Week Eight: Anime

In what ways is Nausicaä intended as a warning and what attitudes does it express towards humanity, nature and the future? 

It is no secret that Miyazaki likes to focus on the theme of environmental preservation in his films. What started in his 1984 film Nausicaä: Valley of the Wind, for which he directed, wrote the screenplay and the original manga, has been shown in many of his other works. From the picturesque settings of Castle in the Sky (1986), My Neighbour Totoro (1988), and Only Yesterday (1991) we see what Miyazaki wants for our world. Calm, beautiful forests, lush countryside and idyllic landscapes are prevalent in these as well as other works under Studio Ghibli productions, as Miyazaki projects his desires onto his works. However, opposite to these, we have the cautionary tales. The most popular of these is 1997’s Princess Mononoke, which addresses the issue head on with a battle for freedom of the forest, where the spirits that reside there are at war with the people wanting to use their home for economic growth. The lesser known, but likely more obvious, is Pom Poko, released in 1994. In Pom Poko, we see the Japanese raccoon dogs – tanuki – as they are portrayed in Japanese folklore; guardians of the forests and wildlife. They take on developers head on and sabotage their projects in order to preserve their natural habitats.

What set the tone for these and other Studio Ghibli films, was the first one made; Nausicaä. Released in 1984, many consider it to be Ghibli’s first film, despite being released before the studio was officially formed. Many of the crew behind it went on to form Studio Ghibli, including Miyazaki himself, whose manga series of the same name the film was based upon. It tells the story of Princess Nausicaä and her fight against another people, the Tolmekians, whose aim is to raise an ancient being from the dead to ravage the planet.

The post apocalyptic landscapes tell of a future where pollution takes over the world and destroys the natural plants, the air and soil so contaminated that any plant growing in them becomes poisonous. When the characters talk about their myths and legends, it describes how the world is for us now; large areas of greenery; clean drinking water; breathable air. However our people exhausted the earth’s natural resources to the point where we poisoned ourselves. This is the world that Nausicaä takes place in; one almost completely destroyed by mankind and one which mankind is continuing to destroy. Miyazaki is warning us that if we don’t make a change, this could very well be our reality. A world where we cannot go outside without requiring an oxygen mask to aide our breathing. Miyazaki is trying to communicate to his audience that change needs to be made in order to save our earth – something that clearly hasn’t gotten through as we have seen in the climate change strikes this year over twenty years on from the release of Nausicaä.

 

Hara, T. (producer) and Miyazaki, H. (director). 1988. My neighbour Totoro. Japan: Studio Ghibli

Shunsuke, S. (2015). Nature and Asian pluralism in the work of Miyazaki Hayao [online article]. Retrieved from https://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a03903/nature-and-asian-pluralism-in-the-work-of-miyazaki-hayao.html

Suzuki, T. (producer) and Miyazaki, H. (director). 1997. Princess Mononoke. Japan: Studio Ghibli.

Suzuki, T. (producer) and Takahata, I. (director). 1991. Only yesterday. Japan: Studio Ghibli.

Suzuki, T. (producer), and Takahata, I. (director). 1994. Pom poko. Japan: Studio Ghibli.

Takahata, I. (producer) and Miyazaki, H. (director). 1984. Nausicaä: valley of the wind. Japan: Topcraft.

Takahata, I. (producer) and Miyazaki, H. (director). 1986. Castle in the sky. Japan: Studio Ghibli.

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