Thursday, September 15, 2011

One of the greatest stories ever told: Kaze no Tani no Nasicaa

One of the most magnificent stories I have ever encountered (presented both as Anime and in much more elaborate form, as Manga) is the story by Hayao Miyazaki of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. In many ways it was his rough precursor to his later Princess Mononoke, but in both the original (not dubbed) Anime, and in the Manga he made from it, there is a much richer and more ambiguous plot.

So far I am not aware of any good dubbed versions of Nausicaa. You can find pretty good dubbed versions of most of Miyazaki's movies, but Nausicaa has been an exception. Too much gets changed. Most disturbing is the tendency to get rid of the original music which, Quentin Terantino style, was considered an absolutely crucial part of the original movie.

Let me just say that the Manga has so much more to it. It was so complicated a plot that my mother (despite a Ph.D. in Anthropology) lost track of the political threads. But it is one of the richest, most beautiful and amazing stories ever told. The movie version is excellent, and the animation wonderful if somewhat dated. But the Manga goes so far beyond the plot in the movie it is almost a different story.

This story comes from the imagination of one of Japan's greatest animators, Hayao Miyazaki. Here are three trailers to give you an idea of the anime.

Naushikaa: (Korean trailer but gives the BEST impression of the story)

An adequate English trailer:

The name Nausicaa comes from Homer's Odyssey and was a deliberate break by Miyazaki with Japanese tradition, though he combined the Western myth of Nausicaa with a Japanese myth of a Princess who loved insects.

Japanese Movie trailer, with the amazing original music (with ocarina notes indicated):

The basic plot of both the Anime and Manga (though the Manga takes it so much further) is that humans destroyed the world in seven days of fire...after that remnants of humanity hung on in small pockets of safety while the rest of the world is engulfed in a toxic forest of fungi and insects.

The Manga in particular explores the political outcomes of this as well as the environmental developments, but the bottom line is that the world of humans is failing centuries after the seven days of fire. War leads to the resurrection of some of the old weapons and these threaten to complete the destruction of humanity. Into this end of days scenario comes Nausicaa, a savior who combines berserker rages with scientific discovery with tearful love for all living things. Nausicaa with all her ambiguities becomes a potential savior. In the Anime her being a savior is definitive. In the Manga it is much more ambiguous, but still fascinating.

This is one of the best stories you or your children will ever see. Check out the anime for the simpler version.

Or, if you prefer a far more complex, ambiguous story, I strongly recommend the manga version as one of the best stories ever told bar none...It always brings tears to my eyes throughout the story.

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