The Chosen Ones in the Story
“Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind” is quite different in the movie and manga versions. You could even say they are completely different. I was asked to write about “Nausicaa theory,” and after thinking for a while about which one to write about, I decided to write about why there are two stories. Why did Hayao Miyazaki decide to do “such a thing”?
Someone else may have already analyzed this thoroughly, but as I am not well-informed, I will not worry about it and just jot down my personal opinion.
A well-debated topic among fans is that the movie animation of “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” is based on the episodes up to the second volume of the seven-volume original manga. However, the background to this is somewhat complicated.
According to the bonus video included with the “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” DVD, Toshio Suzuki, who later became the producer of Studio Ghibli, submitted a “Nausicaa” animation project to a planning meeting at Tokuma Shoten. When it failed to gain much support, he started a manga series in the company’s animation magazine “Animage” to convince the executives, and used its popularity as ‘external pressure’ to realize the animation… This kind of strategy was introduced.
First, there was the animation project, and in order to realize it, the original manga was drawn, and based on this original manga, the animation was produced…
Just hearing this, it seems like a complicated story, but that’s not the end, because the “original” manga continued to be drawn even after the release of the movie, and the final volume was published in 1995, eleven years after the movie’s release.
It’s strange, isn’t it? The “original” manga concluded eleven years after the “film adaptation”.
So, what exactly was the “original” of the movie “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”?
The “original” of the movie “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” is the “original manga” that was cut off halfway through, and the story was reorganized into a story that brings about catharsis, or a sense of closure, saying, “The story ends here for now”. Therefore, both the story and character settings are subtly, and not so subtly, different from the manga.
Anyone should quickly notice that the “atmosphere” of the two stories is different.
If I dare to say, the movie is “bright”, while the original manga is “dark”. The movie is “easy to understand”, while the original manga is “hard to understand”. The movie is “pretty smooth” except for the scene where the Giant Warrior melts, while the original manga is “excessively muddy”.
This ‘brightness’, ‘clarity’, and ‘flow’, not to mention the catharsis of the final scene, undeniably contributed to the box office success of the movie. The manga, however, is a ‘different story’. The same author created a ‘different story’. It is essential to make this clear.
Generally, an anime adaptation uses the part of the original work where the future is still unknown. Therefore, it’s not really appropriate to call this manga the ‘original work’ of the movie. For simplicity, I will refer to them as ‘the movie’ and ‘the manga’ from here on out.
The one thing I’d like everyone to understand as I give my personal opinion on the ‘two stories’ is this: At the time the movie was being produced, the future direction of the original work was completely unknown. Hayao Miyazaki himself, the author, did not know how the manga story he was creating would unfold. Therefore, he took elements from the manga that could be compiled into an hour-long anime, and made a movie. Naturally, there were elements that were omitted.
Difficult-to-understand aspects, and uncertain elements that even Miyazaki himself didn’t understand, were not included in the movie material. The Dorok Principalities, the bizarre Prince Miralupa who reigns over it, the high priest, and the aspects related to the indigenous religion, all of which had already appeared by the second volume of the original manga, were cleanly removed from the movie. If you’ll allow a vague expression, the things removed from the movie were the ‘muddy’ elements.
The Dorok characters that didn’t make it to the movie wore armor reminiscent of ancient giant deities, their vehicles had elaborate decorations like Jomon pottery, and the language they spoke was incomprehensible. Miyazaki invented a unique font by deforming Chinese characters like ‘kill’ and ‘angry’ to represent their language. Characters who speak in a language that is unreadable and unintelligible even to the author himself do not appear in the movie.
In contrast, those who appear in the movie generally make decisions and act based on thoughts and emotions that even modern people can sympathize with and imagine, such as patriotism, friendship, loyalty, gratitude, trust, or negative feelings such as lust for power, jealousy, and revenge. These are all feelings that exist within us. The soldiers of Torumekia wear armor like medieval European knights, and their airplanes are quite stylish, while the people of the Valley of the Wind also dress like medieval European farmers. The design of gunships and mehve are even more modern.
Earlier, I said ‘the movie is easier to understand’, but that doesn’t mean the story is simpler or stereotypical. Rather, the clothing, lifestyle habits, judgments, and emotional movements of the people who appear there can be analogized with us modern people. We can say, ‘Ah, I see, such things do happen.’
‘Hard to understand’ means that such an analogy based on oneself does not work. It’s something that doesn’t allow the understanding or sympathy of modern people.”
We don’t understand what the monks are believing in, what kind of superhuman Miralupa is, why he wears a disturbing mask with many eyes, what a ‘Bug User’ is, what the disturbing ‘bugs’ they carry around are, what the ‘Hydra’ is, what the ‘Forest People’ are, and we don’t understand anything about them. The Giant Warriors in the movie are merely weapons of destruction, but in the manga, they are more mysterious entities with depth. There are countless things in the manga that are incomprehensible and unsympathetic. All these things have been omitted from the movie. But these ‘unintelligible people’ are indeed the central characters in the rapid development of the latter part of the manga’s story.
Although it might be slightly impolite to say this, the movie was made by selecting only ‘understandable’ things. A lot of ‘difficult-to-understand’ things were left behind in the manga. And yet, the manga continued to be written even after the completion of the movie.
Therefore, it is believed that the manga was not intended for anime from the beginning. This is inconsistent with Ghibli’s official timeline which says ‘the anime project came first, then the manga was drawn, and then it was animated.’ But it’s not like someone is lying or altering history. It seems more likely that the situation was rather chaotic, and the people involved didn’t fully understand it themselves.
What is known as a historical fact is that Miyazaki resigned from the production company he had been working for, became freelance, had some time, and started writing the manga “Nausicaä”, which was serialized monthly in “Animage”. Then, came an offer to do the animation. At that time, Miyazaki thought, ‘If I were to do it, it could only be “Nausicaä”. I could do it with “Nausicaä”.’ [Note: However, “Nausicaä” was initially drawn with the premise that it would not be animated. That’s all. Hayao Miyazaki himself has stated this definitively.]
“I started the serialization with the idea of drawing things that cannot be animated because I had no intention of animating ‘Nausicaä’.”
This is where the story begins to complicate.
“That’s why it’s torn apart. I want to do the animation, but if I were to do it, there’s only ‘Nausicaä’. I can do it with ‘Nausicaä’, there is no other way. That’s pretty clear. It’s a matter of which one to choose. So, if that’s the case, let’s do it because there’s no other choice.”
Let’s organize the timeline and his thoughts:
(1) Miyazaki started with the intention of not creating an animation for it and drew a manga that was difficult to animate.
(2) He received an offer to create an anime.
(3) He didn’t want to make something that didn’t suit his desires.
(4) If he were to do it, he would only want to animate a work he is currently passionate about.
(5) However, he initially started drawing with the determination not to animate, so it is full of elements that are difficult to animate.
(6) Oh no, what to do.
Hayao Miyazaki found himself in this loop.
Ultimately, he decided, “Oh well, let’s do it,” and took a leap of faith into creating the animation. Despite having written a story that could not be made into an anime, it ended up being made into one. Now, what happened at this time?
First, let’s think about the differences between manga and anime. One is a solitary activity, while the other is a collective creation. This is the biggest difference.
Manga is a job where you draw with a pen on paper all by yourself. The plot, character settings, and even every single line are all the responsibility of the manga artist alone. There’s no room for anyone else to intervene.
Anime is different. There are producers, animators, voice actors, musicians, sales and PR people. Everyone has their own circumstances, but they all share the desire to create a work that they can understand and get behind.
The creators of a film are called “filmmakers”, which is a collective term. It includes producers, directors, actors, art, sound, equipment, PR, stunts, everyone is included.
No one has the right to say, “This film is entirely mine. I created and control everything.” A film is a collection of the “dreams” of all the people involved. If you are not fully committed to the task, willing to sacrifice meals and sleep, it will not come to fruition.
If the sole motivation is money, there may be individuals who claim, “I don’t comprehend it, but I’ll proceed regardless.” Ultimately, there are scarcely any instances where endeavors pursued with such a cynical mindset result in work of equal caliber. To produce a high-quality film, it is crucial that every participant in the creative process possesses a genuine desire to see it through in the spirit of excellence . Merely expressing this desire does not guarantee understanding, but it serves as a fundamental prerequisite. The work manifests as a culmination of these collective aspirations, distinct from manga, which is primarily an individual pursuit.
Therefore, when “transferring” a manga into an anime, the first thing to be cut out is something that cannot be “collectively shared”. Things that are difficult to share with others, things that are difficult to understand or sympathize with, “things that are unclear.”
I think in the case of Hayao Miyazaki, during the planning and production stages, he was probably asked various questions about the characters, systems, and devices that appear. There might have been questions that could be answered with “well, you see”, and questions that couldn’t be answered.
The animation project started when he was still drawing the early parts of the manga. It’s only natural to wonder, “I don’t know what’s going to happen next.” If he drew further into the future, the meaning would probably become clear, but for now, it’s still unclear. Even the author himself can’t answer clearly when asked about such things.
Probably, things that “the original author couldn’t give clear answers about its meaning” were deleted from the anime one by one. That’s what I think. When the genre was changed from manga to anime, the first thing that was left out was the “hard-to-understand things.”
There’s another thing that tends to get cut.
That is “things that cost a lot to draw.”
Things that aren’t so labor-intensive to draw in manga, but when you try to express them in motion…
Indeed, “things that require a high animation cost” can present a challenge. Some elements might not take much effort to draw in manga, but when it comes to expressing them in animation, the effort required can be daunting. This can be a major impediment to the animation process.
When Hayao Miyazaki first started serializing in “Animage,” he intended to draw something “that couldn’t be made into anime.” This didn’t just mean complex plots or stories that were too long to fit into two hours. It also meant depicting scenarios that would make animators cry if they were told to draw them.
As a professional animator, Miyazaki knew what kinds of images were a “torture for animators”. Therefore, he deliberately started drawing manga without shying away from such elements. This was one of the concrete, technical meanings of his resolve to “draw something that can’t be made into anime.”
So, what kind of subject matter would make an animator cry?
According to Miyazaki, first and foremost, it was “insects.”
“Well, for the first project, the staff was willing to draw insects, they were deceived [laughs]. But when I said we were going to draw those insects again for the second project…”
One of the reasons Miyazaki cited for the impossibility to create a sequel to “Nausicaä” was that “the staff wouldn’t draw insects anymore.” Although it was a half-joking remark by the director, it’s a point that can’t be overlooked.
The Ohmu, a giant insect-like creature in “Nausicaä,” has many joints and numerous antennae emerging from its mouth, which are moved one by one as it moves. Indeed, it must require an incredible amount of effort to depict such movement smoothly. Therefore, by the end of the movie, the animators were probably exhausted. Scenes of the Ohmu swarming were depicted with countless red eyes in the distant desert or with the movement of their legs obscured by rising dust.
Another subject that distresses animators is “battle.”
“Combat” is another subject that taxes animators.
“Even when trying to depict a small battle, it takes an enormous amount of time and effort. It’s even more impossible with animation. Plus, we can’t really depict things like mud, dirt, blood, etc. Depicting something getting increasingly muddy would take an enormous amount of effort. The model for the war in ‘Nausicaä’ was the German-Soviet War. It was a war where twenty million Russians died, and even if you try to depict it in manga, you don’t know what to do.”
Miyazaki himself, however, seems to enjoy drawing battle scenes in manga.
“The only thing I found interesting to draw was the battle scenes. But for animators who don’t share that interest, it must be a painful task. So, in the anime version of ‘Nausicaä,’ there are no scenes of battlefields filled with blood, mud, and ruins reminiscent of the German-Soviet War.”
That may have been a natural constraint of ‘children’s anime’, but it was something Miyazaki originally ‘wanted to draw’.”
Earlier, I used the term “animation cost.” I talked about how things that take a lot of effort are eliminated in the process of animation. But in this case, the “cost” includes not only labor costs and technical levels, it also includes the concentration required of the artist and the resulting mental and physical fatigue.
The creation of the manga “Nausicaä” was a tremendous physical burden for Miyazaki. It’s such hard work that even just reading the manga as a reader makes our shoulders tense.
In an interview with Youichi Shibuya, Hayao Miyazaki talks about the struggles during that time:
Shibuya: “The comic version of ‘Nausicaä’ was interrupted many times, wasn’t it? I guess you felt you couldn’t draw it anymore.”
Miyazaki: “Well, first of all, I didn’t want to draw it. I didn’t want to draw it all along.”
Shibuya: “Why didn’t you want to draw it?”
Miyazaki: “It’s tough, you know. It’s painful to do it alone. It’s just really painful. The pain is not just from the shoulder strain, but also from the struggle of not knowing what to do, and these two types of pain cross over each other. So, I get confused about whether the current pain is from not knowing what to do or from the shoulder strain. I just kept going while keeping quiet.”
“I had no time to sleep. I had to organize the studio work in my head in the morning and try to get home earlier than usual, but even so, I would sit at my desk at home around 11 o’clock at night. And then I would work on the manga until about four in the morning.”
Just transcribing these words here makes me feel sorry for him.
But don’t you find it a bit strange? This was after the completion of the movie “Nausicaä” and when Studio Ghibli was consistently producing hit movies. Despite being so busy with studio work that he could hardly keep up, he was still drawing manga at home, a manga that, if his words are to be believed, he “did not want to draw.”
Despite four interruptions, Miyazaki continued to draw such a manga for twelve years. I think this is quite abnormal. Probably even Miyazaki himself, when asked by those around him—”Why do you work like that?”—might have been at a loss for words.
“Miyazaki, you don’t want to draw, do you? Then why do you draw until you’re worn out?”
What is clear is that Miyazaki wanted to get away from manga, but manga wouldn’t let him go.
I’m interested in this. Why didn’t the manga let Miyazaki go? He said many times that he wanted to “quit”. He even wished for the demise of “Animage” magazine so he wouldn’t have to draw anymore.
That means “Nausicaä” was not a work that Miyazaki finished by “drawing what he wanted to draw”, but rather a situation where the work used Miyazaki as a “passageway for expressing himself.”
I somehow feel that way.
As I wrote at the beginning, at the time of the movie’s release, the “original” had only been drawn up to about the third volume out of seven. But when asked about the “sequel to the anime” in an interview after the movie’s release, Miyazaki firmly said, “I won’t animate the sequel.”
At a stage where the manga’s sequel had not yet been resumed, if asked, “Will you make a sequel to the anime ‘Nausicaä’?”, it would be normal to dodge the question by saying something like “I wonder…”. I mean, depending on the flow of the manga’s story, if it seems possible to animate, consider animating it, if not, don’t. Responding with a stance of “either war or peace” would be normal. But Miyazaki didn’t do that. He said, “I will draw the sequel manga, but, I won’t animate it.” Why did he respond under this premise?
This is what I think.
If the possibility of animation (no matter how slight) is planned, the author would undoubtedly start to avoid difficult art subjects subconsciously. No matter how much you think, “Forget about the animation and draw freely,” you’re unconsciously restraining yourself. Because Mr. Miyazaki is a professional, he can instantly calculate “how much time, effort, and cost it would take if this scene were to be animated”. He cannot pretend not to see it and draw a picture. I think Mr. Miyazaki probably thought that the manga “Nausicaa” should never be subject to such restrictions. That’s why I think he clearly declared from the beginning that he wouldn’t animate it.
“Nausicaa” must not have any constraints other than the limitations of the mind and body of the person who is drawing it. No external conditions whatsoever can stop, wrap up, or reduce “Nausicaa”. “Nausicaa” must be drawn until you break down. I believe Mr. Hayao Miyazaki clearly realized this when he finished making the movie. This work is “I don’t want to draw, but I have to”. Why did he think so? At least, there was certainly a reason why he thought so.
That’s because the twelve years during which Mr. Hayao Miyazaki painstakingly continued to draw the manga “Nausicaa”, tortured by the pain in his shoulders and the frustration of not knowing what to do, were the most productive years of his life. During this time, in addition to the movie version of “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, Mr. Miyazaki directed four other works: “Castle in the Sky”, “My Neighbor Totoro” (’88), “Kiki’s Delivery Service” (’89), “Porco Rosso” (’92), and produced “Only Yesterday” (’91). I have no words to describe this feat other than prodigious productivity. Despite the busyness and fatigue that left no time for sleep, the fact that he continued to produce high-quality works suggests a correlation with the fact that he intermittently continued to draw “Nausicaa” in parallel with all of these jobs.
Why was Hayao Miyazaki so prolific during this period? I would like to interpret that it was because, by drawing “Nausicaa”, Hayao Miyazaki felt he was chosen as an author. As for “Nausicaa”, it’s not the author who chose the story, but the author who was chosen by the story. That would be more appropriate. The story arrives “all at once” to the author. However, to externalize it as a work, the body of the author is required. There are works that cannot take shape unless the author offers their own body as a “sacrifice”. I think that’s the case.
It’s like when Mozart writes a symphony. The musical idea is given all at once as an inspiration. He just “notates” it. Therefore, there are no corrections anywhere in Mozart’s score. But if you asked Mozart, who was in the middle of “notating”, “Excuse me, could you let me hear just the final note of the final movement of the symphony you’re writing?” the composer probably couldn’t answer that request. All the notes are already written in the composer’s brain. However, unless the piece is played as actual music, with each note sounded in sequence until the final phrase, even the composer cannot predict what the final note will be.
Everything is initially presented in a comprehensive manner, but without progressing to the end, the full meaning of what was “provided at the beginning” remains undiscovered. That’s what happens to a genius creator. The story is already complete when you start writing the first line. But you won’t know what it is until you finish writing the last line.
It’s the writer’s job to bridge the gap between “what’s already done” and “what you still don’t know”. The writer crams their body into that gap, as it were, to create a story. When a writer “offers their body as a sacrifice”, that’s what it means.
I believe that the manga “Nausicaa” was such an experience for Mr. Hayao Miyazaki. The story is being powerfully drawn toward a certain ending. This becomes clear while drawing. As long as he endures physical pain, keeps silent, and fills the white paper with ink with a pen in hand, he is confident that he is approaching the end, one page at a time. Until he draws the last page, however, he doesn’t know what the outcome will be.
I believe that Hayao Miyazaki was in such a “flow state” when he was drawing the manga “Nausicaa”. Miyazaki has given an important testimony about this “flow” sensation. He says that by the time he had progressed halfway through the story, he had been given only fragmentary images of the conclusion.
“There was a time right after the real movie “Nausicaa” finished when I was told to draw a Nausicaa calendar. I kept grumbling about it, but in the end, I had to draw it. So I drew it carelessly. I didn’t want to draw what had happened so far, so I just drew the parts I thought would come next. But, looking back, the things I was complaining about ended up being right (laughs). Pictures of Nausicaa riding on the shoulder of a giant warrior that has become worn out, or… I guess I always knew in my subconscious where it would go from there.”
The picture of “Nausicaa riding on the shoulder of a giant warrior that has become worn out”, which he would actually draw eleven years later, was an important image that also meant solving the “mystery” of the whole story. It had been represented in illustrations that he had likely crafted out of obligation for commercial purposes right after the film was released.
Things like this do happen.
Even someone like me who writes, very occasionally experiences “such things”. Something that I will actually write in the far future is anticipated in fragmentary images. In particular, the pattern of a single frame drawn without enthusiasm reveals its meaning unexpectedly after a long time has passed. Mr. Miyazaki gave another example of this experience. It’s the image of a mother in “Nausicaa”. The mother in the scene where young Nausicaa picks up a larva of the Ohmu is a “mother who just watches and does nothing”. This is what Hayao Miyazaki says about it.
“When I drew it, something just skimmed by and I just drew it that way, that the mother wasn’t protecting her. And yet, I didn’t draw it as if the mother wasn’t protecting her there. But then, it became a thorn inside me, and as I was wondering why that was, suddenly the words “Mother did not love me” came out from Nausicaa. That scene turned out to be just that, it suddenly came out. So, there’s a lot of time in between. It took about ten years (laughs).”
The author already knows unconsciously where the story is going and its conclusion.
That’s really how it is. Artists call it “inspiration”, poets call it “poetic spirit”, and philosophers call it “daimonion”. Whatever the name, there’s no doubt that “something” other than the person themselves is leading the work.
Mr. Hayao Miyazaki often encountered this “something that leads the story” while drawing “Nausicaa”. He was able to clearly feel the sense of being named to express the story. Perhaps similar things have happened with other works. But, I believe that “Nausicaa” was indeed an exceptional experience for Mr. Hayao Miyazaki.
“I was chosen as the narrator of a long story that no one knows the end of yet. I am not the creator of this story, but the one who passes on its fragments.”
Is it a joy for a writer to have such intuition, or does it give a sense of omnipotence, or does it torment the writer and torture them with a sense of incompleteness? Probably both. But I have deep respect for the narrator who accepts being “torn apart” in such an ambiguous way, and offers their body as a sacrifice.
Uchida Tatsuru – Born in Tokyo in 1950. He is an emeritus professor at Kobe Gakuin University. He won the Kobayashi Hideo Prize for “Private Edition of Jewish Cultural Theory” and the Shinsho Grand Prize for “Japanese Frontier Theory”. Other works include “Ethics of Hesitation”, “Downstream Tendency”, “Levinas and the Phenomenology of Love”, and many