Nausicaa

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"Kaze no Tani no Naushika", or "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" (known to fans as simply Nausicaä or Nausicaa) is a 1264-page graphic novel written and drawn by Hayao Miyazaki from 1982 to 1994. The story reflects Miyazaki's self-proclaimed interest in the social role of technology and nature, as well as in strong female characters. While Oni's Wilderness, born of the BioCrisis, seems to be inspired by the toxic wilderness in Nausicaa, the story was never stated by Oni's developers to be an influence on the game.

The manga was adapted as a feature-length animated movie in 1984, directed by Miyazaki himself and produced by Studio Ghibli. The movie features a dramatically shortened plot, and it was adapted early in the life of the manga, so it omits the story's "true ending" that came a decade later. The movie also simplifies the story by leaving out the Doroks and Shuwa, instead focusing on Kushana's misunderstanding of the Forest.

Overview

Prior or further reading

Wikipedia has an article about the manga and about the movie
For more insight, read the (rather long) interview about the manga.
Other interviews and facts can be found in the making-of books.
(a particularly remarkable one is "Watercolor Impressions"...)

A sorta summary

HERE BE SPOILERS

The graphic novel originated from a few diverse concepts Miyazaki had been experimenting with. They all had in common a somewhat improbable blend of technology (airplanes, guns, bombs) with a fantasy design (knight armors, beasts, medieval state regimes). This was reconciled within a postapocalyptic theme.

Nausicaä's world was nearly destroyed a thousands years ago by the Seven Days of Fire, and is plagued by polluted areas known as the Sea of Corruption. The human population in the scope of the story is fragmented into kingdoms that often engage in war. The sources of the conflict are the people's misunderstanding of the dynamics of the Sea of Corruption (it expands in reaction to attacks, but its role is to purify the world) and abuse of biotechnology granted to one leader or the other by the Guardian of the Crypt of Shuwa (in exchange for protection). The Guardian of the Crypt watches over Mankind through the dark centuries of pollution, but it periodically breaks the military balance by overpowering the leader it seeks protection from, and thus sends the world into cycles of war.

Meanwhile, the human-made entity that is the Sea of Corruption has acquired a consciousness of its own, embodied by the giant Ohmu and the Forest People. On the human side, Nausicaä (the heroine), princess of the peripheral state known as Valley of the Wind, is increasingly aware of the truth behind the Sea of Corruption: the spores from the Forest are deadly to the non-Forest flora and fauna but, more importantly, the Forest also crystallizes the toxins into harmless sand.

The Valley of the Wind is a vassal to the Torumekian empire (although a somewhat rebel one). Two important events trigger military actions by the Torumekians, only one of which made it into the movie: the discovery of a God Warrior (a biomechanical weapon similar to those that brought about the apocalypse) in the city of Pejite. In the movie, the Torumekians see it as a way to fight back the Forest, whereas in the manga, they mean to use it against the Doroks (the nation currently under the protection of the Crypt of Shuwa). In both scenarios, the Valley of the Wind stands in the way: in the manga, because the key to activate the God Warrior ends up at the Valley; in the movie, because the God Warrior ends up there itself.

The other important event is that the Torumekian king, aware of the Doroks developing biotechnology with Shuwa's support, starts an invasion of the Dorok lands. The Valley of the Wind is required to send its armed forces into the conflict. Nausicaä heads the small garnison, and thus ends up at the heart of the war, closer than ever to the truth behind the Sea of Corruption as she unveils the deal between the Dorok Emperor and the Crypt of Shuwa.

Throughout the story, Nausicaä consolidates a community of followers, most of whom believe she is the "blue-clad one" from an old prophecy, and that her actions, of a somewhat divine inspiration, are crucial for mankind's destiny. She has a mutual empathy with most of her followers. Even those who treated her as an enemy become "addicted" to her and are ready to follow her to the end of the world, die for her, etc. A few protagonists stand out, but to develop on them would be to tell most of the story.

Having identified the Crypt of Shuwa as the source of military unrest and spiritual alienation in the world, Nausicaä enlists the newborn God Warrior and sets off to destroy the Crypt, but not without finding out the secret behind that calamity. It turns out that the Crypt is the repository of all knowledge from the old days, supposed to guide Mankind towards symbiosis with an eventually regenerated Earth. In an act of faith, Nausicaa refuses this programmed evolution and destroys the Crypt.

In-depth analysis

If you forget about the Seven Days of Fire, Miyazaki's story pretty much fits as a distant sequel to Oni, along the lines of Hasegawa's plan as interpreted by Mai. It is also compelling to introduce some of the more elaborate aspects of Miyazaki's storytelling into Oni's universe, be it general literary wisdom or more specific concepts.

Lack of an Enemy

Miyazaki's story is remarkable for its lifelike complexity and the absence of well-defined antagonists, which is not a common thing in war/fantasy stories. Even the most ruthless characters are redeemed by a credible set of beliefs and motivations, and character roles evolve a lot as the story progresses. Such a story might be confusing and even frustrating to readers, as it is at odds with popular storytelling canons: it's actually more characteristic of "belles lettres" literature, or sophisticated science-fiction such as Stanislaw Lem's. More than anything, Miyazaki's story is a reflection on the nature of man with its intrinsic imperfections and weaknesses, and an anthological one at that. The dialectical handling of technology and its role in the evolution of Mankind is a sort of "sound pessimism" akin to that which permeates Stanislaw Lem's stories (and more notably the essay Summa Technologiae).

It is interesting to develop Oni in an enemy-less way. In what way is Muro evil? and his Strikers?

Could it be that they are doing what they think is right? What about Hasegawa's plan for Mankind?

Female heroine

Nausicaä is a skilled fighter with a few supernatural powers, including the "wind sense", telepathy and a touch of telekinesis when she's angry. She's also poised between her distinctive love for all living things, her great sense of responsibility, and her dramatic, fateful decisions. Her quest for the truth is marked by the deaths of many exceptional people, and she also seals the very fate of Mankind at the Crypt.

Arguably, Oni's Konoko lacks that sort of wisdom, but it's a trait that could be developed in a post-Oni Mai.

Autoevolution of man and paradigm of controlled technology

In the last volume of the graphic novel, it turns out that all of the population in Nausicaä's world was genetically engineered to adapt to the polluted world - humans, birds and mammals to a somewhat lesser extent than insects. The humans did this to themselves in order to live through the impending centuries of "dead air and foul water" after the Seven Days of Fire. The Sea of Corruption is in fact a man-made entity that purifies the water and the air, slowly but surely. As it is, there are areas deep inside the Sea of Corruption where the regeneration is complete, however the air there is so pure that it is deadly to the current human population (which, again, is genetically engineered to survive in a toxic environment).

Nausicaä's dilemma as she destroys the crypt of Shuwa is whether this reparation of environmental damage should or not be monitored by those who started it. The Guardian of the Crypt tells her that the regeneration is all planned out, complete with the technology that will make humans able to walk the regenerated Earth once again, undoing the original changes to both the world and its inhabitants. Nausicaä denies the "light" and destroys the Guardian, stating that this "programmed evolution" is against the very nature of man, just as the "perfectly harmonious and peaceful life" that's supposed to begin after the regeneration is complete.

See also

Ergo Proxy and Wonderful Days - 2 other anime about the regeneration of a polluted Earth.
Beyond Good and Evil - another strong heroine, another messiah figure, another day saved.
Female fronted - various female figures in culture.