Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind 2 by Hayao Miyazaki: A+

From the back cover:
Humanity, in its hubris, has precipitated a devastating environmental disaster. Armed with clumsy flying gunships, Princess Nausicaä and her allies battle over the last of the world’s precious natural resources.

Yet this is no war saga, but rather the story of the coming-of-age of a pacifist.

As her troops advance, the gentle princess mourns both her own and her enemy’s losses, and takes the time to rescue two orphaned children. Nausicaä also shares an empathic bond with the giant, mutated insects who evolved after the destruction of the ecosystem. When the mysterious, intelligent Ohmu open their hearts to her, will Nausicaä be able to interpret their urgent warning?

The plot gets a whole lot more complicated in this volume, and it’d be folly to attempt to describe it. Instead I’ll just talk about the things I liked the most.

I mentioned the Emperor’s daughter, Kushana, in the review for the first volume, but I didn’t talk about the fact that she’s quite the badass herself. She has trained a company of soldiers who are fiercely loyal to her because she cares for their welfare, joins in the fighting herself, and is a brilliant strategist. She doesn’t panic in the face of an insect attack and when her advisor is injured, she slings him over her shoulder and carries him to safety. What a woman!

Nausicaä spends a lot of time in Kushana’s company in the first half of the volume, since they are traveling in the same direction. In exchange for releasing some prisoners, Kushana extracts a promise from Nausicaä to fight alongside her in a battle, leading to an amazing battle scene spanning around sixty pages. It’s masterful, really, drawn in a way that manages to be both innovative and clear.

This has also become a multi-sided conflict now, and though the leaders of the two main powers are certainly unpleasant fellows, I like how Nausicaä and her compatriots keep encountering decent people on all sides of the equation. This volume in particular demonstrated how futile the war is, and how the real threat everyone should be worried about is the encroaching forest, which strives to cleanse the land of poisons invented and inflicted by man. If I were feeling really profound, I’d say one theme is that the enemy isn’t “them,” it’s us.

If you like your science fiction thought-provoking with a dash of political maneuvering, you owe it to yourself to check out this series.

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