Introduction written by Ian DeWeese-Boyd
An Alternative Vision
In the distant future, a thousand years after "The Seven Days of Fire"—the holocaust that rapacious industrialization spawned—the earth is a wasteland of sterile deserts and toxic jungles that threaten the survival of the few remaining human beings. This is the world of Hayao Miyazaki's film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. In this film, Miyazaki offers a vision of an alternative to the violent quest for dominion that has brought about this environmental degradation, through the struggle of the young princess of the Valley of the Wind, Nausicaä. As Nausicaä struggles to lead her world into a sustainable future, she functions as a savior in this post-apocalyptic dystopia, forging a nonviolent path of love aimed at the restoration of harmony between warring human beings and the natural world. In the process, she also must wrestle with her own violence, and finally grasp the ultimate significance of seeking peace. Prophetically, she comes to understand that the natural world is no enemy to be fought against, but rather a benevolent force, which is slowly restoring the ruined earth. Her commitment to love and understanding—even to the point of death—transforms the very nature of the conflict around her and begins to dispel the distorting visions that have brought it about.
In light of the film’s plot and context, Nausicaä's shojo identity is of crucial importance. Like many of Miyazaki's protagonists, Nausicaä is a young female, neither child nor adult—a so-called shojo in Japanese anime and manga (comic books). The liminal status of the shojo coupled with Miyazaki's alluring and yet ‘estranging' visions of the world enables us, as Susan Napier writes, to "open up to the new possibilities of what the world could be." As a messianic figure, I contend the shojo Nausicaä offers a similarly beneficial estrangement from common conceptions of the gospel and opens up to the ecological significance of Christ's message of non-violence. Exploring the ecological and pacific aspects of the gospel through this figure, I argue, may provide a helpful lens for examining our own distorting visions in this age of war and environmental crisis.