Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind 1 by Hayao Miyazaki: A

From the back cover:
Humanity, in its hubris, has precipitated a devastating ecological disaster. Flourishing industrial civilizations have been swallowed up and Earth is covered with the Sea of Corruption, an enormous forest of fungi that releases a miasma of poisonous spores into the air.

Nausicaä, a gentle young princess, has an empathic bond with the giant mutated insects that evolved in the wake of the destruction of the ecosystem. Traveling by cumbersome flying ship, on the backs of giant flightless birds, and perched atop her beloved glider, Nausicaä and her allies must negotiate peace between kingdoms battling over the last of the world’s precious natural resources…

Here’s another manga classic I am reading for the first time. I’ve never even seen the movie, so I’m coming into the Nausicaä experience completely unspoiled, which is nice.

This is another one of those post-apocalyptic sci-fi stories with a complicated plot. Essentially, Nausicaä’s father is the Chieftain of their people. His only surviving child, she is set to take over after his death, even though nobody has ever heard of a female Chieftain before. Her people all adore her, though, because not only is she courageous and kind, she is also extremely badass. Her ability to sense the wind makes her a phenomenal pilot, she’s quick on her feet, and also good with weapons. I like her a lot.

I like the art, too—it’s delicate and detailed, favoring smaller panels over larger ones. Sometimes this results in pretty dense pages, and it’s usually important to pay attention to background things, so it’s a slower read than most manga. Some of the characters look alike—the “old men of the castle” who attend Nausicaä are pretty indistinguishable from one another—but others really stand out from the crowd, like the ambitious Kurotowa, advisor to the Emperor’s daughter.

The story moves along at a brisk pace and is easy to follow, even with frequent changes of venue and shifting political alliances. It kind of reminds me of Basara, what with the gutsy heroine gathering contacts and allies in various places. There’s a definite environmental message, but it’s not preachy. I’m really enjoying it so far and will be reading the rest of the series in the coming days.

A note on editions: The edition I am reading is the Perfect Collection, which condenses the series’ original seven volumes into four. Later, Viz reprinted the series in a seven-volume Editor’s Choice edition with unflipped art and the original sepia-toned ink. The library didn’t have the newer version, alas.

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