Recently, an animé which I immersed myself in was Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Although a little outdated, being produced in 1984, I felt that it was still surprisingly relevant to today’s world and so decided to research it further and find out more background information.
Set in a time when industrial human civilisation has come to an end, and a toxic jungle infested with large and terrifying insects spreads over the planet at an alarming rate, threatening human existence, Nausicaa is a princess of a small valley.
Possessing a peculiar talent for calming the normally unstoppable rage of the insects, and the ability to befriend almost all animals, Nausicaa is faced with the challenge of getting war obsessed humans to cease fighting and attempting to destroy the jungle, and instead try to understand, and live in harmony with it.
This film raises environmental issues which humanity still continues to struggle with, and perhaps suggests that we should find a way to understand the planet and still use it for our own ends, without completely destroying, as currently happens – examples being deforestation and thus the large amount of animals left homeless and a result of this.
On a wider note, it could perhaps be seen that this film also suggests that humans are, in generally perhaps too quick to attack something which they fear and are then sometimes overwhelmed by the results of this later, whereas a better solution might be to try to understand and become knowledgeable about whatever it is that they are afraid of, as Nausicaa does in her secret den of poisonous spores from the jungle. It also gives off a message concerning warfare - the various groups of humanity left on the planet in this film are suspicious of each other, and each try to destroy the others, which again is solved by Nausicaa’s attempt at understanding, suggesting that humans should join together in their efforts, rather than always see the other as enemies.
Interpretations for this film can be found by researching Shintoism – an ancient Japanese religion in which a presence, named ‘Gami’ or ‘Kami’ is found in all aspects of nature, and animates the world. They are quipped with emotions and influence the world and mankind, and mankind can also influence them. In this way, but burning down a forest, a human risks angering the Gami/Kami, although these presences are shown to have different personalities and powers. These religion can be seen to be reflected in Nausicaa within the rage which the Ohm have, and which causes them to attack the human settlements. In the Shintoist religion, any contact with blood, death, dirtiness of illness is regarded as a stain and taboo, yet Nausicaa is often shown to be helping the sick and wounded, breaking a taboo, yet still earning the love and respect of both humans and insects. When questioned about his religion, Miyazaki refers to himself as a Shintoist.
A large amount of importance is placed on names in this film, with Nausicaa being inspired by a character in Homer’s Odyssey who is a lover of nature when Miyazaki read a description of her in a Greek anthology of myths, and then later filled in his own details of the character. In Greek, Nausicaa means ‘burner of ships’. One species of insect featured in the film are ‘ohm’ which is an alternative spelling of ‘om’ – the primal noise encompassing of all nature in many Sanskrit religions, such as Hinduism, which could reflect the strong links the ohm as a feature in the plot have to nature, and being the base of existence and ‘Ohmu’ additionally means ‘King of Insects’ in Japanese.
Also, the glider on which Nausicaa flies around on is named ‘Mehve’, a name derived from ‘Mowe’ meaning ‘seagull’ in German.
Some fun facts about this movie: A later US version of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was released, entitled ‘Warriors of the Wind’ which edited heavily the original script, almost altering the narrative meaning of the film. In response to this, Miyazaki sent a samurai sword to the executive at Disney, along with a note which simply stated ‘No Cuts’. Now any licensors for his films are contractually bound to perform no edits, other than dubbing or subbing. Also, if the scene showing the invasion of the valley of the wind is watched closely, it is noticed that one of the large carrier planes is moving backwards. The original manga for this movie was unplanned and as Miyazaki finished the end of the 6th volume, he did not yet know what would occur in the 7th volume.