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Nausicaä Vol. 7-1: The Garden

Nausicaa and the Garden

Welcome to the last two entries of The Nausicaä Project. All the major themes discussed in past entries return in force in the complex, unexpected, and stunning conclusion at the end of this seventh and final volume: Purity and corruption, nature and humanity, revenge and redemption, meaning and nihilism, life and death. You know, all the light and fluffy stuff.

Whew. Let’s get started.

Synopsis

On board Namulith‘s flagship, Kushana questions the Dorok emperor on details about the Master of the Crypt, but he tells her to go visit the crypt at Shuwa and find out for herself. Namulith begs Kushana to kill him, as the pain from his immortal body is too great to bear. Kushana rips his head off and heads up to the upper deck to meet with Nausicaä.

On top of the ship, the newborn God Warrior treats Nausicaä as its mother, wishing to do her bidding and destroy her enemies. When Nausicaä says there are no enemies, it grows impatient and petulant. Realizing her influence on the monster, Nausicaä tells Kushana and Yupa she will take the God Warrior to the crypt of Shuwa to seal its doors. Kushana stays behind with Yupa to land the ship and promises to rendezvous with Nausicaä at the Dorok capital. Namulith’s head, still talking and alive, is blown off the deck and not heard of again.

The God Warrior speeds west towards Shuwa, but Nausicaä quickly grows sick from the pale light it emits. She asks it to land so she can rest. They stop on top of a mountain in the borderlands. The God warrior is also not faring well, with its body showing signs of decay. A scouting party from the two Torumekian princes’ regiment chances upon them, but is incinerated by the God Warrior. Fearing its destructive powers, Nausicaä decides to adopt it as her son and teach it to become “a fine person”. She names it Ohma, a word that means “innocence” in the old tongue. Ohma eagerly accepts his new identity and grows more obedient and intelligent, forming a distinct personality. Nausicaä marvels at this development. She had previously assumed that these machines were created to be simple weapons of death, but now she wonders if they were meant to be something more.

The Son of Nausicaa

The naming of Ohma. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 344)

After the accident with the scouting party, Nausicaä gets Ohma to fly them over to Torumekian princes’ fleet, telling the two princes that the Dorok Emperor is dead and that the war is over. She knows that they are after the secrets of Shuwa, but warns them to stay away. Weakened by Ohma’s poisonous light, Nausicaä collapses after her warning. The princes separate Nausicaä from Ohma under the guise of being concerned for her health. Ohma sees through their motivations, but goes along with it for the moment, and takes off in formation with the fleet towards Shuwa. Ohma telepathically communicates with Nausicaä, telling her that it will observe the Torumekians and decide if they deserve to live or not. Rapidly growing in intelligence, Ohma begins to call itself arbitrator, warrior, and judge, the one who metes out justice.

~

The story returns to the Mito, Asbel, and the wormhandlers. Learning of Nausicaä’s decision to journey to Shuwa, they prepare to meet up with her. The wormhandlers want to join their party so they can serve their deity, but Mito points out that they are carrying too much baggage, as wormhandlers travel with all of their life possessions and their companion worms. After a brief discussion with each other, they decide to sacrifice their possessions and kill off their beloved worms just so they can come along. Asbel looks on, recognizing that once again, Nausicaä is the thread that binds them together, from the Doroks to Kushana and now the wormhandlers.

Wormhandler Devotees

Wormhandlers as lieges. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 365)

Back on the mountain of Dorok survivors, Yupa and Kushana show the headless body of Namulith to the Dorok populace. Many rejoice at the death of the immortal tyrant, chanting ancient forbidden scriptures speaking of the end of a polluted world, a new age of purification, and release from life’s burdens.

Shuwa swallowed up by nothingness

A land built in the shadow of death. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 372)

Disagreements break out between the groups of survivors, and tensions between Torumekian soldiers and aggrieved Doroks come to a head. Dorok women sneak into a Torumekian ship and plant bombs to avenge their dead husbands and children. Yupa discovers the plot and saves the ship, but the ensuing explosion blows off his arm.

Outside in the night, Kushana looks on grimly as she watches Dorok soldiers attempt a sneak attack on her remaining regiment. Preparing for the incoming assault, she stands her ground and readies herself for more bloodshed. But at the last moment, a host of Dorok priests and peasants form a wall between the two opposing forces. Most people have seen too much death and want the fighting to end.

Yet there are those who still crave vengeance. A small group of Dorok soldiers charges Kushana, but Yupa steps in and sacrifices his life to save her, believing that the new world will need her strength and leadership. His sacrifice finally breaks the cycle of violence and hatred between the two groups. With his last remaining breath, he speaks to Kushana, telling her that blood has not sullied but cleansed her.

Yupa's Sacrifice

Yupa’s sacrifice. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 389)

Far away, Nausicaä senses and grieves for the passing of Yupa; Teto also has died from exposure to Ohma’s light. Nausicaä wants to land to bury her animal companion. Ohma obliges, snatching her and the two princes away from the fleet. He warns the rest of the army to head home with an enormous energy blast, and they have no choice but to retreat.

Ohma sets down by the ruins of an old town. Nausicaä buries Teto underneath an ancient tree, noticing some fresh goat droppings on the ground. A goatherd watches her from the ruins. He approaches, curious to see one grieve for a small creature while being accompanied by a weapon of death. He invites Nausicaä and the two princes into the ruins for a rest and tells Ohma to wait outside. Ohma obeys.

Nausicaa in the Garden

Into the garden. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 410)

The ruins are an illusion; within its interior lies a garden full of life and knowledge from the old world. Nausicaä recovers from radiation poisoning, but her mind is hazy and she struggles to recall her mission to Shuwa. She finds the two princes lost in bliss inside a vast library, playing music from a lost age. Nausicaä feels overwhelming contentment, but grief from Teto’s death jolts her back to reality; she realizes she is a prisoner in the garden and attempts to escape. Overhead, she spots the valley gunship flying towards Shuwa, but realizes that the garden cannot be seen from the outside. She calls telepathically to them, not knowing if they heard her.

She confronts the goatherd, finally revealed to be an artificial heedra known as the Master of the Garden. Surprised by Nausicaä’s tenacity, the master comments that once in a long while, he gets special visitors like her. Two centuries ago, a boy visited here. He spent time learning from the Master before leaving one day with four heedra with the intention of “saving humanity”. He was Miralupa and Namulith’s father, the first Dorok Holy Emperor.

The first Dorok Holy Emperor

The quest to save humanity: History repeating itself. (Hardcover Edition, Vol.2 , p. 431)

The Master notes that humans tread the same paths over and over, each believing that they alone are different. Yet he sees that “none can escape from the cycle wherein karma gives birth to karma, sorrow gives birth to sorrow (p.432).” The Master offers Nausicaä the chance to stay in the garden, the only place where cycles of folly can be broken.

Her conviction shaken, Nausicaä summons Selm telepathically for help, and he arrives in spirit. The Master recognizes Selm as one of the forest people, noting that several of them have come to stay with him in the past. The Master then reveals a secret that Selm has kept from Nausicaä. The Forest People have sent scouts to the purified land, but none of them returned alive. The cleansed lands are fatal to humans as they are now.

Selm attempts to shield Nausicaä from this truth, but from it Nausicaä finally deduces the truth of the Sea of Corruption: it is an artificially engineered ecosystem created to cleanse the world after the Seven Days of Fire. The Master states that the creatures of the current world are part of a grand plan, transitional life forms designed to die out and be replaced once the world is reborn.

The Secret to the Sea of Corruption

The secret to the Sea of Corruption. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 441)

Selm is rocked by this discovery, believing it will shake the foundations of his tribe because the forest can no longer be considered a sacred and natural lifeform. Yet Nausicaä still feels love for all life, believing that a life is a life, regardless of how it came into being. She notes that the original creators could have never foreseen the complexities of life and the depths of suffering experienced by their creations, by the Ohmu.

The Master of the Garden is sad that Nausicaä has decided to leave. He reveals that this garden is a storehouse, a repository for genetic material and collected knowledge necessary to rebuild the world once the Sea of Corruption has completed its work. The Master claims only things humans deemed necessary have been passed on, but Nausicaä disagrees; she has seen firsthand the horrors that have been leaking out of the crypt. The Master has no response. Along with Selm, she resolves to journey to the crypt of Shuwa. She thanks the Master for giving her a precious moment of bliss and tranquility, even though she could not stay to enjoy it, before leaving the garden.

The Act of Naming

“Before we fly, I want you to listen very carefully to what I have to say. You are a very kind child with very strong powers… But it takes more than power to become a fine person… You have to learn how terrible your powers can be… If you divide the whole world into just enemies and friends, you’ll end up destroying everything… Now, are you going to do as I say and become a fine person? Then I will give you a name.”(Nausicaä to Ohma, p. 343)

In the essay Nausicaä and the Fantasy of Hayao Miyazaki, Andrew Osmond speculates that Miyazaki derived this pivotal sequence from Le Guin’s fictional realm of Earthsea, a world in which true names are true things that contain great power. By adopting a monster of destruction as her offspring and giving it a name and identity rooted in innocence, Nausicaä imbues the newborn God Warrior with both sentience and morality. Desiring to please its small mother and become a “fine person”, Ohma develops both personality and purpose that keeps its power in check. The fact that even an artificial god of death can grow and adapt beyond its original purpose is an important idea I will touch on later.

The Redemption of Kushana

A Cleansed Kushana

A cleansed Kushana. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 392)

Curiously, Kushana’s arc of redemption comes to a close not of her own volition, but rather through others who recognize her potential even when she cannot see it herself. Yupa, realizing that the world will need her strength and leadership in the days ahead, sacrifices himself so that Kushana can finally break free from the cycle of violence. Chikuku, trusting in Nausicaä’s assessment of Kushana’s gentler and more compassionate side, reaches out to her in friendship. Moved by these gestures and Nausicaä’s own example, Kushana finally arrives at a place where she is able to accept support from those who believe in her, and begins to walk on a new path.

In life, we all crave to be strong and self-sufficient. But some shadows and battles cannot and should not be fought alone. Inner strength and personal conviction are valuable assets, but life is too strange and difficult a journey to endure in solitude. Sometimes other people are able to see our better selves, even when we cannot. Sometimes others have faith that we will find our way even when we are mired in uncertainty and self-doubt. To be able to accept, appreciate, and learn from the support of others is crucial step on the road to redemption and growth.

Miyazaki Breaks His World

Nausicaa and the Master of the Garden

Engineered to live in a polluted world. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 439)

The climax of the first half of Volume Seven comes in the form of an incredible exchange between the Master of the Garden and Nausicaä, culminating in the revelation that the lifeforms of the current world are transitional beings created by ancient humans to clean up the contamination caused during the Seven Days of Fire. Nausicaä realizes that the journey she undertook in Volume 6: The Place Dreamed to the purified land can only take place in spirit; humans as they are now have no place in the cleansed future. The vision she communicated to the Doroks is thus a false hope; their extinction is pre-destined and part of the grand plan. There is also no idyllic balance between humanity and nature, because there is in reality no nature at all.

Miyazaki is savage in deconstructing the foundations of his fictional world, a world created by his young and more starry-eyed self. Over the decade-long project, he became increasingly unsatisfied with the harmonious conclusion reached in the movie version of Nausicaä, seeking constantly to ask himself hard questions. How can humans survive in such toxic environments wearing flimsy masks? Why would an ecosystem work selflessly to purify the land when the process of evolution is blind and doesn’t work towards a specific endgoal?

Out of those questions came the startling answers he used to forge the conclusion of the manga, that humans were genetically engineered to tolerate the toxic environment, that the Sea of Corruption was artificially created with a purpose in mind. It is a testament to Miyazaki’s storytelling ability that he is able to address his concerns in the narrative through narrative, being willing to tear down his creation to remake it into a more complex, durable, and meaningful story, one with profound and world-shattering implications.

The Worth of Life

“Every life form, no matter how small, contains the outside universe within its internal universe.” (Nausicaä to the Master, Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 443)

The artificiality of the Sea of Corruption caught me completely off-guard the first time I read it years ago. Like Selm, I was dismayed to discover nature’s beauty and complexity could arise from human hands. But as I touched on in Volume 2: The Acid Lake, the Nausicaä saga constantly asks uncomfortable and necessary questions about perception and values on life. In a time where the ethics of synthetic biology are becoming increasingly relevant, these are questions worth asking. Does human involvement in the processes of life diminish its beauty and value? Are genetically modified organisms inherently worth less than conventionally bred organisms? Are the miracles of biology lessened because humans had a helping hand in a creature’s development? How do we separate judgement of the lifeform from the creator?

Nausicaä’s stance is firm and unwavering. To her, a life is a life, regardless of how it came into being. She understands that it is the nature of life to transcend its limitations, to grow in complexity and adapt to ever-changing surroundings. Over and over throughout the saga, artificial beings are shown to grow beyond their creator’s intentions. The mutant mold rejected Dorok containment and destroyed their lands. The Ohmu, originally intended to act as mere seedbeds for the spread of the Sea of Corruption, became intelligent and compassionate creatures. Even Ohma, a weapon bred for war, develops a personality, with fears and a desire to please its small mother and become a “fine person”.

A Second Rejection of Utopia

A Shattered Utopia

Walking away from Eden. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 445)

After refusing life in the forest with Selm, Nausicaä rejects life where she can be free of her burdens in a literal Eden. Once again, her attachment to the world grounds her and helps her break free from the hold of the Master, this time coming chiefly in the form of her grief for Teto and her love for Ohma.

Realizing the price for staying in paradise is too high, Nausicaä chooses to stay bound to the worries and messiness that is life. Nevertheless, she thanks the Master for offering her a moment of tranquility before continuing on her journey. This rejection of utopia marks the second time she has steered away from the easy road. It will not be the last.

Next Up: The conclusion of the Nausicaä saga.

Related Ekostories:

References

Miyazaki, Hayao. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind – Deluxe Edition 1 & 2. Translation by David Lewis and Toren Smith. Viz Media, LLC: San Fransisco, 2012.

Osmond, Andrew. (1998). Nausicaa and the Fantasy of Hayao Miyazaki. Retrieved from http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/nausicaa/article_ao_foundation.txt.

Saitani, Ryo. (1995). I Understand NAUSICAA a Bit More than I Did a Little While Ago – An Interview with Hayao Miyazaki. Retrieved from http://www.comicbox.co.jp/e-nau/e-nau.html.

Images of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind © 1991, 1993, 1994 Nibariki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved. New and adapted artwork and text © 2004 VIZ media, LLC.

28 Comments

  1. As was mentioned, to appreciate life in all its forms it helps to respect the process that brings it into being with no end goal in mind. I wonder how many people see humanity as a transitional form…surely different tomorrow as it has been different in the past? I often feel walking the landscape I’m familiar with that there is a homogenization process occurring as life forms tested in other places find new homes around the globe.

    • Yes, I think Nausicaa values the process of life, of change as much as the individuals themselves. Life’s ability to shape its environment and in turn be shaped by it is what makes it so complex and unpredictable.

      The notion of transitional humans is an interesting one. How much change can we make to human nature before we cease being human? That’s something that will be explored in the last part of Nausicaa. Stay tuned!

  2. Lord Yupa is one of my favorite characters, so I’m glad his story has such a powerful (though tragic) conclusion. But Kushana’s transition is much richer in the manga. And Nausicaä feels such a sense of responsibility for the world, so it makes sense she would not forsake it. Thank you for this painstaking walk through the manga!

    • I find it a little bittersweet that Yupa and Nausicaa, once separated at the beginning of the saga, never really meet up again.

      I think Miyazaki always intended to flesh out Kushana’s character, but the constraints of the film made it impossible. There’s a fascinating section in the interview I referenced specifically about Kushana. I encourage you to check it out (maybe after the next entry!)

      Thanks very much for reading!

  3. Arifin Tahir says

    Great essays about one of my favorite stories!

    The Garden is interesting – some aspects of it are in opposition to the Crypt, but it reads like the Crypt controls it.

    The Garden only stores things which are worthy to be carried over whereas the Crypt stores destructive technology and manufacturing techniques; The garden has indirect influence on humans (both times resulting in idealists going to Shuwa to “save the world”), while The Crypt is actively trying to control humans and supplying complicit leaders with supressive technologies. It’s like two opposing legacies of the old world.

    The Garden may yet represent some hope for humankind (after all, the Master changed Nausicaa that allowed her to survive unpolluted air). However, it’s unclear whether the Garden will continue to operate after the Crypt is gone, and whether the Master is willing and able to share those secrets. Like Nausicaa’s eden, humans may not be ready to unlock them.

    • Hi Arifin,

      Your comment about the relationship between the crypt and the garden is very interesting, and not something I have given too much thought about. I always got the sense that the Garden was an extension of the Crypt, that there were multiple gardens hidden throughout the world.

      I thought they were both created with the same intention in mind – for rebuilding civilization after the Sea of Corruption had finished with its task of purification. My take is that while the garden stays pure while the crypt has become corrupted, Nausicaa rejects both for being essential two sides of the same coin, because neither are unable to adapt to the condition that is intrinsic to life: change. In their desperate attempt to hold onto the past, they have become obsolete and dangerous temptations in the new world, enticing people who encounter them to repeat their past.

      I wonder after the destruction of the crypt, Nausicaa would go back to destroy the garden as well. Hmmm…

  4. I feel that the Master of the Garden is different from the Master of the Crypt, and is to some extent a separate entity. The remnants of the old world that he guards are only the ones so-called “worth preserving” and the Garden contains nothing that can be used as a weapon. The Master is powerful yet kind, and if he was really an extension of the Crypt, he would never have saved Nausicaa’s life or allowed her to leave. The fact that he also sent Kest after her with some of her clothes after she departed the Garden shows that he has good intentions. He has perhaps lost some faith in humanity after the first Dorok emperor’s failure, but he believes enough in Nausicaa to let her go on.

    • Hi Michael,

      I’m not sure if I would classify the Master as kind – I’m not sure I get the sense that it’s capable of it. To me, it is more of an observer of humanity – curious but ultimately indifferent to humans and the plight of others beyond its bubble of influence. Nausicaa muses that the Master is unable to actively harm people, probably because it was created with that intention, and not because it is caring.

  5. Hey, it’s Michael again from above – just created a WordPress account.

    I don’t know whether the Garden survived the destruction of the crypt – I’d like to think so, since the crypt’s destruction was physical rather than spiritual (it was destroyed by Ohma’s blast). The “death” of the god of the crypt does not necessarily mean that all other immortal beings, like the Master of the Garden, were destroyed as well. Additionally, since the Garden is shielded from outside interference (it’s invisible), it can be reasonably assumed that it wasn’t destroyed in the battle. I don’t think the Master would concern himself with humanity despite the crypt’s destruction, though he may still preserve the Garden for those interested in the world of old. I’m really not sure about this, and there is no way to know for sure without asking Miyazaki himself, but I’d like to think that the Garden lived on.

    • Yes, I mused on Nausicaa going to destroy the garden, but upon further thought, I don’t think she would, given what she had already done. But perhaps her actions indirectly condemn the garden to a slow death and decay, bereft of the crypt’s plan to restock the world with life from another age.

      Thanks for reading!

      • I’ll reply to both your replies here to make it more simple.

        I don’t know if the Master is made to be unable to harm, since that would be a very strange limitation to put in place. The Master is capable of wielding strong psychological attacks, and I would imagine he could fight as well if necessary. Nausicaa herself describes the Master as cruel yet kind – she does say he is incapable of harming others, but I think that is more down to choice rather than inability. Additionally, after Nausicaa passes out in the Garden, he could have just left her to die of radiation poisoning but instead places her in the bath to heal her wounds.

        I’m also not sure if the Garden will necessarily decay, since to some extent it survives entirely by itself (with the help of outside visitors once in a while). The Master is evidently very wise and also has the ability to change the biology of people (like how he made Nausicaa able to withstand pure air), and considering the intelligence and loyalty of his animals (like Kest), I believe they are more than capable of continuing to survive. Like above, I don’t think that the Master necessarily forces his animals to obey him, but rather they do so out of their own free will because the believe in the Master’s wisdom. This is evidenced by the fact that Kest is allowed to leave the Garden to bring Nausicaa the clothes she left behind, and although he is shown to nuzzle sympathetically against the departed visitor, he goes back to the Garden without hesitation.

        To me, the Garden and the Master are appealing because it shows a utopia with a keeper of great wisdom able to discern the mysteries of the world in an unbiased way. The Master tries to persuade Nausicaa to his view that humanity is imperfect, but after Nausicaa states her belief that it is that imperfection that makes us human, he does not agree with her yet allows her to leave because of her strong will. For some, like the Tourumekian princes, the Garden is a place where they can stay and live their life out happily. Even for Nausicaa, she thanks the Master for the moment of tranquility he gave her, despite her overwhelming objection to the Master’s view on humanity. I don’t think the Garden is at all an evil place, but rather an idyllic place that is a heaven for those who want to join it.

        Sorry for the long comment – it’s just that the Garden stood out to me in this story as something worth a lot of thought. I really enjoy your articles on this great manga!

        • Really enjoy reading your comments! My thoughts on each of your paragraphs:

          1.) My interpretation of the Master is that it is a program that never went beyond its programming. In one sense, it is just another relic from another time, able to fulfill its mandate, but ultimately unable to grow beyond what it was intended for. It helps Nausicaa because it is programmed to help people and guard the safehouse, and that’s it. I don’t think it has choice – just like its less sophisticated heedras counterparts are doomed to be servants, for good or for bad.

          Yet… I think the artificial life have the capacity to transcend their mandate – Ohma does through Nausicaa’s love and naming. This fits into Nausicaa’s comment that life is life, regardless of how it came into being. It’s just that the Master of the Garden hasn’t, not because it is incapable of.

          2.) I’m unsure how long the garden will maintain without the adherence to the Crypt’s plan. It has a designed lifespan (1000 years?) and now that timeline has been destroyed. Will it continue to go on, unchanging? Perhaps for a long time. But all life eventually winds down, all life will decay and die (And if it doesn’t, it may turn into an abomination, like so many who crave immortality in the Nausicaa’s universe).
          Again, I don’t think anything within the garden has free will. But that’s my interpretation. 🙂

          3.) I don’t think it is an evil place either, and it is entirely appealing, but ultimately the garden is a lie. It represents a past that is gone and a future that will never come to be. It’s very Matrix-y, to cite another sci-fi story. Do you want the red pill or the blue one? Is ignorance bliss or do you want the hard truth of reality? The brothers choose the former while Nausicaa chooses the latter because she has something to fight for – the people and creatures of her world that she loves.

  6. Hmm… interesting thoughts, though I think I’d have to disagree with you on the Garden and the Master’s ability to go beyond their “programming”. Like Nausicaa herself says, a life is a life, regardless of how it was born. Perhaps the Master was made with a certain intention in mind, but I don’t believe he is a machine, just like the Ohmu and Dorok Emperor weren’t – they all have lives and free will like everyone else, it’s just that they are also immortal and genetically engineered.

    Again, I’m not sure exactly what the mandate for the Master of the Garden was. I don’t think he was made with the purpose of simply protecting the crypt and it’s god, since otherwise there is no way he would have let Nausicaa go after she told him she wanted to seal the crypt. As you say, it is all speculation, but in my view the Garden was created as a separate, independent entity given wisdom and power but not designed with an express purpose that it had to follow. Maybe the designers intended to use it to repopulate the Earth at some point and so put it there, but until that occurs, it’s free to do as it sees fit. For me, it’s hard to believe that the Master and his animals (like Kest) are all acting out of strict adherence to some pre-set program that tells them to act a certain way. They may be naturally loyal to the crypt, but they have their own minds and can do as they see fit. I think whoever created the Garden intended for the Master to be wise enough to not act rashly.

    I guess the core question here (and to some extent, the manga itself) is what the difference is between a “natural” life and an “engineered” life. Is one worth any more than the other? In the real world, I think we are not far away from a future in which genetic engineering will play a part in our lives. It’s definitely a relevant question.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply to a mere reader of your site – you are a very intelligent and well-versed individual, and it’s an honor to discuss this great work of Miyazaki with you.

    • Sorry about the late response. Don’t sell yourself short as a reader. The truth is it’s every writer’s dream to be read when they put their work out, and the more in depth the better. Your thoughts help me understand the work and my connections to it better, so thanks on that front as well.

      I personally don’t think the distinction between “organic” and “machine” in the world of Nausicaa are really that important. Like you say, Ohmu, heedras, and Masters, everyone, are genetically engineered, but they are all living creatures. Life is life, Nausicaa contends, regardless of where it comes from. What Nausicaa walks away from and why I don’t believe that the Master of the Garden has grown beyond a sophisticated heedra fulfilling a mandate, contrasted with something like an Ohmu, is the capacity for suffering.

      “The greatness of a mind is determined by the depth of its suffering.” Nausicaa muses. But the Master of the Garden is beyond suffering, sits above it. So are the new humans stored away in the Crypt before Nausicaa orders their destruction.
      Both are full of knowledge of the past but are incapable of the empathy and kinship that only comes through suffering. The plight of the world around them concerns them not and their deaths are easily justified as necessary evils for the greater good and goal. But Nausicaa contends that to do away with Suffering (capitalized) is to become inhuman. (Of course, then the old gods reverse it and say everything is suffering and death is the only release, and naturally lifelover Nausicaa rejects that too!)

      So I view the Master’s kindness towards Nausicaa as a curiosity more than anything. That said, I believe it is capable of the act of suffering – just like the Ohmu and Ohma, to grow beyond its creator’s intention. I just don’t see it doing so within the context of the story

  7. Here are a few other ideas about the Master of the Garden that I thought about after reading a bit elsewhere:

    1) “The age-old idea of the mother earth goddess who devours the old to give birth to the new, that manifests itself in characters whose motives cannot be apprehended in terms of straightforward black-and-white moral dichotomies because they are truly beyond good and evil. They also have a sardonic view of the human race as a total wreck, a hopeless failure. Both wholly comprehend love and its subtleties, which is the root of all their power.”

    The Master of the Garden seems to transcend most human emotions and qualities, being a highly intelligent sage-like figure that is tasked with the upkeep of the Garden. I believe he and Kest are different from the rest – while the other animals relentlessly and single-mindedly pressured Nausicaa to stay, the Master and Kest were willing to let her go and even show a little bit of support (after Nausicaa told them her name, the Master said that it was “a good name” and later sent Kest after her with her old clothes). Like Nausicaa says, a life is a life regardless of how it comes into being – the Master may be genetically engineered, but he’s still a human like everyone else.

    2) The Master of the Garden also gives off some sense of being a little bit lonely, which is why he invites people to tend it with him (Selm even refers to these people as his “friends”, not servants). He is not a dictator, as he treats them kindly, but he does prey on their deepest desires in order to tempt them to stay. Every once in a while, as he says, he has a great visitor who is able to resist the temptation, like Nausicaa. As long as people are willing to stay in the Garden and find true worth and self-realization than they wouldn’t in the outside world (like Kushana’s brothers), I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing at all for the Master to be luring them there. For those who choose to stay, it is a life of bliss and tranquility that cannot be matched.

    3) Finally, as for whether the Garden’s existence depends on the heart of the crypt, I don’t think there’s any reason to believe so. As the Master says, the Garden only contains those things “worth” passing on to the next world, which implies that he does not support the preservation of destructive technologies. Furthermore, the destruction of the heart of the crypt hasn’t stopped the purification of the world – the forests will still continue to purify the Earth. I personally believe that in the time that it takes for this process to finish, humans will be able to adapt to the purified world, and so the collections of old civilization and life forms contained within the Garden can still be released to the world.

    Whew, that was pretty long. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    • 1.) Lovely quote, but my view of the Master is that it is not that individual. I don’t think it comprehends love. When I reread the panels, I see the big difference in the animal interactions between Nausicaa and the Master. I see one regarding creatures with empathy and love, and the other treating them as servants.

      2.) I think you touched on something I commented in the previous post, the notion of transcendence. It is exactly like the wise sage who rejects earthly attachments to attain enlightenment. But to let go of emotions and cease being vulnerable is to let go of the elements that make up humanity. Nausicaa rejects this over and over again throughout the narrative, choosing to live in the world and love and grieve and change instead of gazing down upon it with the Master and see people as curiosities. As I stated, I think the Master is fully capable of being “human” in the way the Ohmu and Ohma can, it just chooses not to.

      As for the bliss and tranquility it provides, the Garden is nonetheless still a prison, and the Master the warden. Is that a good or bad thing? Again this is the Matrix scenario we discussed earlier.

      3.) I’m curious as to your certainty of hope that humans will survive. Nausicaa makes her final decision based on the knowledge that there will be no guarantees for the future. “That is for the planet to decide!” she proclaims, regarding humanity’s fate. Do you think the Garden will be the cure after the loss of knowledge in the crypt? That would seem to be a bit of a narrative copout to me.

  8. Hmm… I see what you are saying about suffering. I have some thoughts on this, but to make them perhaps easier to elucidate, let me digress a little with an analogy, in which I find many similarities to the tale of Nausicaa.

    In the fairly well-reputed game Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, there are two races of people in the world: one is the “beorc”, who are like regular humans (capable of technology and magic), and the other is the “laguz”, who are more primitive humans that can transform into animal form. Because the beorc once enslaved the laguz, the continent is mired in endless warfare: the laguz hate the beorc for past atrocities, and the beorc view the laguz as nothing less than worthless “sub-human” filth. The goddess of this world, Ashera, tires of all this endless killing between her creations and desires to bring an end to the world and start anew. However, the great thousand year-old heron laguz Sephiran, who once stood by the goddess’s side ages ago as she fought the “dark god” Yune, convinced her to give the people one last chance. Ashera put herself to sleep for one thousand years, and if during that interval the beorc and laguz could keep peace, then she would spare them. However, if they continued to fight and the chaos of war reached a certain tipping point, it would wake Ashera from her sleep and then she would pass judgement on the world.

    One day, the royal senators of Begnion, the greatest beorc nation, assassinated almost all of the heron tribe (the herons are the most sacred of laguz, but are generally unable to fight) and blamed the sitting Empress in order to dethrone her. Along with the continued fighting between beorc and laguz everywhere else, this finally convinced Sephiran that humanity deserved no salvation. Thus, while maintaining his position as Prime Minister of Begnion, keeping his heron heritage a secret, he started to put events in motion to start a war that would wake the goddess. Eventually he succeeded in waking Ashera, and so the protagonists of the game, led by the hero Ike, charged the goddess’s tower in an attempt to save the world. They defeated the goddess’s guardians (those who chose to accept the deserved fate of humanity, such as the Black Knight Zelgius and the greatest of all laguz, the Dragon King Dheginsea) and sealed the goddess away, thus saving the world.

    Throughout all this time, until he fights Ike and his army, Sephiran assumed the appearance of a serene sage not troubled by any of the affairs going on around the continent. He was an immensely powerful magic user, coming after even the Dragon King in the order of the guardians in Ashera’s tower. Nevertheless, he did not make this apparent to anyone, and sometimes traveled in the guise of a simple pilgrim when he visited other nations. To an outside observer, you would never think of the great suffering and hatred he endures as one of the last of a tribe wiped out by genocide. Even though he wishes for the destruction of humanity, he is always amiable to even those he hated the most (the senators of Begnion) since he held the position of Prime Minister. Not until Ike confronted him did he finally reveal his true feelings. If the player chooses to face Sephiran with Ike, he produces this dialogue:

    “All beings endure tragedies for as long as they continue to live. It has always been the case that suffering is unavoidable. And this grim reality plays out over and over, in every country, under every ruler… As long as there are beings who feel, they will feel pain.”

    While Ike has endured his share of suffering (he lost both his parents to the war), he contends that it is no reason to quit:

    “…I have accepted that occasionally we all have to deal with hard times. I’ve had pain, I’ve had suffering, and I have gotten up and moved on. I don’t try to forget what happened that day. I just accept it… And neither that or anything else will ever stop me.”

    To which Sephiran replies:

    “You are a strong man, Ike, son of Gawain. But not everyone is as strong as you…”

    And then the battle between them begins.

    The point of this analogy is that just because someone does not give the outer appearance of suffering, does not mean that they do not endure their own personal sadness. The Master of the Garden is very much like Sephiran – immortal, aloof, and seemingly all-knowing. Though he is genetically engineered, he is still a human, so it would be reasonable to assume he is capable of all the feelings that normal people are. I already stated before that he seems a bit lonely in the Garden. As for the animals like Kest, I believe that they follow him out of their own free will. In Radiant Dawn, the Black Knight Zelgius, who is of mixed beorc-laguz blood (and thus hated by both races), follows Sephiran with unwavering loyalty because Sephiran sympathized with him and took him in as a student. If you want to read more about the plot of this game (it’s very interesting!), go here: http://fireemblem.wikia.com/wiki/Fire_Emblem:_Radiant_Dawn#Plot

    As for whether humans in Nausicaa will eventually adapt to a purified world, I am not sure (I don’t think anyone can be sure), but I believe that it’s definitely possible. Maybe Nausicaa had this in mind when she made her decision. The Garden need not be the cure, but can still gift the new world with the things “worth preserving” from the old.

    • Hah, I’m probably one of the few people familiar with Radiant Dawn, along with the prequel Path of Radiance, so I know all the backstory and the characters involved.

      The comparison between the Master and Sephiran doesn’t quite work for me. Even though both seem aloof and above the struggles of the people around them, we eventually become privy to Sephiran’s backstory. Filled with bloodshed, powerlessness, and cruel injustice, it motivates him to repress the horrors of the past and work behind the scenes to reawaken the Goddess to cleanse the world. I know his suffering because it’s all spelled out, and that totally works for me.

      In contrast, I don’t really see the Master in a similar way. What hardships and tragedies has it endured to demonstrate that its aloof exterior is merely a mask for a vulnerable core? Kindness and an inability to stop strong willed people from seeing the truth are not enough. Tasked with guarding his repository for a thousand years, it welcomes company for sure, but as I mentioned before, I view it more for the sake of stimulation and curiosity than anything else.

      For me to see the Master as something more than its function, I needed the character to embark on its own journey, again, like the Ohmu and Ohma. Perhaps if it accompanied Nausicaa to the Crypt and saw things beyond its insular bubble, interacted with the complexities and chaos the greater world, and be moved by suffering of the inhabitants, then I would see it in a different light. But as it stands, I don’t really see it as a “human” character. He looks human, but I don’t see any genuine human traits beyond the superficial.

      But I don’t think it’s a bad thing, because I view this less from a speculative perspective and more from a narrative and structural viewpoint. The Master as an inhuman sentinel of the past strengthens Nausicaa’s journey and rejection of everything the Master represents: Perfection, transcendence, certainty. And it’s heartbreaking because it offers everything Nausicaa dreams of – a cleansed world, new life and personal peace. But it is ultimately not her world, not her way, and she understands that and has the courage to move on.

      On your final point, I think NOT knowing the future is pivotal to conveying the full enormity of Nausicaa’s decision from a story perspective. She makes her decision because she wanted to completely sever the connection to the past and entrust everything to the present. Anything less, like secretly having a hunch that the Garden would bail humanity out, would be a copout.

      All that being said, if the world is cleansed and life from the Garden is able to proliferate, I think that would ultimately be a good thing. Life is life, and after it is released perhaps it will mingle with the existing life and grow and change. 🙂

      • Ah, I did not expect you to be familiar with the Fire Emblem franchise, although I’m not surprised someone as well-read as you knows about it 🙂 Just curious, have you played Genealogy of the Holy War (Seisen no Keifu)? In my opinion, it has the best storyline of the entire series. But I digress!

        Central to our discussion, I think, is the definition of what it takes to be human. I consider the Master of the Garden as a human because biologically, he is. It is probably true that he does not have the same experience nor outlook as regular people, but just because his genes were modified doesn’t make him an emotionless robot. In our short time with him in the Garden, we only get a small glimpse of his character, and even this glimpse is not entirely devoid of human characteristics.

        As for suffering, I don’t think it necessarily takes a past of suffering to be human, but rather the capacity to suffer. In any case, I think it’s implied from what the Master says that he does feel sadness for humanity. Like Sephiran, he says that humanity treads the same path over and over again throughout history, and so Nausicaa is likely to fail. When he talks about the first Dorok Emperor hoping to “save the world”, he isn’t against the concept of a saved world, but rather the futile attempts that inevitably lead to war and conflict. I get the impression that the Master wishes the best for humanity, but is rather pessimistic about the chance of that happening. He lets Nausicaa go because of her strength of spirit and so he trusts that perhaps she may have a chance. If he were totally uncaring about humanity or if he were entirely a robot programmed to do the bidding of the heart of the crypt, he would not have shown Nausicaa the hospitality that he did.

        To some extent, I guess all this is a matter of interpretation and opinion. When I first read about the Garden, I had a really positive feeling about it (and I still do after analyzing it).

        • I’m only familiar with the games released in North America, but I heard good things from that entry.

          Yes, we are definitively exploring what it means to be human in a very broad sense of the word. I think we both agree that form and origin are immaterial, but perhaps we differ in what features are defining and crucial. For me, exhibiting kindness is not enough – rather it is growth, empathy, and suffering. For me, Ohma fulfills those criteria – it learns, it feels, it hurts.

          You touch on a good point – it is the capacity and not experience that matters. But unlike Sephiran, Miyazaki’s story doesn’t really focus on fleshing out the Master’s history, partly because on a narrative level it is presented as more an expository device and an agent of temptation for Nausicaa. There is capacity there, but the Master seems unwilling or unable to tap into it, which is the key difference for me. The heedras don’t or can’t, versus the Ohmu who do. I’m not quite convinced that it is learning (in the sense of risking self-growth and discovery), empathizing (in the sense of understanding another’s position), or suffering (in the sense of enduring stress and hardship). To me, it never breaks out of the distant observer/guardian over the world for me. It remains the same before and after its encounter with Nausicaa, waiting, guarding.

          Good works are always layered and full of different interpretations. It’s great we can explore this same story in a lot of different ways. The garden scene is also one of my favourites, but I think I love it more through the growth it induces on the protagonist than the the setting and idea 🙂

        • Hrm… I agree with you that in the scope of the story presented in the manga, the Master does not show much suffering or other emotion. However, this doesn’t mean he hasn’t felt sadness or is currently suffering, just that he’s good at hiding it. Going back to the analogy of Fire Emblem, the character of the Master has similarities chiefly with Emperor Arvis of FE4, but also with the others that fall into the “Hardin Archetype”, including Dheginsea from FE10. In FE4, Emperor Arvis was a powerful and ruthless leader who only wished for the well-being of the people but imposed a strict rule on the empire and even went as far as to mastermind the deaths of lords who posed a threat to his rule. However, when his son Julius grew to be of age, Julius received the power of the dark god and took over the throne. Realizing that he was tricked and that he perpetrated several evil deeds throughout his lifetime, Arvis subtly undermines Julius’s rule, eventually sending out the Holy Sword Tyrfing to be received by Seliph, the leader of the Liberation Army, even though he knew that the sword would be used to defeat him. When Seliph asked the sword’s bearer where it came from, the bearer replied that he gave a “solemn oath” not to speak of from where it came.

          If indeed the Garden is also destroyed by the destruction of the heart of the crypt, then the Master made a similar sacrifice by letting Nausicaa go. He can read the future, as shown by the scene where he answers Kest’s question of whether Nausicaa will ever come back to the Garden. Thus, it can be reasonably assumed that the Master also knew releasing Nausicaa would be the end of the crypt. Even if the Garden is not destroyed, he would still be “betraying” his master, which is the heart of the crypt. Knowing this, he still saves Nausicaa and sends her on his way because he trusts her strength. Perhaps this is not exactly suffering, but it is definitely a complex decision that can’t be made by just a program. I view the Master as a sort of tragic character because he does what he has to do to maintain the upkeep of the Garden, but is not single-mindedly fixated on the existence of the crypt and so does what he deems to be “right” in the case of Nausicaa even though it might mean his own destruction.

          Like you say, it’s all very open to interpretation, as most good stories like this are. I really recommend the game of FE4 to you – you could easily play it on an emulator, or you can read a thorough summary of the plotline here: http://fireemblem.wikia.com/wiki/Fire_Emblem:_Genealogy_of_the_Holy_War#Story

        • I think I’m sticking with Occam’s Razor in my interpretation of the Master: We don’t see it being sad or suffering because it has never felt those things (though the capacity may be there). This view is based on its isolation within paradise, its inexperience with the world, the rarity of its encounters with outsiders, and its deliberate strategies of obfuscation against Nausicaa. I don’t see it as a malevolent entity, but rather a bored sentinel who has observed humanity stumble over and over again.

          I also don’t think it can read the future – I believe the narrative states that it can probe thoughts, so it probably sensed Nausicaa’s refusal to ever be tempted by a false utopia again. I think releasing Nausicaa is not by out of the Master’s own volition – it can only tempt and detain, but cannot actively prevent an unwilling person from leaving. It probably predicted Nausicaa was going to try to “save” humanity like the first Dorok emperor.

          Funny enough, I CAN see the Master as a tragic character in much the way you described, but in an opposite fashion. For me, the tragedy comes precisely from it being UNABLE to either stop Nausicaa or leave the confines of the garden. Either would have sufficed in rendering it more human – to succumb to personal desire or to risk uncertainty and change. It does neither.

        • Again, it’s all up to personal interpretation, and it’s nice that we can discuss our very different viewpoints on a forum like this. Just curious – who is your favorite supporting character? I would probably mine is Charuka, since although he had great loyalty to Miralupa for raising him out of poverty, he did not condemn Nausicaa out of blind hate and eventually came to see his wrongdoings and attempted to correct them, starting from when he voiced his opposition to the use of the genetically engineered mold. Charuka is very loyal, not to an Emperor, but rather to the Dorok people. He was fated to serve the misguided Miralupa from the beginning, but because he was unwilling to watch the people suffer under the ravaging effects of the war, he changed sides despite his high ranking in the Dorok army. He was even willing to sacrifice his life to attempt to persuade the Emperor to reconsider (Chikuku foresaw his death scene, although he was rescued by Nausicaa at the last moment), showing just how great his loyalty to the people was. To me, he is a sort of tragic character because no matter which side he takes he is alienating a part of himself, but overall he makes the right choices no matter how tough those choices may be.

        • Since I don’t consider Kushana a supporting character but rather a main one, I think my choice would be Charuka as well, for very much for the reasons you outlined. We come to know his back history and origins, his loyalty to Miralupa, and see his mind expanding to accept Nausicaa while struggling with his faith and doubts. Really great stuff.

          Second would probably be Kurotowa, just because he just awesome 🙂

        • Haha Kurotowa… I’m not sure I like his duplicitous nature (switching allegiance from the Vai Emperor to Kushana because he got figured out), but several events throughout the story have made me think that’s he’s going to stay loyal to Kushana, considering they each saved the other’s life. He represents the common everyman for me (even says so himself), and his pragmatic and cynical nature is a big contrast with the idealism of Nausicaa. He’s definitely my second favorite too!

  9. Actually, this manga is pretty confusing if you haven’t played the game. Hell, even the game itself can be pretty confusing with all the different characters, bloodlines, and locations. But it really has an absolutely fantastic plot coupled with great old-school turn-based strategy, so I’d definitely recommend giving Genealogy of the Holy War a try!

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