Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Manga Review: A Must-Read for Fantasy Fans
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is more commonly recognized as the 1984 feature film from Top Craft, which later gave birth to Studio Ghibli. Before its critically acclaimed cinema release it was a 7 volume manga, drawn and written by Hayao Miyazaki, whom claims he never could write comic books! It was published from 1982 to 1984, and takes place in a post apocalyptic universe. A thousand years after the war known as the “Seven Days of Fire”, the world is slowly being swallowed by a toxic jungle known as the “Sea of Corruption”. Nausicaa, a young princess, decides to explore its plants and insects to discover its secrets. The first 16 chapters, which covers the first 2 volumes of the manga was used as the script and storyboard for the film. With this in mind, it is easy to see how the manga fixes a lot of problems the film had with not much focus on character development or exploration. You could watch the film, then read the manga from volume 3 onwards. Movie comparisons aside, this manga is a rare sight in the pile, from its large scale story to artwork style.
Those whom are introducing themselves to the manga scene will marvel at Miyazaki’s familiar stylistic choice. The clear cut, small, parallel rectangular panels are more like those of European TinTin or Asterix & Obelix than its Japanese counterpart. The only similarities to modern manga we all know and love is the use of black ink, an overarching story and Hayao Miyazaki’s endearing character designs. Costume, location, mechanical and creature design are unique, eye catching and amazingly detailed. Shading is done with hundreds of thin sketchy black lines, and the backgrounds are equally detailed. Use of toning is minimal, which is an impressive feat. The only problem is this mix of highly detailed drawings, small boxes and dialogue can sometimes make it hard to tell what is happening on the page.
The cast of characters is Game of Thrones-esque enormous and since all of them are given some form of detail and story, it is difficult to remember their names. Granted, it doesn’t help that their names are obscure. Sadly, with such a large variety, not all the characters are likable, so you will pick your favorites and hope they show up in the next scene. Thankfully, the most lovable is Nausicaa herself, and she is the star of the show. Asbel and Master Yupa are a close second for me in the favorites line up.
The plot was executed to appear quite simplistic and predictable in the film, but this is not the case in this drawn version. The manga expands on the main crisis of the story and the setting all these characters find themselves in: their ways of living, the history, its legends, many cities, myths and unique set of flora and fauna. The first 3 volumes, and around half of the script beyond that point, are dedicated to setting and character set up. The script is tight and has very little filler, but have your thinking caps ready to absorb the vast ocean of information Miyazaki has created.
The story, while interesting doesn’t set itself apart from other generic fantasy titles until Volume 5, where Miyazaki takes out his big guns. There are genius plot twists which will make you smack yourself and wonder why you didn’t see it coming. It’s the way the plot unwravels and races which makes Nausicaa manga rightfully earn the title of “masterpiece”. Up until that point it has the “cool” factor, but not the “wow” factor. The often poetic and fanciful dialogue is well-written and amusing to compare to language today (Japanese translation or not).
Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind is an impressive mountain of work. It’s obvious Miyazaki poured his heart and soul into it. Apart from the slow first act (could it have been done any other way?) and sometimes questionable panel layout, it is a solid drama piece. For those who are fantasy fans or perhaps looking for a manga to try reading, Nausicaa is a great choice if you have the brain power to take in the detail. Art wise it is more similar to “comics” than ‘manga” so could be easier to swallow and make the transition. For Miyazaki fans this is a must read. It’s re-read value is high for the sake of absorbing more of the story the second time around.
If Studio Ghibli is looking for something to make to honor Miyazaki when he dies, they need to animate this into a trilogy of films or TV series.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
I recieved vol. 2 of this collection about 2 years ago and was just dying to read the rest of the series. It is abosolutely wonderful! I cried when I finished reading, it was so beautiful.
I don’t normally read manga that involves war, but this was an exception. Breathtaking!
Miyazaki is such a humanist, much like Steven Spielberg and Zhang Yimou.
This makes Watchmen look like Dr. Seuss. (Not that Dr. Seuss is bad…)
Many friends have asked to borrow these books as they begin their journey with Miyazaki’s characters.
It’s cool that lots of your friends have asked to borrow them. 🙂 the more people who can discover the joys of manga, the better!
One correction to this otherwise lovely review: Miyazaki did not complete the novel in 1984: it took him many painstaking years, well after the movie was out, to complete. I lived in Japan between 1992 and 1995 and bouught most of the final chapters as they were serialized in a monthly movie and anime-centered magazine called Animage. I think that accounts for how the early books stick fairly closely to the film and then it branches out into incredible character detail, high-stakes emotion and tragic loss in its final volumes.
Oops sorry about the mistake. Thanks for the correction.
I didn’t even know Nausicaa was a manga until I read this review. I loved the film, and you’ve made me curious about how the story is expanded by the manga version.
The movie covers the first 1/3 of the manga… which should give you an idea XD
I was aware there was a Nausicaa manga, but not that the story was so much larger. Thanks for enlightening me – I’ll have to go check it out.
No worries 🙂 hope you enjoy!
I watched the Anime movie, tbh I was underwhelmed, so I guess they must of cut a lot of the meat out that was present in the actual Manga.
The movie only covers the introduction of the story from the manga, the first 3 volumes.
This is one of my favorite movies out of Hayao Miyazaki’s works. Howl’s Moving Castle, and Princess Mononoke were another two of them that I truly loved because the story plot and characters were so well written and beautifully voiced. His talent in making stories that grab the viewer and immerse them in the world that he creates. I sadly missed his newest work “The Wind Rises” but I have seen most of the others and they are a definite must watch!
The manga is the best manga ever read. I really wish miyazaki expanded volume 5 into three+ volumes, because I want to understand his view of an advanced society and technology. The most interesting part is how the crypt IS the master of the crypt. Innovative ideas about future buildings.
It would be so great if he could make a sequel to the movie – one about nausicaa, the master of the garden, the master of the crypt, and the “plan”
I have been aware of a Nausicaa manga for a while, but not seen anything written on it and unable to get it myself. But it does not surprise me that it gets such high acclaim! Thank you for your wonderful analysis, and without giving anything away. I am surprised to learn about the simplistic style of panels, but taking a moment to think on it, it makes sense. Miyazaki’s style has always been in the small details. However, he uses these details perfectly, and the overall effect is almost overwhelming in its beauty and scope. Yet it still feels manageable because of the simplicity with which it is put forth. This is very noticeable with his backgrounds. Having a more serialized version of the manga, with simple panels, allows the reader to focus more on the story and what is within the panels, which Miyazaki always delivers wonderfully on. It’s good to see this hold true even in his more personal work, for I know that Nausicaa was quite a labor of love for him.
It would be really great if Studio Ghibli did a whole 24 episode series based on the manga.
As mentioned before. The storyboards are basically done.
I have the the Viz hardback box set. Love it, however one gripe I have that no one else seems to pick up on in the reviews I’ve read, is that sometimes speech bubbles are drawn as thought bubbles, when it is clear that the character is talking, not thinking. Also, sometimes you get a double speech bubbles (linked) that are usually used for extended monologues, with two characters dialogue in them! This is a pretty major issue that detracts the flow of reading quite lot!
Such a good representation of Hayao’s work!
“For those who are fantasy fans or perhaps looking for a manga to try reading, Nausicaa is a great choice if you have the brain power to take in the detail.” To me, that’s the only way to take in any story.