Overjoyed, the Dorok soldiers outside Sapata throw down their weapons to reunite with freed family members. For a brief moment, there is relief and joy. But there remains a war to be fought. The Dorok commander Charuka suspects the release of the prisoners as part of a Torumekian plot, but the Sapatan elder informs him that it was the blue clad one who commanded the release. Desiring to learn more about Nausicaä, Charuka listens to the story of a woman with two infants. The woman explains that she was approached to care for them; having lost her own children in the war, she agreed. Before leaving Sapata, Nausicaä offers her a pair of earrings in gratitude.
Charuka offers the woman money and council in exchange for the earrings, warning her to get upwind as soon as possible. The Sapatan elder realizes that Miralupa means to cover Sapata with the toxic jungle to wipe out the Torumekians; he pleads desperately with Charuka to spare his people’s homeland.
With her obligations met, Nausicaä prepares to leave Sapata. Overwhelmed with the casualties of the war, she feels compelled to keep moving to avoid drowning in grief. She takes off towards the south and doesn’t look back.
Meanwhile, Charuka travels to Miralupa’s ship where novel strains of fungal spores are being developed. He asks the scientists how long it takes for the poisons activated by the spores to dissipate, and is shocked to learn they have not given the issue too much thought. Instead, the scientists seem more excited about the development of a new mutant strain of mold capable of rapid growth. Unsettled, Charuka heads off to meet with Miralupa, urging him to reconsider the use of spores on Sapata. Miralupa is unmoved, believing that the greatest threat to the Dorok Empire is a weakening respect for authority. He believes that using the toxic jungle will reassert the might and terror of the ruling council he commands.
The story shifts back to Yupa, Asbel, and Ketcha deep within the Sea of Corruption. They walk past the petrified ruins of Eftal, a great kingdom engulfed by the jungle over two centuries ago and is still in the process of being cleansed. Yupa asks Selm if there are any lands from the Seven Days of Fire a thousand years ago that have been completely purified, but Selm cryptically replies that they are forbidden to speak of those places. Before Yupa and company part ways with the Forest People, Yupa speaks of Nausicaä to Selm, in case they meet in the future.
Meanwhile, while searching for Yupa, Mito suddenly finds himself in the midst of a Dorok fleet that has captured the God Warrior from Pejitei. Mito attempts to destroy the creature, but it proves impervious to weapons fire. The gunship takes heavy damage from the Dorok ships and has to retreat.
Asbel, Yupa, and Ketcha notices the battle overhead and track down the damaged gunship. Yupa and Mito reunite and discuss the current situation at length while Asbel repairs the ship. At night, Yupa and Ketcha notices a mass migration of insects, all moving south.
The action switches back to Kushana and Kurotowa. They embark on a daring mission to commandeer ships from the main Torumekian army in hopes of breaking the siege back at Sapata. Complications arise when a massive swarm of insects are also heading towards the encampment. Kushana decides to take advantage of the situation, using news of the swarm to sow chaos and confusion within the main Torumekian army so her small battalion can steal as many ships as possible.
The plan fails as Kushana’s ship is rammed and destroyed by her brother’s armoured corvette. Kurotowa is gravely injured, and Kushana is brought before her brother where she is taunted and mocked. Realizing the direness of the situation, Kurotowa creates a distraction and forces Kushana’s brother to retreat and escape before the impending insect swarm. Stranded on the ground, Kushana flees on foot with her few remaining soldiers, carrying Kurotowa on her shoulders as she seeks refuge from the insects. She watches as a massive swarm descend upon her brother’s ship, destroying it in an instant. She stares, not quite believing that her revenge against him had been so quick and simple.
Huddled in a trench as insects decimate the remaining Torumekian army, Kushana recalls back to her last day in Tolas, the Torumekian capital, before departing for the Periphery campaign and a final visit to her mother’s. The flashback reveals that her mother was driven mad by a poison intended for a teenage Kushana. Ever since that time, Kushana has waited for her chance to exact revenge on the members of the royal family responsible. As death in the form of giant insects approaches, she finds herself at peace, singing a lullaby to her men.
Journeying south, Nausicaä chances upon small forested shrine in an oasis, discovering that it is still being worshipped. A telepathic child named Chikuku appears and leads her to a hidden cave full of blind old monks. They explain that this sanctuary was constructed long ago to preserve the ancient teachings deemed heretical by the current Dorok Holy emperor, including the ancient prophecy of the blue-clad one. The monks warn Nausicaä that the Daikaisho, a great boiling over of the toxic jungle, will happen soon to purify the land. They accept this inevitability, believing that the resulting suffering and death is but a trial for the rebirth of the world. Troubled by this confirmation, Nausicaä finds herself at odds with their philosophy; she refuses to do nothing about an impending apocalypse that will bring annihilation to so many.
Outside, another insect swarm pass by the oasis, contaminating the sanctuary with miasma. Nausicaä rushes back inside to warn the monks, but discovers they have all passed away. She flees with Chikuku on her glider to follow the insects, converging at Miralupa ship. Onboard, a mutant strain of mold has breached containment and is growing out of control. Nausicaä finally understands the reason for the mass migration: The insects had sensed the creation of the artificial molds and flew to contain the potential outbreak. Charuka urges Miralupa to abandon ship, but Miralupa detects Nausicaa nearby and focuses his telepathic energies on destroying her. Nausicaä lands aboard the ship and confronts Miralupa’s shadow. This time, the young Chikuku is the one who protects her, shooting Miralupa in the eyes with his blowdart. Frustrated and injured, Miralupa is forced to return to his body and is evacuated back to the Dorok capital of Shuwa.
Charuka stays behind to contain the mold, knowing that if it lands on Dorok soil, it will consume his country. He initiates the ship’s self-destruct and prepares to sacrifice himself, but Nausicaä takes him away on her glider before the ship explodes. Unfortunately, a portion of the mold survives and glides down to the earth. The insect swarm attempts to devour the mutant mold to neutralize it, but die by the masses, being unable to tolerate its engineered virulence. Their dead bodies further fuel the explosive growth of the mold.
Charuka breaks his arm during a rough landing back to solid ground. Nausicaä tends to him while trying to hold herself together as she sees the landscape littered with insect corpses. Attempting to race off again, she doesn’t notice her glider stalling out, falls and is knocked unconscious. Charuka is conflicted at how to deal with an enemy of the state but the saviour of him and his people. He decides to tend to her, calling a nearby Dorok ship for assistance.
Onboard the new ship, Charuka is furious to see a group of scientists delighting at the mold’s ability to produce a miasma that can overcome masks. He orders them to work on a countermeasure for the poisons before going to speak with Nausicaä, with Chikuku serving as their telepathic translator. He returns Nausicaä’s earrings to her and repairs her glider, but says that he cannot do anything else for her since she is still an enemy of his lord. Nausicaä asks Charuka about the nature of the mold, but Charuka remains guarded, still dismissing the possibility of the Daikaisho.
But news from the front is bleak. The mold has grown immense, spreading concentrated toxic miasma over a vast territory. Villages and towns have been wiped out, and countless of lives have been lost. The Dorok fleet is in shambles, damaged by heavy insect swarms and filled to the brim with refugees with no homes.
Resting onboard the ship, Nausicaä suddenly senses an intense hatred emanating from below. She bursts into the cockpit and orders them to fly upwards. Down below, a portion of the mold has extended itself in an attempt to swallow the ship. Nausicaä realizes that it is trying to reunite with the remaining canisters of engineered molds on board. She throws a breached container overboard while Charuka orders the crew to jettison any remaining materials.
Down below, the mold begins to expand outwards, searching the devastated landscape for other sources of food. Recognizing the potential scale of destruction, Charuka finally resolves to work with Nausicaä to save his people from an impending catastrophe.
Letting go of Hatred and Revenge
In the midst of the destruction of the Torumekian fleet, Kushana’s backstory and primary motivation are revealed: She seeks revenge on those in the royal family who drove her mother mad. For me, this quiet and minimalistic flashback sequence, contrasted against the wild and chaotic backdrop of war, provides one of the most gripping moments in the saga. Huddled in a trench with her regiment, Kushana arrives at the end of her journey for revenge. She witnesses the demise of her brother and is surprised by its ease and senselessness. It is what she hoped for, but not at all what she imagined it would be. She not only realizes that his death will not bring back her mother’s sanity, but the deed actually grants her little satisfaction or reprieve:
I was completely empty… I was oblivious to the terrible scene before me, except for the overwhelming sadness of the warmth of my men’s bodies. Suddenly I found myself doing just as Nausicaa had said. She said that if you cast aside your hatred and fear, the insects will not attack. (Vol. 2, Hardcover Edition, p. 50)
Facing imminent death, Kushana chooses to walk Nausicaä’s path. She discards her rage and hatred, sings a lullaby to her men, and is spared from the insect horde.
When someone has wronged us, it is easy and comforting to cling onto the injustice and surrender to our base impulses. We can take great pleasure in being vindictive and hurtful. But indulging in this just perpetuates a cycle of internal and external suffering. In the end, we can never make another fully feel the depth of our pain, the pain we must always endure in solitude. One holds on to grudges at the risk of becoming a bitter and jaded husk, or worse, losing one’s self in the process.
“There’s not much difference between being at the mercy of desire and being a prisoner of hatred.” (Kushana, Vol. 2, Hardcover Edition, p. 50)
When forgiveness is impossible, choosing to let go of hatred becomes the next best option. Letting go is not done to condone the hurtful deed, but rather a personal choice made to free oneself from being a perpetual victim of the act. As Kushana demonstrates, letting go is in reality an act of self-love, one that can lead to personal salvation and understanding. As always, this is easier said than done. For Kushana, it took nothing less than death itself for her to realize this truth.
Curiosity and Cleverness Unchecked
In this volume, we are introduced to a host of Dorok scientists, all busy at work creating artificial spores for the war effort. Like the tribal elders at the wormhandler enclave in The Acid Lake, they see life simply as another form of technology for manipulation. Given access to old world technologies from the crypt of Shuwa, their enthusiasm and curiosity would be admirable if they were not actively developing weapons of mass destruction. The ethics of whether they should or shouldn’t doesn’t enter into their thinking; they have become so narrowly focused on solving specific issues – increased toxicity, faster growth, larger spores – that they are effectively blind to any potential side-effects or ramifications resulting from their work. More disturbing is the notion that they perhaps don’t care in the first place.
The characterization of these scientists is Miyazaki at his most cynical. He depicts them as out of touch, parasitic yes-men with no morals; he does not even give any of them a face. There’s a hilarious moment in the midst of the unfolding tragedy where Miralupa demands to know where the scientists are, only for Charuka to respond that they have all been consumed by the mold. Oops. I imagine Miyazaki experiencing a cathartic moment creating that particular exchange, sketching furiously while having a good chuckle.
- Is Miyazaki’s critique on the lack of ethics in the application of novel technologies fair? Why or why not?
The Unpredictability of Kindness
Nausicaä’s decision to save the two Dorok infants in the last chapter triggers a chain of events that alters the lives of all involved. Because of that one decision, two babies have a chance to grow up, and a woman who lost her own children in the war becomes a mother once again. Through her deed, Charuka begins to sincerely question the motivations of his lord, and in so doing begins to break free of dogma and finds the courage to rectify his mistakes. Everything comes full circle at the end of the chapter when he resolves to aid Nausicaä to save the world from disaster.
“It is a terrible thing, this kindness that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We, who are so rich, so full of strength, we end up with that small change. We have nothing else to give.” (The Left Hand of Darkness, p. 170)
Nausicaä single act of kindness, driven by her staunch love for all life, becomes a powerful weapon against mistrust and conflict. A cynic like Kurotowa, no matter how capable and calculating, could have never foresaw this chain of events. One of the reasons I love this story as much as I do is that Miyazaki constantly injects these small human moments throughout the saga as counters to terrible sweeping events, perhaps to remark that even in the darkest times, people practicing random acts of kindness can still affect meaningful change.
Philosophies of Life and Death
At the ancient forested shrine, Nausicaä stumbles upon a surprising revelation. The blind monks tell her that the impending Daikaisho was foretold, a part of God’s will to cleanse the old world to make room for a new pure world. While they both acknowledge that this path is the result of the continuing folly of humans in positions of power, Nausicaä rejects the monks’ fatalistic philosophy, one that demands destruction and purification in exchange for rebirth. Looking only at the big picture, the monks are able to detach themselves from worldly burdens, but Nausicaä cannot. She lives in the moment, immersed in the details, struggling for and with every life she encounters. She rejects the monk’s acceptance of things because she sees and feels the enormity of the injustice inflicted upon all the innocent people and creatures:
… Why must the plants and the birds and the insects suffer as well? So many will die. Who will atone for the pain and sadness of the Ohmu? (Nausicaä, Vol. 1, Hardcover Edition, p. 499)
I also love the contradiction between how Nausicaä is perceived and who she strives to be. Nausicaä loves life in all its forms, but Chikuku and the blind monks regard her as an apostle that brings about the apocalypse. A girl that fights for life is also regarded as a messiah of death. This conflicting notions will come into prominence later on in the story.
Half way into the story, Miyazaki is beginning to tackle some rather heady questions that have relevance to the real world. How do we balance the grand vision with the day-to-day details? Are the great problems we face solvable or are they part of the human condition? Where is the line between acceptance and action? I welcome your thoughts.
Next Up: Nausicaä Volume 5 – Daikaisho
- Nausicaä Vol. 1: The Valley of the Wind
- A 90’s Flashback: Dinosaurs’ Changing Nature
- The Power of Vulnerability, by Brené Brown
Le Guin, Ursula K. (1969) The Left Hand of Darkness. Ace Paperback Edition. Penguin Publishing: New York, 2003.
Miyazaki, Hayao. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind – Deluxe Edition 1 & 2. Translation by David Lewis and Toren Smith. Viz Media, LLC: San Fransisco, 2012.