In a long career of masterpiece works it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that Hayao Miyazaki‘s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a fantastic read. If you love his work, then you’ll love this manga.
Written and drawn by Miyazaki, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is an epic fantasy manga set in a future where a world war has ravaged the world with pollution. Much like his movies, it explores evergreen themes of choosing pacifism over violence and the irreplaceable treasure of nature. The manga follows the journey of Nausicaa, a princess caught in another war as the world’s remaining kingdoms fight over scarce natural resources.
A few years back, VIZ Media released a slipcase set of the whole series, which is straight up one of the nicest manga collections to have on your ever-sagging shelf. It’s currently on sale for $76.51, but even at full price, it’s well worth your time and money.
While it’s a great manga in its own right, what makes Nausicaa important is that it represents a turning point for Miyazaki‘s career. It’s the success of Nausicaa‘s anime adaptation that directly led to the creation of one of the most iconic animation studios in film history, Studio Ghibli.
The road to Nausicaä the Valley of the Wind
Before Nausicaa, Miyazaki had mostly worked as a director on other people’s television projects, such as Future Boy Conan and Lupin III. Miyazaki’s work on the latter would lead to him directing his first feature film in 1979, Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro.
Despite an incredibly tight four-month production schedule, Cagliostro looks great. It’s a fun crime caper that follows master thief Lupin and his gang of thieves as they uncover the secrets and treasure of the eponymous castle. It’s unmistakably a Miyazaki film and features an early version of his aesthetic, from lush backgrounds that celebrate the beauty of nature, a criticism of mankind’s greed and wacky plane designs. Clarisse, the princess of Cagliostro, looks almost exactly like Nausicaa. It also features one of the best-ever animated car chases.
While The Castle of Cagliostro is now regarded as an anime classic, it was a box office bomb when it was first released. Some Lupin III fans were also unhappy with how it changed the series’ characters, with Miyazaki rewriting Lupin to be a more chivalrous thief with a code of honour instead of a superficial lech who’s just in it for the riches and women.
Miyazaki, a man who isn’t known for mincing his words when it comes to criticism, was pretty dissatisfied with the final film too. In his memoir, Starting Point, the director described Cagliostro as being a “clearance sale” of his previous ideas, and that it didn’t bring anything new to the table.
As a response to that disappointment, Miyazaki chose to buckle down and focus on his own projects. This included the manga of Nausicaa, which was first published in February 1982. The series was popular enough to be adapted into a feature film in 1984, which proved to be a massive success. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was so successful that it helped Miyazaki to go off and co-found Studio Ghibli with director Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki. And the rest is history.
If you love the film version of Nausicaa, you’re in for a real treat with the manga. Much like Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, the anime only scratches the surface of the manga’s plot. The Nausicaa film roughly covers the first 15 chapters of the manga (about a quarter of the whole series), with a fair few changes to give it a more focused and conclusive narrative.
Miyazaki would continue to sporadically release chapters of the Nausicaa manga until its 59th and final chapter in March 1994. So even if you’ve seen the movie a hundred times, there’s a lot of extra material for you to dig into.
More than anything, Nausicaa is gorgeous to look at, with expressive linework and beautiful art, even when Miyazaki is rendering the horrors of this post-apocalyptic world. It’s the kind of manga where you can flick open to almost any page and you’ll find either a stunning layout or incredibly detailed panels. You’ll wish Hayao Miyazaki did more manga after reading it.
You can currently pick up the complete Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind manga box set on sale here.
This article has been updated since its original publication.
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