Jan 15, 2012

#TheList, No. 896: Nausicaa

Since beginning Library School, I've become a huge fan/supporter of graphic novels.  Once I become a real librarian and not a pretend one, campaigning for large graphic novel collections will probably be my main focus.  They help increase spatial reasoning, strengthen inference making skills, build vocabulary, etc.  I love telling this all to people who think graphic novels are somehow of lesser value than prose fiction, but will happily dissect all of the hidden meanings in comic book movies.

Nausicaa, a series by Hayao Miyazaki, while not my favorite book, definitely belongs in a young adult graphic novel section and on "The List."  But before I delve into the series' plot, I need to rave about Miyazaki.  He's the writer/director/genius behind "Princess Mononoke," "Spirited Away," and "My Neighbor Tortoro."  Seriously, if you haven't seen these or any of his other movies, you need to check them out.  They're beautiful, completely different tones than the children movies from Disney, and make you think.  They also all tend to have strong female centric characters, which is something still lacking in American children's movies.  The movies aren't always, if ever, cute, and they offer more than just the classic good vs. evil.  They're like anime versions of Harry Potter.  Love.  I had a professor who only let her children watch his movies and not even the English dubbed versions.  She wanted them to see the images and make up their own stories.  Pretty cool.  

Nausicaa was originally serialized between 1982 and 1994 and was then combined to form longer graphic novels, which is what usually happens.  The novel I read contained Volumes I and II of the collection.  Apparently a movie came out in 1984 that included the first 16 chapters.  The English version has Shia LaBeouf voicing one of the characters, so maybe stick to the original.

Miyazaki's Nausicaa is a combination of the Nausicaa from The Odyssey and a Japanese heroine who was a "princess that loved insects."  Miyazaki combined the two characters to make a strong princess character dedicated to saving her people and nature.  The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world heavily poisoned and polluted and inhabited by survivors and lots of giant insects.  A war ensues in this story and the insects are manipulated into fighting.  This upsets nature lover Princess Nausicaa who is an awesome flier and swordsman (swordswoman?) so she sets out to make it right.

It's a good adventure sci-fi story.  I liked it, but you have to be super invested in reading this to be able to follow the story.  I'm not a hardcore sci-fi fan so I struggled a bit to understand everything, but sci-fans should have no problems.  It's definitely a more advanced graphic novel, and yes, graphic novels have different difficulty levels, so it's not something you can just hand to anyone.  

But it's good, so if it sounds like your cup of tea then read it.  And definitely, definitely, definitely check out Miyazaki's films because they are just wondrous. 

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