In March, Hayao Miyazaki's second feature film, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, turns 36. This painting played a key role in the creation of Ghibli, and was also the first to include social commentary on the topic of ecology and war. In honor of this date, we translated the Filmschool Project material about the role Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind played in Miyazaki's career, as well as its production and symbolism.
In 1980, Miyazaki was a rookie who created his first film, Lupine III: Castle of Cagliostro, with Tokyo Movie Shinsha [TMS]. After that, he decided to work on another animated film and wanted to take as a basis the work of the American comic book artist Richard Corben. TSM turned him down because it was expensive to buy the rights to the comics, plus the studio preferred to adapt the manga. Fortunately, Miyazaki was later able to negotiate an adaptation of his own manga, which was published weekly in Animage magazine by Takuma Shutten.
This is how "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds" was born. The post-apocalyptic story takes place a thousand years after the Seven Days of Fire, a catastrophic global war that destroyed much of the world. It is polluted with toxic air and the seas are uninhabitable and poisonous. The remaining humans live on small tracts of toxic land outside the deadly poisonous forest, inhabited by giant mutant insects that protect it as the forest rid the world of pollution. The remaining humans split into warring kingdoms fighting for limited resources and survival, as the forest grows and can absorb the remnants of the people.
Miyazaki was influenced by the old story of "The Princess Who Loved Insects" - a 12th century Japanese story about a young princess who doesn't like society and its norms and prefers to spend time with insects. This princess became the prototype for Nausicaa. Miyazaki also drew inspiration from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea. Another inspiration was such things as: pollution of the Minamata Bay with mercury [although it is better to say that this is a problem that hurt the author], the Sivash Bay in Ukraine [because of the shallow water and the abundance of salt in the summer, it emits a rotten smell, from which it is called the Rotten Sea - WorldOfTopics], as well as Yakushima Island [the island is almost completely covered with forest - WorldOfTopics].
After several chapters, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind has become the most popular Animage manga; this success could not be ignored. The publisher offered Miyazaki to shoot a short 15 minutes long, but Miyazaki said he would only agree to a full length movie 60 minutes or more.
Finally, Miyazaki had another feature film, with its own original characters, creatures and world, but it was difficult to create. With only 16 chapters published, the manga is far from complete. This situation led Miyazaki to reimagine history to focus more on the human conflict of kingdoms rather than a shattered world.
In the summer of 1983, production began when Miyazaki hired Japanese composer Jo Hisaishi to compose the soundtrack. In the future, he will become not only one of Miyazaki's closest friends, but also his leading composer for most of his subsequent paintings.
In the absence of more animators, the studio ran numerous recruiting announcements in its magazine. But in the end, most of the work was outsourced. One of the animators who worked on the painting was Hideaki Anno, who later founded Gainax and later became famous throughout the world thanks to Neon Genesis Evangelion.
"Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" was released on March 11, 1984 in Japan, receiving significant critical acclaim and fan love. This success of both manga and film led to the founding of Studio Ghibli in 1985 with financial support from parent company Tokuma Shoten. However, the creation of an animation studio was not the only influence that the picture had on Miyazaki's career. The characters, designs and themes of the film laid the foundation for his projects, especially in how he weaves the anti-war theme with the idea of the coexistence of nature, animals and people.
The Seven Days of Fire symbolizes both nuclear war and the biological weapons created by humans, which caused the mass extinction. The poisoned sea and mutated insects are a symbol of nuclear fallout in this story, as the world is covered in polluted air that can be fatal after inhalation for a period of time. The film's central conflict takes place between two warring kingdoms as they fight for the embryo of a warrior god.
This skirmish is an allusion to the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States and the fear of an impending nuclear threat.
Miyazaki is a firm believer in the use of nonviolent means to solve problems, and the picture follows this philosophy entirely, although it does not avoid scenes of violence. As a result, Nausicaa's actions resolve the conflict. Miyazaki later claimed that he had no ulterior motives in making the film, as he wanted Nausicaa to be purely an entertainment film, but his future films would also include anti-war sentiments. Both 1997's Princess Mononoke and 2004's Howl's Moving Castle show us heroines playing a key role in preventing further bloodshed between several peoples and creatures.
Ecology and environmental protection is another theme almost always present in Miyazaki's works, and it was first featured in Nausicaa. Even though the world in the film is heavily polluted, Nausicaa is still trying to understand him and the creatures that inhabit it. She often reflects on the beauty of the Earth, such as mesmerizing poisonous spores, although she knows that if inhaled, it will lead to death within a few minutes. When she approaches the mutant insects, she apologizes to them for disturbing them. The ending of the film is a loud message about the need for peaceful coexistence with nature, as the two kingdoms are forced to admit that they cannot oppose anything to either mother nature or mutant insects.
Over the course of several decades, Studio Ghibli has become a beloved animation studio, renowned for bringing joy, teaching helpful lessons and topics to people living with the world and its creatures. There is no better way to appreciate the studio and the work than to see the picture that started it all. The film is so vital to Studio Ghibli that it is considered by many to be part of its filmography, even though it was filmed before its existence.
The Topic of Article: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: Miyazaki's first anti-war film.