You Really Need to Read Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

You Really Need to Read Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Image: VIZ Media
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In February of 1982, the first chapter of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was published – a manga series that would go on to help create one of the most iconic animation studios in film history.

Written and drawn by Hayao Miyazaki, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is an epic fantasy set in a future where a world war has ravaged the world with pollution. The manga follows the journey of Nausicaä, a princess who finds herself caught in another war as the world’s remaining kingdoms fight over any remaining natural resources.

In a long career of masterpiece works, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that Miyazaki’s Nausicaä is a fantastic read. Much like his other works, it explores evergreen themes of choosing pacifism over violence and the irreplaceable treasure of nature. If you love Miyazaki you’ll love this manga.

What makes Nausicaä important is that it represents a turning point for Miyazaki, because the success of its anime adaptation directly led to the creation of Studio Ghibli.

The road to the Valley of the Wind

You Really Need to Read Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
The promotional poster for Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. (Image: Toho)

Before Nausicaä, 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. It also features the best ever animated car chase.

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. 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 Nausicaä, 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. Nausicaä 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.

Adapting Nausicaä

nausicaa of the valley of the wind manga
Image: Toei Company

If you love the film version of Nausicaä, 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 Nausicaä film roughly covers the first 15 chapters of the manga, with a fair few changes to give it a more focused and conclusive narrative.

Miyazaki would continue to sporadically release chapters of the Nausicaä 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, Nausicaä is stunning to look at, with expressive linework and beautiful art, even when Miyazaki is rendering the horrors of this post-apocalyptic world. You’ll wish Miyazaki did more manga after reading it.

You can currently pick up the complete Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind box set on sale for $74.95 (down from $110) here.