believable internal conflict, or at least something that makes her relatable, or some non-altruistic flaw. 

For those coming into this having seen the film, a number of plot devices will be recognizable scattered throughout the manga, but otherwise these are two completely different stories. The Dorok's will certainly be something new as they aren't even in the film, and the Valley of the Wind isn't a vassal state of the Torumekians, are just a few of the key differences presented early on. Disappointed as I was, it does present Miyazaki as a mortal, and I admit considering his body of work, it's really difficult to do that at times. 

In many ways I feel like this manga and the film were both rough drafts of a sort for what could arguably be considered Miyazaki's greatest film, Princess Mononoke. In that film Miyazaki gets dangerously close to becoming overly preachy with Ashitaka's character, but he seems to reign it in just before it's about to get out of control. It also helps that the other characters in that film aren't constantly preaching Ashitaka's words, but rather challenging his way of thinking.

Score: 6.5

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