Nausicaa Perfect Collection: Vol 2 (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Pb)) Paperback – 1 Jan 2000
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It's hard to talk about the manga without mentioning the film, which is one of my all-time favorites. More people are familiar with the film than with the comic, and Miyazaki is far better known as a filmmaker than as a comic artist. Obviously, Miyazaki is more limited in a sensory way here, without the film's color or outstanding musical score. But he is much freer to explore his world: the film features a considerably streamlined story (one nation has been omitted) and a moral conflict that is fairly black and white. The manga is substantially more complex.
Miyazaki has created a rich, deep world, which is worth the investment the reader must make. Particularly early on, there's a lot of exposition in dialogue, like we're accustomed to seeing in American Silver Age comics. And it takes some time for the reader to determine who is on which side and what, exactly, is going on.
Nausicaä is always engaging but rarely gripping. Toward the end of the saga, Miyazaki does manage to generate some genuine suspense, but mostly the story meanders along as Nausicaä herself more or less blows where the winds of war take her. The ending is rife with potential, but it goes out with something of an abrupt whimper.
As an archetype of love and self-sacrifice, Nausicaä herself is an exceptionally admirable protagonist. Through nonviolence, she is a uniter, a peacemaker. The only stumble here comes at the end of the work, when Miyazaki puts her into what he obviously feels is a shades-of-gray, no-win moral situation. But it's actually somewhat underwhelming, as Miyazaki barely even hints at the ramifications.
Miyazaki's ever-present attention to detail is here in the artwork, which is generally impressive, although such a degree of detail often makes for some messy and hard-to-interpret panels, particularly during battles (and there are a lot of battles). And Miyazaki doesn't shy away from depicting the carnage more graphically than he ever did in any of his films.
There are a wide array of supernatural powers at work here that for the most part were not present in the film. A number of them are kind of silly, and some don't always make a lot of sense (hello, sentient mold monster). Telepaths are a dime a dozen.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is always good but rarely great. It will particularly appeal to fans of the film who want more of Nausicaä's adventures and a deeper look into Miyazaki's postapocalyptic world.
It's hard to summarize the whole plot, since it is complex but somehow you do get to follow it all through, as it was well written and drawn. You get glued to it. What's interesting here is how none of the warring sides is really depicted as the "evil" nation. Imagine a huge war between 3 main groups in the future where insects are as big as whales and an atmosphere which is lethal. Picture technology that most people don't even remember how to fix. Picture Nausicaa, the princess of a tiny farming nation caught up in the middle of it all. On top of this, an "unusual storm" is building up threatening to wipe out everyone. But what really impressed me most is the bravery, courage and compassion of Nausicaa's character even toward her "enemies".
This one is truly for keeps. Beautiful and brilliant.
On a side note: The original English series is a set of seven graphic novels. This is actually the same as the re-release (Perfect Collection series) which is on four graphic novels. The Japanese manga release is also on seven graphic novels. I actually got everything except for the english original GN #5. It took me 10 years just to get all the Nausicaa manga I now have. If only they would release the DVD! What's taking so long?
What more can I say, it really is my favorite. Try it. It's what got me into Anime and Manga.
I definitely like Nausicaa's impressive martial abilities, juxtaposed by her peaceful nature. The airships are almost Victorian science fiction, with lots of technology that can't be replicated anymore. The noble folks rising to meet their oppressors is something we can learn from.
A bargain at ~$9 per volume, I am going to collect the whole shooting match. Great stuff.