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Nausicaä Vol. 7-2: The Crypt

Welcome to the conclusion of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

Exiting the Hidden Garden, Nausicaä realizes that Ohma has gone on by itself to Shuwa. A group of wormhandlers tracks her down and swears fealty to their new guardian deity. Surrounded by loyal subjects willing to do her bidding, Nausicaä realizes that she is no different than the first Dorok emperor, who centuries before went off to Shuwa to “save humanity.”

~

At the capital of Shuwa, King Vai, the Torumekian Emperor, routs the remaining Dorok defenses. He demands entrance to the Crypt, but the surviving Dorok prisoners warn that he must wait for a messenger. King Vai attempts to blast open the doors of the Crypt, but the strange black structure proves impervious to weapons fire.

Ohma arrives on the scene, demanding immediate cessation of hostilities in accordance with Nausicaä’s wishes. Frightened Torumekian soldiers fire on Ohma, only to be incinerated by an explosion not seen since the Seven Days of Fire. King Vai succeeds in manipulating Ohma into turning its awesome firepower against the Crypt. There is an exchange of fire between Ohma and the crypt, which leaves Ohma fatally injured and the crypt broken. Overhead, the explosions forces the valley gunship piloted by Mito and Asbel to crash-land on top of the Crypt.

~

From a distance, Nausicaä sees multiple mushroom clouds and senses Ohma’s pain. During a rest from a thick rain of ash, she tells the wormhandlers about the Sea of Corruption, that the forest is not humanity’s punishment for polluting the world, but is actively working to clean the world. The wormhandlers rejoice at the news and the hope that it brings. Nausicaä does not reveal the secret she learned in the Garden, that there will be no place in the purified world for humans. She confides to Selm telepathically that she will go on telling this lie so people will have a reason to live.

The Broken Crypt of Shuwa

The Crypt of Shuwa. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 485)

Back at Shuwa, King Vai and his fool are the only survivors from the battle between Ohma and the Crypt. People calling themselves scholars of the Crypt crawl out of the living and oozing structure, asking to parlay with the new regime. They invite the King inside to meet the Master. The fool comments that these scholars are parasites, living as intermediaries between the Master of the Crypt and the outside ruler.

On top of the Crypt, an injured Mito notices that the living walls of the crypt are slowly healing and resealing. He urges Asbel to head inside in structure to investigate while he stays behind to rig up explosives to keep the walls open. Inside, Asbel discovers colonies of human and heedras build within the interior of the Crypt.

~

Nausicaä and the wormhandlers finally arrive. Sensing her authority, the scholars take her down to see the Master of the Crypt. Nausicaä arrives in time to see King Vai pondering the bargain offered by the scholars: Immortality and other exotic technologies in exchange for protection from any outside interference.

Holograms and shadhows  from the Seven Days of Fire

Holograms and shadows from the Seven Days of Fire. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 505)

Darkened temporarily by the damage caused by Ohma, the Master of the Crypt is a giant sphere of flesh with writings inscribed on its surface. With power restored, it begins probing the minds of everyone in the crypt with a piercing light. Greeting them with a host of holographic people from the ancient world, the Master speaks of the need for purification and rejuvenation through the Sea of Corruption. It reveals that the Crypt contains technology and knowledge necessary for the construction of a purified world, a world without suffering. The Master asks Nausicaä and King Vai for their help, to ensure that the light of the crypt does not go out.

To this, Nausicaä has this response to set up the climax of the entire saga:

Nausicaa Defiant Nay

“Because no matter how much knowledge and technology you have, you will still need slaves to do the work for you the morning you replace the world!? Our bodies may have been artificially transformed, but our lives will always be our own! Life survives by the power of life… To live is to change… But you cannot change. You have only the plan that was built into you. Because you deny death. Speak the truth! We have no need for you.” (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 508)

The Master responds to Nausicaä by asking her to imagine the days of despair during the Seven Days of Fire, a world where tens of billions of humans would do anything to survive in a damaged world with poisoned air, punishing sunlight, parched earth, and deadly diseases. Having no time and no hope, they entrusted everything to the future. The Master admits that the Crypt is a grave marker of the old world, but says that it also represents hope for a new and pure one.

Nausicaä rejects this hope, believing it is no longer relevant. While she does not doubt that the people of the old age began their project out of idealism and desperation, the Crypt’s inability to deviate from its original intention makes it a threat to life now. Nausicaä believes that to live is to suffer and to change, things that the static and pure Master of the Crypt knows nothing about.

The Master claims that unexpected problems can be addressed and corrected, and accuses Nausicaä of condemning the human race to extinction. It says that without the technologies within the crypt, current humans will succumb to an incurable hardening disease and will have no future. Nausicaä retorts that is for the planet to decide. The Master accuses her of nihilism, of nothingness. Nausicaä counters that the sympathy and love of the Ohmu were born from the depths of nothingness.

The Light in the Darkness

Life is the light in the darkness (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 511)

Moved and delighted by Nausicaä’s words, King Vai also rejects being a slave to a dead people, choosing instead to serve no one but himself. The Master of the Crypt cuts off communication and attempts to destroy their minds.

Outside, Mito detonates a gunship shell embedded within the healing crypt walls. The explosion interrupts the Master’s attack, giving Nausicaä a window to call Ohma for one last strike. The Master, realizing its vulnerability, pleads with Nausicaä to stop, stating that history will judge her as the one who destroyed the light of hope. Nausicaä counters that if the crypt is light, then humans do not need light.

“We can know the beauty and cruelty of the world without the help of a giant tomb and its servants…Because our god inhabits even a single leaf and the smallest insects. Ohma, forget about us. Send your light to this place!” (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 518)

With that command, Ohma destroys the crypt’s contents, including all the human embryos designed to live in a purified world. Nausicaä shudders at the depth of her sin, believing that these people could have truly been a peaceful and intelligent race. She notices that the blood of the crypt and the blood of the Ohmu are the same, and speaks once more to the dying Ohma, telling him that he has become a brave warrior, proud and pure of heart. Asbel finds her and escapes with her to safety to a waiting Kushana, Mito, Chikuku, and Charuka.

Kushana and King Vai

Kushana and her father. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 531)

King Vai is fatally injured by the Master, and although he does not like Kushana, the dying Torumekian emperor passes the throne to her. He urges her not to fall back into the cycle of bloodshed and revenge that engulfed him, and dies. As the only other person to know what she had done, Selm helps Nausicaä share the burden of her decision, asking her to entrust the future to the planet and the processes of life.  The story ends.

Nausicaä’s Choice

Ordering Ohma to Destroy the Crypt

Ordering Ohma to destroy the Crypt. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 518)

The ramifications of Nausicaä’s final decision are profound. By ordering the destruction of the crypt, she has permanently severed her world’s connection to the past. All the collective knowledge, technology, and achievements of the ancient world are lost forever, along with any hope of current humans being able to survive in a purified world. Furthermore, Nausicaä continues to spread the lie that one day people can live in a cleansed land, believing that the truth is too harsh to bear for those with less vision than her.

I remembered being stunned the first time I read her decision; it still remains an unsettling scene to return to today. By destroying the crypt, Nausicaä committed genocide against an entire race of people who were waiting to be reborn in a purified world. She does so in exchange for the freedom for life to live without interference, to change and grow and transcend its limitations.

In hindsight, this decision shouldn’t be surprising.  Nausicaä’s ethics and actions have always been rooted in life and its process. Her thoughts on the Crypt are voiced well before the final exchange:

“I suppose that men left that black thing as a kernel of the reconstruction… And it never occurred to them that that itself was the ultimate demonstration for the contempt of life.” (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 482)

The certainty and safety offered by the Crypt are exactly the qualities what allow, as Nausicaä calls, “sarcomata and filth” to accumulate. Parasitic power relationships, the misuse of life as weapons, and the corrosive lust for control are traps which repeatedly ensnare humans, generation after generation.  Nausicaä understands that the mere existence of the crypt promotes a brittle stasis that suppresses the value of life. By destroying the crypt, she seeks to break the cycle of human folly. With no links to the past and an unknowable future, the present is allowed the chance to exist in possibility. In one sense, she doomed humanity to save it.

Nausicaa, the destroyer of hope.

Nausicaa, the destroyer of hope. (Hardcover Editon, Vol. 2, p. 518)

Ultimately, I don’t know whether Nausicaä’s decision should be praised or condemned. The story leaves behind a character of extraordinary vision and conscience, and I find myself unqualified to judge her actions in light of the burdens she has to live with.

Parallels with The Farthest Shore

The influence of seminal works of science fiction can be seen throughout the Nausicaä saga, from the giant sandworms and messianic Mua’Dib of Herbert’s Dune, to the secret repositories and guardians of Asimov’s Foundation. Yet the themes and ideas I see most woven within the narrative comes from Le Guin’s Earthsea fantasy series.

It is a curious thing to discover that two of my most beloved works, met and treasured during different times of my life, could harbour such strong connections. Proving that there are few coincidences in life, I was pleased to discover that Miyazaki was indeed influenced by Le Guin’s The Farthest Shore (the third book in the series, and a story I have covered before on Ekostories).

Nausicaa Confronts the Crypt

Nausicaa confronts the Crypt. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 507)

The final confrontations in both stories parallel each other. Nausicaä, seeing the crypt’s projections of people from the old age, dismisses them as shadows that should have no influence over her world. In Shore, Ged banishes apparitions sent forth by Cob the necromancer, knowing that the dead can “walk upon the hills of life, though they cannot stir a blade of grass.” (Shore, p. 215). Ged also notes that the “counsel of the dead is not profitable to the living” (Shore, p. 97)

In the climax of their stories, Miyazaki and Le Guin comment that immortality – life that is certain, unchanging, and everlasting – is little different than death. Nausicaä condemns the Master of the Crypt in a fiery exchange:

“To live is to change. The Ohmu, the mold, the grass and trees, we human beings… We will all go on changing. And the Sea of Corruption will live on with us. But you cannot change. You have only the plan that was built into you. Because you deny death.” (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 508)

Crossing into the land of the dead, Ged confronts Cob in a similar fashion:

“Here is nothing, dust and shadows. There, he is the earth and sunlight, the leaves of trees, the eagle’s flight. He is alive. All who ever died, live; they are reborn and have no end, nor will there ever be an end. All, save you. For you would not have death. You lost death, you lost life, in order to save yourself. Yourself! Your immortal self! What is it? Who are you?” (Shore, p. 237)

Both stories claim that to seek complete escape from death and tragedy is to deny opportunity for joy and happiness in life. Humans by their very nature suffer, experience pain and sorrow. We can and should ease individual cases of suffering, but to end suffering as a whole eliminates a core part of what it means to live.  In her exchange with the Master of the Garden, Nausicaä claims that “the greatness of a mind is determined by the depth of its suffering”. (p. 443)  She rejects the crypt’s offer of purity because it seeks to sacrifice the present world, both corrupt and beautiful, for a fixed future of inhuman bliss. This cost is too high for Nausicaä, who constantly chooses to cleave to the messiness of life. Similarly in The Farthest Shore, Ged explains to Cob that in his quest to become immortal, the necromancer has forsaken everything worth living for:

“You exist: without name, without form. You sold the green earth and the sun and stars to save yourself. But you have no self. All that which you sold, that is yourself. You have given everything for nothing.” (Shore, p.237)

In the end, both protagonists take drastic action to restore balance to their respective world. Ged, pitying his enemy, offers Cob this small comfort:

 “I would give you life if I could, Cob. But I cannot. You are dead. But I can give you death.” (Shore, p.237)

Proclaiming that “all things are born from darkness and all things are returned to darkness” (p. 512), Nausicaä unleashes the light of Ohma into the heart of the Crypt, destroying it utterly. Both Nausicaä and Ged take no comfort in their deeds, but rather see them as necessary steps to entrust their world to life and living.

Coda: The Nausicaä Saga

A final reunion Nausicaa

A final reunion. (Hardcover Edition, Vol. 2, p. 530)

It’s been eight years since I had first finished the Nausicaä manga. On every subsequent rereading, I am awestruck by the complexity and scope of the narrative. Miyazaki manages to create an original and compelling epic that manages to weave in ideas of nature, culture, and self without the tale degenerating into a preachy parable or a strict condemnation of modern society. There is rarely a false note throughout the entire work.  Scenes of deep meditations, unforgettable battles, and satisfying character arcs are all capped off with an incredibly gutsy and open-ended conclusion that reflects its creator’s philosophy on life: That no matter how difficult circumstances are, life must be allowed to live.

There are many more elements that must remain unexplored. I have included in the reference section links to essays and interviews that examines the manga in greater detail.  They have been very helpful in fleshing out my thoughts throughout this project, and I hope you have a chance to check them out.  I am planning one more little surprise to cap off this ten part series (pending permission), so stay tuned in the next month or so. As always, I welcome your comments, criticisms and feedback, and thanks for reading.

Next Up: Exploring the nature of hope.

Related Ekostories

References

Anderson, Nicholas S. (2012). Nausicaa and the Noise of the Earth. Retrieved from The Anthropoeccentric: On the Margins of Humanism.

Lane, Michael. (2003). A Comic Book that Moveth to TearsFirst published in Triumph of the Past magazine. Retrieved from www.nausicaa.net.

Munroe, William. (2013). The Tao of Nausicaa. Retrieved from www.nausicaa.net.

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

Rose, Bill. (2013). Nausicaa: Eco-Warrior of Life. Retrieved from Critical Fantasies.

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.

19 Comments

  1. Great conclusion. I hate to see this series end. I can’t help thinking about the movie and how tirelessly, Nausicaä experimented (using whatever technology was at hand) to find a cure for the hardening illness her father and others had. But here, she totally rejects the technological means. Interesting. I hadn’t realized the parallel to The Farthest Shore until you mentioned it last time. I can definitely see the parallels to Paul Atreides in Dune, who wanted to destroy his own reputation as Messiah.

    • I think the Nausicaa the end of the manga will still continue to try to find a cure for the hardening disease. She just believes that to be held hostage by a past race that do not have the interests of the current world in mind is too high of a price to pay.

      Yes, I was really struck by how much the two finales parallel each other. Ideas of balance and the need for both light and darkness are prevalent in both works. The essay by Andrew Osmond gives a few more examples.

      As for Paul and Nausicaa, it’s interesting that both reluctantly take on the mantle of messiah and eventually use it for their own means.

  2. Well done Isaac…such a readable synopsis of a complex narrative. I like how it ends…what ever happens to life is nature’s decision and not ours.

    • Thanks very much for reading! It was certainly a challenge to get the analysis all down and finished, but I feel good about doing it.

      The ending is interesting, isn’t it? It’s very ecocentric – human beings are just another piece in the web of life. Whether we become extinct or not – as Nausicaa states, “that is for the planet to decide.” It doesn’t mean we should give into despair though. It just means we should treasure the lives we do have and live in the present.

  3. I think one thing that is implied is that even in their engineered form, humans and animals are still able to evolve and change their bodies over time. Now the the crypt is no longer around to bring about an apocalypse to rid the world of its current inhabitants, the Sea of Corruption and humanity will continue to coexist. Someday, perhaps humans will be able to live without masks and in that sense reach a different kind of “purified” land in that they are in harmony with their surroundings. Alternatively, the forest may end up finally removing all the poisons from the Earth, by which time humans have slowly evolved to be able to withstand the fresh air. It is certainly not impossible, as the Keeper of the Garden has already changed Nausicaa’s body to do so. I think the future is optimistic.

    • For me, I see the future is uncertain, as it always is and arguably to some extent should be.

      Perhaps humans will be able to live in a purified land as you say, or perhaps humans go completely extinct. There is evidence for both in the narrative. Or perhaps a few will live on in harmony with nature, or perhaps grow into another different type of human being – better, wiser, but less us. Whatever may happen, the certainty and guarantee offered by the Crypt’s plan is no more, along with the notion of what life SHOULD be, replaced only by chance and possibility and change, always change.

      It’s scary, it’s hard, it’s wonderful – and I think that’s what Miyazaki’s ultimately came to for his conclusion, and I love it.

  4. Greenman says

    One interesting point I’v seen raised elsewhere is how the conclusion reflects Miyzaki’s own life journey. My understand is that he went from a strong devotee of the Japanese Communist Part(JCP) to someone who became disillusioned with it. A strong thread of a lot of communism does seem to be this idealism of a future (workers) paradise and the idea that purity can be achieved.

    • Yes, Nausicaa’s journey is definitely also Miyazaki’s, and that’s one of the reasons why the work is so fascinating for me. Time and time again, Nausicaa rejects notions of planned or engineered futures, noting that they either become rigid and brittle or so corrupt as to not work for anyone but the elite. Also, I find that In his work there is an recurring theme of resignation that may be mistaken for nihilism, if not a contrasting undercurrent that speaks to his deep love of life. I find it all very fascinating!

  5. Miss Quartz says

    This was a pretty fascinating conclusion, and I like how everybody will have a different interpretation of Nausicaa’s actions. You can argue that she is arrogantly playing god and making decisions for all life on her planet, and those in the Crypt as well when she ruthlessly destroys the embryos of modern humanity, and even she is troubled by her massacre of them. You could argue that the Crypt is right, and she is a devil who has sentenced one race of humanity to extinction, and the other to a slow, gradual one, and she made no effort to try and reason with the Crypt, when it does seem to show that it is capable of being reasoned with, and there could have been some way for both races to live in harmony on different halves of the planet. That not only is she condemning both subspecies of humanity to extinction, but the bugs she loves so much: they will probably be also unable to survive in a You could argue, what right does Nausicaa have to make such huge decisions concerning all life on Earth. and that she is essentially a genocidal eco-terrorist playing with the lives of all life: it would not be difficult to present her as a villain or an antagonist in a very realistic way: Nausicaa is not motivated by malice and has a great big heart, but in another story she might be a well-intentioned villain engineering a bio-bomb to render all humanity extinct so pollution and resource consumption will end and the earth will heal its wounds from us and flora and fauna can inherit the world we have abused. And then you can say that Nausicaa is acting in self defence and the Crypt is too dangerous an ally and provider to trust, as its ultimate goal is the ruin of Nausicaa and her world.

    Myself, even though I like the character, I find her actions very shocking to say the least. Whilst I can understand her actions, I defineitly would be horrified and would stand against her to speak in defence of and to protect the Crypt or at least the precious resources and lifeforms stored inside it. Both the Crypt and Nausicaa ultimately have sympathetic ultimate goals, and maybe I am too much of an idealist regarding this fictional world, but I still think there may have been a way for both to get what they want, even if it means letting the post-7 days of Fire world and its creatures peacefully and slowly die out, and then letting the denizens of the Crypt inherit the earth once more.

  6. Isaac, thanks for taking on the mammoth task of summarising such a dense and complex story. I want to talk a bit about Nausicaa’s final decision.

    I can’t help but feel that Miyazaki’s depiction of the ancients is unfair.

    Yes, they brought about their own destruction by starting a foolish war and outsourcing justice to the God Warriors. There is no doubt that supreme arrogance and recklessness is to blame for the creation of wretched creatures like Ohma.

    There is also no doubt that the Ohmu, the bio-engineered humans, and the other life-forms that depend on the Sea of Corruption to survive, have gone beyond their programming: they have the freedom to experience joy and suffering, and are therefore just as alive as any other ‘natural’ entities.

    But this does not change the fact that the Sea of Corruption will disintegrate and the bio-engineered humans will go extinct in the future. Nausicaa believes that life, in its unpredictable way, might transcend this fate — but this is very vague notion, isn’t it? Hardly enough to rationalise destroying the ancients and their technology (which could, according to the Master of the Crypt, ensure the survival of the bio-engineered humans even in a purified world).

    Here is the thing I am driving at. The Crypt was not built to escape suffering, but to ensure survival. The ancients surely did not believe that suffering would end in their purified world, despite what the Master of the Crypt says (it? he? she? is a god, and I don’t believe it speaks accurately for the ancients).

    Wouldn’t reviving the ancients into the mess of humanity be an extension of Nausicaa’s logic: “we must live?”

    I love all of Miyazaki’s works, including this one, but the more I think about the ending, the more I question it.

    • Thanks for your thoughts on this. t’s been a while since I’ve revisited the story myself, and I find my views on the conclusion also evolving over time. So here’s my current take on it.

      I think Miyazaki’s condemnation of the ancients goes deeper than that they acted out of hubris and arrogance, but rather the philosophy behind their actions, that the idea life over the long term can and should be planned and regimented.

      While Nausicaa acknowledged and empathized with the ancient’s desperation during the Seven Days of Fire – this ark-like project was their salvation in the darkest times, she argues that the world, centuries later, has moved on. Many people and creatures have evolved, died out, changed beyond the ancient’s contingency plans. Being both a champion for her people and the more-than-human world, Nausicaa places a higher value on ameliorating suffering of the present than a past vision of the distant future. She is willing to use the lie to make the present tribes come together to forge a lasting peace. She also accepts that humans have no more rights to exist in this world than the insects and the fungi and the slime mold.

      As a regular human being, this may be very difficult to accept – we are inherently “species-ist” and it seems to go against our nature to value non-human life on the same level as others. But that ecocentric view of the world forms the foundation of Nausicaa’s character, and that’s what makes her such a compelling protagonist (I wrote about that too in another post: https://ekostories.com/2013/07/25/favourite-superhuman-protagonists/)

      It’s important to note that Nausicaa rejects both the ancient’s future and Selm’s eternal paradise away from the woes of the world. Nausicaa loves both of them as dreams, but ultimately she knows both ideas see present-day beings merely as stepping stones towards a greater future. Unlike them, she accepts that death is the only certainty to living, understands that it is merely the price of entry. What matters to her is the present, of living well, of loving life manifested in all their forms. That love and compassion is the difference between her and a nihilist like Namulith, who, facing death, gives up and tries to tear the world down.

      Nausicaa’s journey of course, is an extension of Miyazaki’s journey, when he shifted from an idealist to rejecting his core notions of Marxism and central planning (There’s an article somewhere, it might be linked). Having a vision of the future and striving towards it is fine, but planning every long-term detail out at the expense of organic growth is what Miyazaki’s warning against. I think you can see that in his work as an artist – even though he has a vision, he resists planning out the story and lets it take shape. Sometimes that works, sometimes not.

      As a writer, I had a teacher that warned against sticking too rigidly while outlining a new story. Yes a bit of planning is good, he said, to know where you want to go, but sometimes the story surprises you, takes you on another direction. Let it. He called this point of surrender “the rupture”, and this is usually the moment where a story goes from pedestrian or cliched to great and powerful, exactly because it moves beyond one’s control.

      Perhaps Miyazaki extends this style of philosophy to both art and life.

  7. Glenn says

    Re-read the manga over the holiday and looked for just such an analysis as yours. GREAT READ!
    There is something left open in the end and possible additions to the narrative. There’s so much to explore in the stories themes, meaning and interpretations.

  8. Konakana says

    Excellent blog that managed to hit upon many things explored in the series. 🙂

    On another note, I found another blog talking about the conclusion of Nausicaa concerning how a particular aspect of it can break the series at a certain point (and I’ve been having my mind wracked over it), and since you seem to have quite a bit of insight on it, I was wondering if you have anything else to say otherwise in favor of the series. The blog essentially proposes that the series does work with Cartesian Dualism, and claims that the conflict is presented as man vs nature. However, it would not work as “man” is a part of nature and everything it does stems from the power of nature and therefore, the two cannot be classified as separate entities. Blog is below.

    http://loopingworld.com/2013/09/27/nausicaa-of-the-valley-of-the-wind/

    • Thanks for reading, and the link to the blog post. I’ve never seen Evangelion, but I have heard the ending is controversial, and it’s always interesting to see other works being influenced by the manga.

      As for presenting the conflict as a man vs nature, I think the author of the post has a point. The synthetic “nature” of Nausicaa’s world, more so than ours, is all encompassing to the point where the distinction is meaningless. But when I reread the ending, I don’t think that Miyazaki is trying to frame the conflic as man vs. nature, but rather into two different paths: one of rigidity and control and one of organic growth and change. Viewed in this way, it’s more of a choice between life and death (which is very similar to The Farthest Shore, as I mentioned in my writeup). The rigid path can be broken down into two branches – the ancients with their 1000 year plan (what many would regard as man’s path) and the forest people (what most would regard as nature’s path or living in harmony). Nausicaa actually rejects both repeatedly, viewing the first as arrogant and the second as sterile. She opts to trust in life’s ability (whether it be “natural” or “synthetic”) to grow and change in unpredictable ways, which reflect’s Miyazaki’s worldview if you read his later interviews. She lets the chips fall where they may. If humans are meant to go extinct, then her choice means to let the world go its own way.

      • Konakana says

        Thank you for taking the time to respond, even years after writing your analysis of the series. That definitely makes a bit more sense as simply being a man vs nature conflict was something that I felt did not fully encapsulate the full scope of the series.

        On another note, I feel that the idea in Nausicaa of “transcending intention” as you elaborated on with the Ohmu and Ohma and the modified humans such, actually applies not only to life in its entirety, but even interpretations of storytelling as a whole. What is interesting to note is how, while Nausicaa herself isn’t especially concerned with religion, she still gets religious interpretation applied onto her in the story such as her fulfilling a prophecy or being hailed as a messiah and such. The characters in the series interpret her journey in various ways and I think that this extends to how the “reader” interprets the series themselves. Even if Miyazaki himself, did not specifically “intend” for his story to fulfill certain meaning that an interpreter may lay upon it, it does not mean that series itself cannot transcend this intention. This would apply not only to this series in particular actually, but to literature as a whole, the meaning of a work transcending what the author had intended it to be. Even for Miyazaki himself, Nausicaa seems to have transcended his intentions, sending him off on his own personal journey, changing his values and philosophies and such. At first it was intended to be just a girl and a valley and the threat of war, yet the series transcends this to become a sweeping epic and laying upon a grand thesis concerning life in its entirety. I find the potential spiritual ties to the story to be particularly interesting, whether Miyazaki consciously intended them or not. Pertaining to Christianity, the 7 Days of Fire kind of paralleling the 7 Days of Creation in bible, except in this sense, it is ironic because yes, the new world was created within these 7 days, yet the foundation is laid at the cost of the destruction of the old world. Also, the obvious potential link to the Garden of Eden with the garden in the series, except rather than committing sin and being forcefully kicked out Eden as humanity did, Nausicaa consciously chooses to live with the suffering. Also, it may be a stretch, but relating to the story of Noah’s Ark in which God sent waves to batter the lands and cleanse the world to bring upon a new world, this can kind of be seen with the Crypt, the ancients essentially acting as “God” in a sense, the Ohmu’s stampede form the Daikaishou which means “Great Tidal Wave” to assist in spreading the forest and accelerating the purification process. The Ark that Noah builds was supposed to carry over humanity and species to the next world and this can be seen in the Crypt in a sense, essentially a tomb to bring various species and technology into the New World. It is ironic in Nausicaa though because she ends up denying a second chance for the ancients however. Also, Nausicaa’s name meaning, “Burner of Ships,” taking this story into account, if by “Ship” we mean the Ark as in Noah’s Ark, then Nausicaa’s name would literally mean the Burner of the Crypt, describing the ending of the manga. While Nausicaa can obviously parallel messianic figures like Jesus Christ himself in a sense, she can also kind of go hand in hand with the Buddha’s development, essentially both of them being born into “nobility,” eventually later leaving their kingdoms and becoming more aware of the vast pain and suffering of the world, and attaining “enlightenment” or an epiphany under a tree, although in the case of Nausicaa, it’s not simply a tree, but an entire forest. Anyhow, whether Miyazaki intended all of this or not, I find it funny how part of the focus of Nausicaa is the idea of “transcending intention,” which describes how reader can look upon the series and conjure interpretations which may transcend what Miyazaki may have or have not intended. 🙂

        I apologize if this comment was posted multiple times. It was not showing up after I posted it and I wasn’t sure whether it went through or not so I sent it thrice.

        • There is definitely an element of the work transcending authorial intent, and I would like to think that Miyazaki was fully aware of this as the story, which took him over a decade to complete and during which he changed a lot in outlook and personal philosophy, took him places he may not have intended at the outset.

          I also think anyone creating something new will understand this – once you let a work go into the world, it’s no longer solely yours. Ideas get reinterpreted, rearranged, shaped and moulded according to the interpreter’s life experiences and the times they live in. It may be that Miyazaki never intended the story to have Christian connotations, but there you just articulated one plausible interpretation. I think the creator should be OK with that, in most cases.

          Like you, I find the overlap in the central idea of “transcending intention” in both story and medium super fascinating, seeming to say that art, like life, will take on a life of its own, going off in surprising and unpredictable directions, and that it is good and necessary.

  9. “the greatness of a mind is determined by the depth of its suffering”. (p. 443)
    I don’t agree with this sentiment.
    Going further I’m not sure if I agree with the choices Nausicaä made. Then again maybe I’d just be a parasite in that situation.
    Regardless, that is what she chose and it’s good that she could make her own decision.
    I have to wonder though. If Nausicaä were there a thousand years ago would she have gone against the plan to create modified versions of life that could survive in a poisoned world?

  10. Sorry for such a late response, I know it has been months, but I have read the series for the third time by now. This time, I find it particularly interesting how the concept of “not knowing” runs through manga. Along with what I said against simply planning everything out, and how in the manga, part of Nausicaä’s decision that plays into the destruction of the Crypt is due to its attempts to dictate the future and “control.” I think in this, she is not only defending life conceptually, but also encompasses how the future should be variable with the capacity to change. This then brings me to how I think the very last few lines of the saga are tied into this underlying theme. The last few lines relating to Nausicaä are particularly vague, noting a “chronicle” that she didn’t return to the valley for a while, and then a “legend” pertaining to her joining the “man of the forest,” assuming Selm. Leaving off in this manner I think goes hand in hand with having a variable future, as these routes exist solely as stories as there is no particular confirmation regarding anything, yet open up potential for even more varying possibilities and paths. In short, I think these lines serve to tie it together. So I guess now, even though the point is that it is indeterminate, I’m kind of curious what you think. Do you think Nausicaä joined Selm in the Sea of Corruption or whatnot?

    • I think I’m due for a reread as well, maybe during the holidays.

      I think on a practical level, Miyazaki simply wanted to end the story without putting more energy into defining Nausicaa’s fate, with an ambiguous ending being in line with the themes of the story. There is some risk in placing an authorial stamp on organically developed characters – I only have to think of the backlash behind Harry Potter’s epilogue where Rowlings admitted to penning it before she wrote the rest of the ending. I think Nausicaa would have resisted having her fate imposed upon her for sure.

      Do I think she joined Selm in the Sea of Corruption? Perhaps, but it would not be out of desire but rather of guilt. There’s one scene in the garden where the Master reveals how the first Holy Emperor departed with the intention of being a gentle philosopher king but ended up being a tyrant. I think that really shook Nausicaa, knowing this history and knowing how she could end up like him. That would cause her to retreat from the world if it got to be too much, with people committing the same follies over and over again. Maybe I’m just being cynical these days.

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