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Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984)
Nausicaa as a scientist living among adversity

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

I struggled greatly to decide what film to introduce after the March 11th earthquake. I pondered many possibilities, such as discussing the fascinating scene from the Coen brother's western film True Grit in which a young girl gazes down on a gunfight from the top of a cliff. I also considered discussing the Academy Award-winning The King's Speech, a film in which the director was mediocre enough to kill the power of the final speech by covering it with background music. However, I ultimately decided not to discuss any new films, instead choosing to introduce this famous animated film which is known to all Japanese people. I selected this film because I felt it is most appropriate for the mood of people living in Japanese society since March 11th.

Exactly what kind of mood is that? This animated science fiction film is set after a decisive catastrophe of civilization and portrays an apocalyptic world of people struggling to live amidst the fright of a polluted atmosphere. Of course, the film forces an association with the condition of people living in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, people who live in fright of pollutants which are now being scattered from nuclear facilities. "It is the ground that is being polluted!" "Do you propose that we live together with the Sea of Decay even as we are threatened by the poison that exists within?!"-Characters in the film deliver lines that extend beyond the context of the film to penetrate into the hearts of Japanese people today. In the world of Naussica, attempts are made to use sunflowers and field mustard to purify soil which has been radioactively contaminated. Such projects are actually being attempted in Japan today.

However, even more striking than the aspects discussed above is the savior Naussica's stance as a scientist. Other characters in the film are divided into two distinct positions. Some simply seek to live humbly amongst the fear of nature's overwhelming power which threatens to destroy them. Others seek to conquer nature by using vast amounts of firepower to burn away the Sea of Decay. But Naussica is different. While recognizing the threat posed by nature, she also holds the scientific realization that the threat is built upon some type of mechanism. Naussica searches the workings of that mechanism for the possibility of prolonging mankind's existence.

Naussica constructs her own laboratory in the basement of a castle. She proves that the toxic plants which grow abundantly in the Sea of Decay will not emit poison if grown using clean water and soil. Naussica also calmly observes the biological behavior of the Ohmu, giant poisonous insects which sometimes attack human beings. She quiets the anger of the Ohmu using measures such as an insect whistle. The core appeal of this film is how such scientific consciousness effects a Copernicus-like inversion of a world view based on the dualism of good and evil.

Naussica has often been seen as a symbol of ecology or as a noble heroine who commits self-sacrifice. However, such interpretations are certainly too simplified. Naussica exhibits a scientific rationality of calmly recognizing the state of the world and seeking the possibility of prolonging mankind's existence regardless of how desperate times have become. This attitude gives hope to Japanese people who are living after the recent catastrophe. Since March 11th, many have debated that art is powerless when faced with disaster. However, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind provides a painful reminder of how much the artistic exertion of imagination can expand the possibilities of mankind.

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Graduated from School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University, and dropped out of Osaka University Graduate School of Human Sciences. Entered current position after working as an assistant professor at Chiba University.
Majors in visual culture and communication.
Major publications include “Cinema and Technological Experience”(seikyuusya), “Secrets and Pleasure of the Screen”(ibunsha), “Sociological Communication”(co-authored, Yuhikaku), and “It's TV! Everyone Gather Around”(co-authored, Seikyusha).