Some four years before he made My Neighbor Totoro, Hayao Miyazaki created another Aryan-themed work called, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. He put a tremendous amount of energy into this piece, as it was a completely original story with no pop-culture tie-in, and Miyazaki even crafted a manga series with the characters first. This film is an adaptation of the first two volumes. While it sacrifices much of the written works’ intricacies and scope, the film version is still a great piece of storytelling.
Sometime in the Future…
…the World is forever changed by an event that now, 1000 years after the fact, is remembered as “The 7 Days of Fire.” During the opening credits sequence we get glimpses of what when on during those days, these are quick images in a montage that seem to be resemble the memory jog of someone pondering the event. We see huge golem-like figures march and unleash wanton destruction upon everything in sight. Eventually, after the chaos settles down, Earth is forever transformed with human settlements few and far apart from one another with a “Toxic Jungle” inhabited by giant insects covering the rest of the planet. Those regions are lethal for humans and can only be entered with special masks. Contact with the insects is almost completely avoided as any sort of combat results in unstoppable swarms.
The opening credits may have very well been the thoughts of one Lord Yupa, a figure similar to Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, who sees a village that has succumbed to toxicity in the very first scene. He picks up a doll whose head crumbles to dust; the doll was a child’s toy and this suggests the death of Original Nobility. Has life been so violently beaten and transformed that it has lost all of its previous Nobility? The World’s forest before the apocalyptic events provided Earth with oxygen, but now the jungles are toxic. This is a strong indicator of such major aberrations that they might as well be considered absolute and fundamental change. However, as we soon find out, it is a lack of hope that is the most demoralizing of illusions.
Enter a Heroine
Nausicaä is a princess in one of the few human settlements, each of these is more of a city state with government and economy, however, the Valley of the Wind is an exceptionally humble place when compared with the others. We first see Nausicaä exploring the Toxic Jungle and finding an Ohmu (one of the huge species of insect) shell that has been shed. Knowing that this will be a valuable resource she decides to take a piece of the shell back, when she senses someone’s distress.
Off in the distance, someone is being chased by an Ohmu and Nausicaä immediately goes to their rescue and non-violently stops the Ohmu from chasing the person who is actually Lord Yupa from the opening scene. This is a great introduction to the film’s main heroine and her sense of duty.
She is not a comfortable and complacent aristocrat, rather one committed to a sense of struggle – exploring the World and not hesitating to help someone. Note that the Ohmu in this scene is blind with rage as it’s home must have been disturbed accidentally by the passing Lord Yupa, but Nausicaä stuns the beast briefly with flashbangs and then soothes its anger and the bug’s eyes go from bright red to a calmer blue and it makes its way back into the jungle. This scene is a total inversion from macho Lone Wolf heroics in which a muscled brute of a male takes one some beast or wrestles it away in a show of strength – here we not only have a woman but also non-violence resolving the issue; all suggesting quality of tactics and persona as opposed to quantity of strength and pure physical endurance. These themes will carry on for the rest of the film.
Also is worth noting that Lord Yupa, who has traveled far and wide in this world, still doesn’t know just how Nausicaä was able to calm the Ohmu. Lord Yupa unleashed the rage of the Ohmu when he fired upon an insect in effort to rescue a small mammalian critter, a fox-squirrel. Yupa gives the animal to Nausicaä who is also able to calm it with some unseen force, it seems to be just her gentleness. Apparently, Nausicaä has a connection with all living things.
Lord Yupa says that he is on his way to the Valley of the Wind and Nausicaä rides ahead on her glider. Interesting that her glider looks like a white wingspan and is called “Mehve” which immediately made me think of the Polish word for seagull, “mewa.” As it turns out, the German word here would be “Möwe” and in the original manga written by Miyazaki, it is that word which is used for name of Nausicaä’s glider. The glider is a symbol of a harmonious existence of nature and technology, of humans and animals, as well as being a fine piece of engineering – it can propel itself if need be, but usually glides so as not to waste energy.
Soon after Nausicaä’s return, Lord Yupa rides into a valley with many windmills and green fields. Children happily rush out to greet Lord Yupa and the whole scene bears a strong resemblance to Gandalf’s entrance into the Shire at the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring, both the scene and the scenery are parallels with similar themes being communicated, albeit transposed from the rolling hills that are typical of the English countryside to mountainous landscapes of Japan. This is the Valley of the Wind.
The Valley is one of few places not yet consumed by the ever spreading Toxic Jungle, which is also degenerating human civilization as its pores cause, among others, premature aging. It seems that the Jungle’s take over is inevitable.
Here we are introduced to Obaba, a wise woman who recounts a prophecy of a mythical hero’s arrival; “Clad in blue and surrounded by fields of gold to restore mankind’s connection with the Earth that was destroyed. He will guide the people at last to a land of purity.” The Aryan symbolism here is unmistakable. A more subtle, but also effective, way that the film communicates Aryanism, and even alludes to the Aryan race, is the fact that the characters have a rather general and undefined complexion overall. Some look Asian, but many have beards that make appear like Old Germans or Slavs. Added is that there are no mentions of real world geography, we can only assume that the film takes place on Earth, but it may as well be in the same sort of realm as Lord of the Rings – a realm of universalist applicability that has been intentionally created separate from our current world so as not to be burdened by any of its constraints.
That night, Nausicaä, with her heightened sense of the world, detects that something is not right. Sure enough, she’s right, a large crippled ship is on a crash course with the Valley. Jumping in the Mehve, she approaches the ailing vessels and attempts to warn them not to crash into the people below. We see that the ship is being attacked by insects and is soon brought down resulting in a fireball and the toxic pores of the Jungle and insect life now threaten the Valley’s agriculture. Nausicaä finds a survivor amidst the wreckage, this is a princess from another settlement, Pejite, who soon dies. This will lead to complications later. This scene also shows Nausicaä’s Aryan qualities as the masses are highly impulsive and in panic about the insects, and even more so when a bigger one emerges from the downed vessel’s hull. The people panic and aim to tear it up with gunfire, but Nausicaä intervenes and encourages it to leave with her unique communicability. The insect flies away with Nausicaä escorting it to the edge of the Jungle where and Ohmu waits for its kin. The Ohmu seems baffled as to why a human, an enemy species, did not unleash the usual rage and violence, but proceeds peacefully back into its home domain.
The next day, more ships arrive at the Valley. They land and unload soldiers who begin to secure the area, including the ailing King’s quarters. Nausicaä returns from a flight when the apparent invasion is underway and rushes to her father’s room only to find him surrounded by the soldiers and dead. This scene is Nausicaä’s only fit of rage as she engages the soldiers with a fury, but is soon stopped by Lord Yupa. This stopped what would have been a spiral of cataclysmic violence.
The newly arrived army is from yet another state, Torumekia, and the Torumekian Princess Kushana explains that they are here to help reclaim Earth for humanity for the transport that crashed last night was carrying a developing “god-soldier” – one of the golem-like beings seen in the intro, one of the beings that caused the 7 Days of Fire 1000 years ago. However, Kushana is convinced that the golem may be used to destroy the Toxic Jungle so that the remaining humans on Earth can live without constant alarm of the pores or of the insects. Kushana decides that the best place for the golem to finish developing will be right in the Valley. She decides to take Nausicaä and some of her confidantes hostage so as to ensure the good behavior of the Valley’s inhabitants.
Before they leave, Nausicaä reveals to Yupa that she had been secretly growing a garden in the basement of her building, but one with non-toxic soil. The resulting plants did not give off the lethal spores and she hoped to find a cure for the ailments humans inevitably face due to the pervading toxicity. The reverting of the garden to natural states also suggests a reversion to Original Nobility.
To the Brink of Annihilation
When they leave the Valley to head towards Torumekia, a single fighter craft attacks the Torumekian ships destroying several. Nausicaä climbs out onto roof of her own ship and her presence seems to dissuade the pilot from attacking the ship, but in his moment of hesitation his own craft is hit and goes down. Nausicaä then gets everyone off of the ship, including Kushanä, and they glide down to the surface, but wind up in a swamp. Kushana does not value any act of kindness and is only driven by selfishness (she was even baffled, like the Ohmu from before, when Nausicaä allowed her to escape with them from the crashing ship) draws a gun and states “I give the orders around here!” She lets her impulses get the best of her. The insects in the jungle sense anger and immediately rise up from the swamp, but Nausicaä with her communicability manages to calm them.
The insects seem to communicate with Nausicaä by some sort of glowing yellow tentacles and Nausicaä has a vision of golden field for a few moments. It’s a peaceful vision. Another contrast, slightly more subtle than violent outbursts, is that Kushana regularly insults her subordinates and they her behind her back. It’s another aspect of their volatility.
The previous scene also demonstrated that the air above the clouds of the jungle is clean and breathable. This is a first major indicator that there are certain things yet to be explained about the dynamics of the Toxic Jungle. Not surprisingly, it is closest to the source of the Swastika symbol that the pollution is not present.
After the Ohmu leave Nausicaä goes to see if the pilot from the down fighter is still alive. Sure enough, he is and fighting with the insects, which in turn causes them to rage. This is the gentile way that inevitably leads to a spiral of violence. It is not unreasonable to believe that it was such thinking and such a course of action that lead to the 7 Days of Fire. The golems were created to wipe out all the enemies of a nation or of an alliance, but unleashed a worldwide inferno.
Nausicaä saves the pilot with her glider, but they are then pulled down into quicksand and Nausicaä has another vision. Back in her childhood, in a golden field, she had come across a baby Ohmu, which was soon killed by adults. The young Nausicaä saw no reason for the violence and this is yet another suggestion that the Ohmu are not what people think they are. In fact, as it turns out, people’s entire perception of the Toxic Jungle is wrong. Nausicaä and Asbel, the fighter pilot and Prince of Pejite, have been pulled down under the jungle, but are now in a clean environment. The jungle is toxic, because it is cleaning all the pollution that people had caused during the 7 Day of Fire. The insects are so protective of the jungle, because they are guarding this secret and keeping a violent species, humans, away from it. In effect, the jungle is reverting the Earth back to Original Nobility – it’s an organic process if allowed to go uninterrupted – and thus, Nausicaä’s attempt to control this process back home wasn’t necessary. Though, she was doing it with good intention. However, Nobility cannot be “created.”
In this scene, Nausicaä tells Asbel that his people are just like the Torumekians and he reacts in rage, which is a typical gentile reaction that prevents the transcending of tribal boundries. Back in the Valley, Lord Yupa discovers the Torumekian plans to unleash the golem and leaves to find Nausicaä. The villagers start an uprising then – the spiral of violence is beginning to spin. Nausicaä and Asbel reach Pejite, but the Ohmu have destroyed it.
They soon find out from some surviving Pejites that it was the Torumekians who lured the insects there. A deviously clever exploitation. The Ohmu, when their eyes glow red, are said to be able to fight until they starve, they literally wear themselves out with their own treachery. People, it seems, are on the same track for the Pejites get the brilliant idea of now luring the insects to the Valley to conveniently wipe out all the Valley people and the rest of the Torumekians, then they will take the golem and destroy the Toxic Jungle, which they refuse to see as anything other than wretched despite Nausicaä’s and Asbel’s pleas. Asbel is knocked unconscious by his fellow soldiers, while Nausicaä in imprisoned on their transport. People are really on the same track as they were one millennium ago, it seems. They just want to make treachery work for them and only for them.
The leaders man be corrupt and blind with hate like the Ohmu, but some of the people are not. A few noble Pejite civilians help Nausicaä sneak out so that she can find the lure being used on the Ohmu swarm. While everyone prepares for some of the biggest combat to come yet, Nausicaä finds the lure, with her keenness that allowed her to spot Lord Yupa in the very beginning when he was running from the Ohmu. She ends up wounded, like the baby Ohmu being used for the lure as it had hooks in its body so that it could be transported. She uses her communicability to talk to it and the prisoner Ohmu sees that Nausicaä is not an enemy. It heals her using its tentacle-like antennae. Then, in her last attempt to stop the Ohmu horde from killing the rest of the Earth’s human’s Nausicaä orders the stunned Pejite soldiers to transport her in front of the charging Ohmu.
Meanwhile, Kushana unleashes the unfinished golem and it manages to fire off some terrifying laser blasts before completely falling apart. Her dreams of cataclysmic victory instantly shatter and crumble to hopelessness. The charging Ohmu cannot be stopped by anything at her disposal now.
Nausicaä is set down right before the Ohmu charge and it plows right into her, sending her high up into the air and back down into the midst of charging insect feet and kicked up dust.
For a few terrifying moments everyone prepares for mutually assured destruction, but then, inexplicably, the Ohmu then stop… from high up in the air we see the raging red glowing of the swarm’s eyes starts to turn into a calm blue from one spot that soon spreads throughout the entire giant multitude of Ohmu. They lift Nausicaä on their glowing yellow antennae, whose clothes are now blue (from the blood of the wounded Ohmu) and she appears to be walking in a golden field – Nausicaä is the mythical hero that found the link between humanity and nature so as to herald in a new Golden Age.