“In a few short centuries, industrial civilization had spread from the western fringes of Eurasia to sprawl across the face of the planet. Plundering the soil of its riches, fouling the air, and remolding life-forms at will, this gargantuan industrial society had already peaked a thousand years after its foundation: Ahead lay abrupt and violent decline.
The cities burned, welling up as clouds of poison in the war remembered as the seven days of fire. The complex and sophisticated technological superstructure was lost; almost all the surface of the earth was transformed into a sterile wasteland.
Industrial civilization was never rebuilt as mankind lived on through the long twilight years…”
– Introduction, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Thus begins the greatest piece of ecological fiction ever created. I consider the manga (Japanese comic) version of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind to be Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus, spanning over a thousand pages and taking the renowned animator twelve painstaking years to complete. An exercise in world-building on par with Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Herbert’s Dune, this dense epic also represents one man’s intensely personal struggle with a story filled with complex ideas rooted in ethics, politics, and philosophy.
Miyazaki employs a fluid and organic form of storytelling in many of his works. He begins a story without knowing what the conclusion is. As such, the scope and stakes of the narrative changes as his own thinking about the relationship of humanity and nature matures. Nausicaa thus is a work created with genuine intellectual and emotional honesty; its terrible and tragic strength lies in its rejection of easy answers in favour of uncertain complexity and constant change. Like life, there are no simple solutions to be found, only hard choices.
I consider the series a mandatory read for anyone remotely interested in the relationship between humanity and nature, and in environmentalism in general. It is a shame that it is not more well known in the West, and I am seeking to rectify that mistake in my own small way. Over the next while, Ekostories will be featuring weekly pieces on the series. I will be providing a running synopsis on the sprawling epic while connecting to particular ideas, themes, and scenes I find particularly interesting and provocative. I would love for you to follow along. The series is widely available and affordable online; Viz Media recently did a reprint on a gorgeous hardcover collection, but the seven individual standard print editions are also completely serviceable. Both are superbly translated – just remember to read from right to left.
My first entries will cover volumes 1 and 2, titled The Valley of the Wind and the Acid Lake, respectively. If you have seen Nausicaa the film, these two issues closely parallels the story with a few significant changes towards the end.
I hope you can join me in the exploration of one of my most treasured Ekostories.
Table of Contents:
Volume 1: The Valley of the Wind
Volume 2: The Acid Lake
Volume 3: The Dorok War
Volume 4: Catastrophe
Volume 5: Daikaisho
Volume 6-1: The Place Dreamed
Volume 6-2: The God Warrior
Volume 7-1: The Garden
Volume 7-2: The Crypt