Nausicaä is a leader we can all look to for our current real-world crisis.

In Japan, national broadcaster NHK has been running a weekly “Friday Roadshow” series throughout 2020, featuring a number of classic films, including ones from Studio Ghibli, broadcast on Friday evenings.

For their very last Friday Roadshow of the year, which falls on Christmas Day, the public broadcaster has decided to show Ghibli’s animated 1984 feature film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. The decision to broadcast this particular film as the year draws to a close sparked up an excited conversation online, where people couldn’t help but see a greater significance at play, due to some interesting parallels between the film and 2020. 

So what might those parallels be?

Well there are a few noticeable ones, so let’s rewind for a second and take a quick look at the storyline from the film. Nausicaä is set 1,000 years after the collapse of industrial civilisation, when the Toxic Jungle (as it’s called in the English dub, or “Sea of Decay” if you watch the English-subbed version), is threatening to spread its poisonous spores throughout the land. Nausicaä, the young princess of the Valley of the Wind, seeks to understand the Toxic Jungle, and insists on treating every part of it, including its giant mutant insects, with respect and compassion, even when the insects and spores threaten to engulf the valley where she and her people reside.

▼ Take a look at the official trailer for the movie below:

While the residents of the valley have learnt to live with the toxic spores and the ever-present threat of giant insects under the guidance of the princess, normal life in the valley is forever changed with the arrival of the Tolmekians, who want to unearth a Giant Warrior to destroy the jungle and its giant insects. A violent battle ensues, with Nausicaä fighting to restore peace and normalcy to her home once more.

Just with that summary alone, we can already see a few similarities between the world of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and the real world in 2020. Firstly, the characters live with toxic airborne spores in their midst, wearing face masks on a daily basis to protect themselves. Needless to say, we’re now learning to live with toxic airborne particles as well due to the coronavirus, which has a lot of us wearing masks on the daily too.

Then there’s the fact that, in the film, the everyday lives of the villagers are suddenly turned upside down when the Tomelkians arrive and use violence to anger the jungle and its inhabitants. This causes spores to rapidly increase in the valley’s pristine environment, and threatens the lives of everyone as the mutant insects become enraged, descending on the valley in increasing numbers and ferocity.

During a time of crisis, anger and violence can erupt, and we’ve seen that play out on the streets — and in stores — in the real world this year. Just as the Tomelkians refused to understand the toxic jungle and use peaceful means to abate its spread, we’ve seen “Karens” shouting at store staff, and many more on the streets refusing to wear masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus, despite ever-increasing cases.

It doesn’t help that the Tomelkians are the ones who take control of power in the valley for a period, promising the villagers a life of freedom by telling them to put aside their vigilant approach. Yet it’s this vigilance, with the mask-wearing villagers inspecting their environment for spores and pro-actively removing them, that has been keeping them safe for many years.

One poignant quote from the subbed movie says:

“The Sea of Decay claimed two more countries from the south. It’s spreading all the time, and yet war and hunger are everywhere.”

Uncertainty and fear can be the springing point for conflict and pain, and this is one of the key themes that runs through the entire film. When Nausicaä first meets her fox-squirrel companion, Teto, she continually tells it not to be frightened but the animal is so scared it ends up biting her finger. The kind-hearted Nausicaä, of course, forgives the animal immediately, acknowledging that it only lashed out due to fear. 

▼ Teto

Nausicaä believes that the mutant insects are also acting out of fear, and she urges everyone to calm the beasts instead of scaring them with the threat of violence. Even when her village is invaded by the Tomelkians, led by Princess Kushana, she senses the fear that belies Kushana’s actions, saying: “Don’t be frightened. I’m not your foe”.

Early on in the film, we discover the only thing that frightens the fearless Nausicaä is her own rage. Yet, gallantly, throughout all the trials and tribulations that follow, Nausicaä is able to keep her rage in check, perhaps due to the fact that she approaches obstacles without fear.

Nausicaä is a leader we could all look to right now. 

While one world leader famously told us not to be afraid of the coronavirus, the context in which it was said suggested we throw all caution to the wind, disrespect the advice of medical professionals, and act like we’re living in pre-COVID 2019.

Of course, we shouldn’t do that — to do so would result in peril.

If Nausicaä were in charge right now, she would tell us what we shouldn’t fear is wearing masks. What we shouldn’t fear is knowledge and vigilance. What we shouldn’t fear is change and adapting to the new normal. What we shouldn’t fear is each other, because we’re facing this together, and we need each other more than ever right now.

Which brings us to another quote from the movie: “Are we humans but a tribe destined to be swallowed and ruined by the Sea of Decay?”

If we take a leaf out of Nausicaä’s rule book and take heed of the messages in the film, we won’t be at risk of being swallowed and ruined by the Sea of Decay. And NHK hopes we can take some solace from the heroine’s actions as well, saying on the official Friday Roadshow site:

“This work depicts people facing a crisis in a world where they have to wear masks against a threat created by nature. It may be very similar to the situation we faced this year. We hope that the feelings of the heroine Nausicaa will reach everyone in Japan and help to welcome the New Year with bright expectations.”

So if you’re looking for a very 2020 movie to watch during this Christmas holiday period, you might want to take a look at Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, or, if you prefer a six-hour storyline, its kabuki stage play version. The masked characters from Nausicaä managed to live in harmony under great leadership during a crisis, and hopefully we can too.

Sources: KinroTwitter/@kinro_ntv
Top image: Kinro 
Insert image: SoraNews24
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