Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, by Hayao Miyazaki

This manga series is by acclaimed director and animator Hayao Miyazaki, whose movies include Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. This is his first graphic novel series. Because it is a manga, it is read “backwards” – that is, starting at the top right page of the back cover and moving from right to left down the page. The story stars Nausicaa, princess of the Valley of the Wind. It takes place in a world long ago corrupted by mankind and their wars. The entire earth is being swallowed up by the Sea of Corruption, a toxic forest that emits a miasma so poisonous it kills anyone who breathes it in. The forest is also home to giant, ferocious insects. While most people hate and fear the forest and its creatures, Nausicaa has a special bond with them. She seeks understanding and tolerance and does her best to ensure everyone lives in peace. When the emperor calls the kingdoms to war. Nausicaa leads the army of the Valley of the Wind in her father’s place. In the first volume, she learns to fear the anger and hatred inside herself, and the reader learns that Nausicaa has a special destiny in store for her. Maybe she will learn the true origin of the Sea of Corruption – perhaps she can even discover a way to save her kingdom. This graphic novel is intricately detailed in plot and illustrations. The former is thrilling and engaging; the latter are beautiful, delicate, exquisitely detailed black and white sketches. Combined they make a graphic novel that will stick with you long after you’ve closed the front cover.

Why I recommend this graphic novel:
Nausicaa is a wonderful heroine. Not only is she strong and courageous in the face of danger, she’s also kind and compassionate. She loves her people, and they adore her. She isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right, but she prefers peaceful tactics to force. She wants to protect her kingdom and the innocent people and creatures who are being harmed by the war. The story emphasizes the importance of peace and tolerance and taking care of the earth – always good lessons! This graphic novel is definitely for more advanced readers or those already accustomed to manga, but I would strongly recommend it to anyone who likes a good story. It has also been turned into an animated movie, which I have not yet seen but which has received rave reviews.

Miyazaki, Hayao. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. VIZ Media LLC, 2004. Gr. 6+

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