In “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” famed Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki depicts a world overrun by giant insects and a poisonous fungal forest, the fallout of an environmental cataclysm in the distant past. Humans live on in fractured kingdoms, using what remains of the technology from a bygone age.
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Taking inspiration from a minor character in Homer’s “The Odyssey” and a figure from ancient Japanese lore, Miyazaki’s Princess Nausicaa is young and brave, yet sensitive to the plight of all living things. As war breaks out she leaves home with her glider, trying desperately to help mankind avoid repeating the cycle of violence and destruction.
Though first serialized in 1982, the book bears all the hallmark elements that echo through Miyazaki’s later and best works: A strong, virtuous girl fights for love, compassion and a way of life in balance with nature. His pen deftly expresses a huge range of motion and emotion in people, animals and machines, set against a detailed, ever-changing world.
“Nausicaa” is a masterclass in the use of pace, scope, perspective and character development in visual storytelling. Like the best stories, it can be enjoyed by young people and adults alike. It examines the mistake of thinking we’re somehow separate from our surroundings, making it more pertinent now than ever.
Read archived reviews of Japanese classics at jtimes.jp/essential.
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