Tag Archives: princesses

Nausicaa: Of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa: Of the Valley of the Wind, is a movie written, directed, and animated by Hayao Miyazaki, a Japanese filmmaker and artist. This movie focuses on Nausicaa and her kingdom, the Valley of the Wind. A thousand years after a war that devastated the Earth, humanity lives in small, secluded kingdoms. Outside the kingdoms, the Earth is being consumed by a Toxic Jungle guarded by huge insects.

The Toxic Jungle got its name from the fact that the plants in it shoot out poisonous spores and gasses. Anything other than the giant insects that live in the jungle – whether it is animal or human – which should be unfortunate enough to enter the jungle without a mask will be dead in five minutes.

Nausicaa is the princess of the Valley of the Wind and the heroine of the film. The Valley of the Wind is a peaceful kingdom by the sea. The winds from the ocean protect the valley from the Toxic Jungle’s poisons and spores. However, people in the valley are not immune to the same sickness that plagues all the remnants of humanity. Living in proximity to the Toxic Jungle means that, inevitably, some of the jungle’s poisons slowly kill the people who live near it. The disease brought on by the jungle’s poisons leads to paralysis, turning the body “hard as rock,” and it eventually kills the person who receives the sickness. Nausicaa’s father, King Jil, is suffering from this illness.

Nausicaa is a kind and loving girl with a special sensitivity to nature. She can communicate with the insects in the jungle and calm their wild rages whenever someone outside or – rarely – inside her kingdom is idiotic enough to do damage to the jungle or kill an insect. Any such action brings swift retribution from the biggest, most impressive – and most dangerous – insects in the jungle: the enormous Ohmu, or Ohm for short.

Everyone in the Valley is Nausicaa’s friend. Though they all readily defer to her, and typically call her “Princess,” it is clear that Nausicaa is well-beloved by her people because she loves them. She speaks easily to them and their welfare is her top priority. She does enjoy her trips into the Toxic Jungle on her glider (which is a very cool method of transportation that I want very badly!), and learning the ways of the jungle and the insects. But in the end, it is her people whom she cares for the most.

I saw Nausicaa when I was fifteen, and I was immediately impressed by three things. The first thing I enjoyed about the show was the animation; Miyazaki is well known for his animated features, and Nausicaa shows the world why. The vistas, the clouds, the jungle, Nausicaa and her people – all are rendered in stunningly beautiful detail in the hand-drawn frames. CGI has nothing – absolutely nothing – on hand-drawn animation of this caliber. It is too bad animated shows are no longer rendered so well.

The second thing that impressed me came in the first ten minutes of the film. An old friend of Nausicaa and her father, Lord Yupa, returns to the Valley and is greeted happily by the inhabitants. Nausicaa is busy repairing a windmill as the Valley people excitedly ask Lord Yupa for news and express their joy at his return. Then Nausicaa goes down from the windmill and leads a new mother to Lord Yupa. Nausicaa herself is carrying the woman’s baby daughter, the only child born in the Valley in one year!

The fact that only one baby was born in the Valley is astounding; and the small, seemingly inconsequential detail that it is the biggest news in the kingdom in a year shows how hard it is in the world of this story for people to have children anymore. Compared to today, where the lives of children are thrown away, this idea of children being precious is very timely.

This brings me to the one thing that weighs down Nausicaa: the film is very insistent that humanity has lost touch with nature. Two other kingdoms in the movie, the Tolmekian Kingdom and the land of Pejite, stand in for humanity’s “wanton” brutalization of nature. The Ohmu and the jungle represent nature which, when attacked, fights back violently.

The Kingdom of the Valley is set up so that it shows humans living in relative harmony with the Toxic Jungle and the insects. The Valley residents do not have to fear the jungle’s poisons, and so they have never tried to burn or chop it down. This means that the Ohmu have left them alone and, in some odd way, respect them. In return, the Valley residents avoid bothering the jungle at all costs. They instead try to understand the jungle, how it came about, and how to live with it.

Nausicaa’s sensitivity to the Earth and nature is part of this theme. The whole reason she can communicate with the Ohmu and calm the other insects in the jungle is not only a result of her study of the jungle and the insects. It is a result of the fact that she is in tune with nature.

This theme is heavy in the story and makes it hard to watch sometimes. But the film does have its saving graces. As I mentioned above, there is a third thing which impressed me. Later in the movie, a leader from Pejite informs Nausicaa that he has men luring Ohmu into the Valley of the Wind. He is doing this to destroy the Tolmekians who have invaded the Valley after invading Pejite. He is also doing this to secure a weapon which may destroy the Toxic Jungle and its insect guardians.

Nausicaa is horrified by his barbarity. She goes so far as to break down into tears at the thought of the outrage: that this man would lure the insects into an innocent kingdom and destroy its people, as well as the unsuspecting Ohm which are being used, essentially, to get revenge on Tolmekia.

The Pejite leader tries to comfort her when she starts crying, saying that someday she will realize that they are doing this “for the good of the planet.”

Nausicaa responds perfectly. Angrily striking away his comforting hand, she shouts, “The good of the planet?!? You’re killing my people!!”

Nausicaa’s statement sums up what is really going on in the world today, that one thing or another – nature, healthcare, or some other faux ‘good’ – is being used to give moral credence to outright murder and savagery. This tendency to put nature over humanity weakens the movie’s potential but it does not utterly destroy the story. I think it would have served Miyazaki better if he had placed the story on another planet humanity was trying to colonize, but as the film stands, it is enough to pass the time enjoyably. And yes, I still think the animation is unbelievably beautiful!

And I STILL want Nausicaa’s glider! Hey, science geniuses! Get busy and design this thing! For heaven’s sake, somebody had better start producing these things! I tell ya, there IS a market for them out there!

Catch you later, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

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A ‘Brave’ Thing to Do

Brave

Hey, DiNozzo!

I’ll take that Klondike bar, thank you very much!  Now, for your punishment, you have to listen to me talk about Disney’s Brave.

Hah!  I knew you hadn’t heard of it.  Ooh, this is going to be fun!

Well for me it is, Tony.  You’re making up for that nasty joke about books, so it’s not supposed to be too much fun for you

Stop rolling your eyes, or I’ll hit you with what’s left of this Klondike bar!

Good.  Now, to business!  Brave is an animated movie set in – tenth century Scotland, I believe.  May want to recommend it to Ducky, now that I think of it.  The protagonist is headstrong, fierce Princess Merida.  A teenager with her sights set on adventure, Merida is a great horsewoman and, through practice from childhood, an amazing archer.  She has this trail in the forest near the castle that she rides with her Clydesdale, Angus, from time to time.  As she rides, she fires arrows at preset targets, hitting the center every time.

Actually, no, she doesn’t get to ride this trail every day.  I was under the impression she rode it about every weekend or something. 

Yes, she’s not allowed to do this more than once a week or so.  But it’s not because her father won’t let her.

Her mother does not like Merida running off to fire arrows at the trees.  It’s quite unladylike in Queen Eleanor’s opinion, and a proper princess should behave more like a lady than like a warrior.

Yup, you guessed it.  Merida and Eleanor don’t see eye to eye, at least not during most of the film.

This problem arose over time, with Eleanor trying to make Merida into a lady while Merida found every possible way to avoid fitting into the mold her mother had sized for her.  This constant fighting has reached the point that both women, when they speak to each other, never hear what the other has to say because they’re too busy listening to their own voices.  In short, neither is willing to admit the other has a point.  It is their way or the highway.

The trouble comes to a head when Merida is to be betrothed.  Each suitor, the oldest boy in his family, has to compete for Merida’s hand in a tournament.  The interesting thing is that Merida gets to choose what feat of arms they must accomplish to win her hand.

Right on again, Tony.  She picks archery.

So the three suitors from opposing clans each fire at the target.  The first two miss but the third – a midget with a vacant expression for most of his part in the movie – is startled into hitting the target dead center.

You think Merida’s in trouble?

Well, you’re half right.  But she has no intention of marrying this dopey boy – or either of the others.  One final contestant, hidden beneath a cloak, approaches the target.  When the figure lifts the hood, it’s revealed to be Merida!

As the oldest in her family, Merida says that she will “be shooting for my own hand!”

And she does, splitting the winning suitor’s arrow down the middle.  But Eleanor is right behind her, and boy does the fur fly when the two return to the castle.

Eleanor is distraught not only that her daughter has broken custom with this unladylike act, but she has also put a treaty among all four clans in grave danger of being broken.  Merida, however, does not care about this.  All she wants is her freedom to do what she enjoys: being a tomboy.  The argument hits fever pitch when Merida takes an axe and cuts a tapestry of her family (which her mother was embroidering) down the middle. 

In thoughtless retaliation, Eleanor throws Merida’s beloved bow into a nearby hearth fire, stating that she will marry her betrothed the next day.  Merida hardly hears this because the sight of her bow being eaten by the fire chases her out of the room.  So she’s not around when Eleanor, realizing what she’s done, frantically retrieves the scorched bow and puts the fire out, breaking down into tears when it becomes obvious the bow won’t be firing anymore arrows ever again.

Leaving the castle in tears, Merida ends up meeting a witch hiding in the forest some distance outside the castle.  The woman’s more than a little batty, but Merida manages to get her to sell her a spell to “change my mother.”

Yes, you got it; this is where things take a bad turn.  The witch cooks up the spell right enough, but instead of changing Eleanor’s mind concerning her decisions about Merida’s future, it changes her – into a huge bear!

Now, living somewhere outside the castle is a ‘demon’ bear called Mor’du.  Merida’s father, King Fergus, has a vendetta with this creature since it took his leg when Merida was a child.  So Merida’s big problem is that, if her father finds her mother in this altered state, he’ll hunt her down and kill her.

Thankfully, Merida and Eleanor (an anthropomorphic bear who can no longer speak) escape before her father sees what’s happened.  Merida goes back to the witch’s cottage with her mother in tow, hoping that she can change her back into a woman.  But the witch has gone and won’t be back for months; the only clue she leaves to Merida to help her get her mother back to normal is that they have to “mend the bond torn by pride.”

This isn’t easy as neither woman is willing to admit she’s wrong; but by and by, they sort it out and Merida’s mother is changed back.

No, I’m not going to tell you how it ends beyond that!  Firstly, I’d spoil the movie.  Secondly, the next part of your punishment is that you have to watch it for yourself.

Why did I write you if that was the point?  Because this is a really good film that breaks a long, long pattern in most films of the last several years.  I realize I’ve lost you, DiNozzo, sit still and let me clarify.   

Thank you.  Now listen to these titles and tell me what happens in each movie with the daughter in it: The Little Mermaid, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, Taken, The Lord of the Rings, and Aladdin.

Yes, all have headstrong daughters rebelling, but against their fathers.  Ariel loves the human Eric against the wishes of King Triton; Kiara falls for Outlander Kovu although he is sent to kill her father, Simba; Liam Neeson’s character in Taken has a daughter who rebels against his protective instincts by hiding that she is travelling all over Europe and not just Paris, as she told him (and she pays the price later on); Arwen falls in love with and marries mortal Aragorn, becoming mortal herself and separating for all time from her father, Elrond; and in Aladdin, Jasmine refuses to marry any of her suitors.

In all these movies, it is daughter against father.  The last time I saw a story with daughter versus mother was in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, where Ariel’s ocean-loving daughter Melody leaves the safety of her parents’ kingdom to find answers about her heritage, a move she nearly comes to direly regret.  Freaky Friday is another similar story, but these are almost exceptions to the general trend.

This is why I like Brave so much.  It is far truer to a daughter’s nature than most of these other stories.  Fathers are protective and can make mistakes in regard to their daughters.  But when daughter and mother are both sure that the other is wrong and that they are right, oh boy, head for the hills.  We are talking about very serious, very ugly, cat fights that usually end in forgiveness – but sometimes don’t. 

And as Merida and Eleanor showed the audience, the ones who get hurt the most in these disputes tend to be mother and daughter.  So watch your step around the ladies, DiNozzo.  I’d prefer you didn’t get scratched – unless you earned it somehow.

I’m not saying you would, just that it’s a possibility.   Like that time you were undercover and met Jeanne’s mom?

Now you get it.

Well, time to go.  Thanks for the Klondike.  Next time we go back to The Hobbit.

What?  I told you, when I get in a groove, it takes me a while to get out of it.  Would you rather we talked about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Spongebob Squarepants?

I thought not.  Now get going, you’re making me angry. 😛

Later,

Mithril 

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