Monday, January 20, 2014

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Volume One

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1
Hayao Miyazaki  ~ Studio Ghibli, 1983

Did it seem like the holidays would ever end? Whew... That said, hello 2014. Nice to know ya! 

The holidays here were spent meticulously viewing the collection of Hayao Miyazaki movies my son received for Christmas via the chimney. Some he'd seen before at a friend's house. Some he'd seen before back when we went retro on my old VHS. Some we'd seen at the movie theater. Some we'd rented and some we'd never seen before. But let me just tell you... when he opened the bundle of DVDs, he did what any boy who dreams of being a film maker someday would do. He hugged them. :)

You see, after raising a child on classic books and all things literary highbrow, I've created a human being obsessed with drawing and reading comics and graphic novels and watching movies and making-of featurettes. Now, I'm not saying I'm a Miyazaki expert. I, like most people in the free world, saw Spirited Away when it retrieved all that attention a million years ago. And I vaguely remember my sister being obsessed with him way back when. But it was my friend, Thingummery, who turned my son onto his movies My Neighbor Totoro and Nausicaa

And being that my son has a mind of his own, after a zillion viewings of Totoro, he's driven enough now to seek out every Miyazaki thing he can find. Including the little graphic novels that pop up here and there on the tiny but awesome juvenile graphic novel section at our local library... little graphic novelizations of his favorite Miyazaki movies, like Howl's Moving Castle, one of the aforementioned DVDs my son was gifted for Christmas. That particular book is the full screenplay of the animated movie that was adapted from the novel by British fantasy writer Diana Wynne Jones, and really brings the gorgeous detail and artistry in the movies to life on the page. 

After he got hooked on those, I started sniffing around for more and was delighted to discover what I'm sure every self-professed nerd this side of Tokyo knows... that although Hayao Miyazaki is best known in the States for his film work, back home he is also a manga legend. (Manga... another thing I know not a lot about, but I'm giving trying to understand on behalf of my son.) Miyazaki's most famous manga work is Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, of which we'll only delved into two of the seven volume English translation. (I don't know about anyone else, but that right to left reading gives me a massive headache, and my son hasn't quite mastered it so I end up doing the bulk of the reading, at least in true sequence.)

Like most things Miyazaki, there is an environmental message as the story follows a young princess, Nausicaä, in a post-apocalyptic world who is trying to make peace while a soul sucking mold threatens to overcome the human race. That's probably a really simplistic view of what the story is, but there are giant insects and cool flying machines and civilizations teetering on the brink of extinction. All that stuff little boys love, though it is refreshing to find most of Miyazaki's heroines are just that, heroines. Plus, the lead character has a little pet squirrelfox that my son adores, probably because it looks vaguely like a Pikachu.

Now, I'm not going to go too much deeper, 
lest someone who is a real expert log on and mock me. I'm just trying to follow the cultural trail that my son leaves in his wake. His movies and this perfectly timed Simpsons Miyazaki tribute is more my speed. That said, I would recommend all things Miyazaki to any boy or girl who craves imagination with heart.