Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

Shojo Savior: Princess Nausicaa, Ecological Pacifism, and the Green Gospel

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

Shojo Savior: Princess Nausicaa, Ecological Pacifism, and the Green Gospel

Article excerpt

[1] 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, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. (1) 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, Nausicaa. As Nausicaa 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.

[2] In light of the film's plot and context, Nausicaa's shojo identity is of crucial importance. Like many of Miyazaki's protagonists, Nausicaa 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." (2) As a messianic figure, I contend the shojo Nausicaa 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.

1. Narrative Influences: East and West

[3] An amalgam of East and West, Nausicaa is a character global in both inspiration and reach--emblemactic of Hayao Miyazaki's ability to weave new myths by from the fibers of the old. The character, Nausicaa, according to Miyazaki, combines elements of Homer's Phaeacian Princess of the same name and a Japanese heroine of the story "The Lady who Loved Insects" (Mushi Meduru Hime-gimi), from an eleventh century collection of tales, Tsutsumi chunagon monogatari. (3)

[4] Miyazaki's impression of Homer's Nausicaa came through an account of her in a translation of one of Bernard Evslin's handbooks of Greek mythology. From Evslin's description Miyazaki imagined a fearless, compassionate, beautiful, and spirited girl who delighted in nature and spurned convention--an image he admits being somewhat disappointed to see did not seem so splendidly displayed in the Odyssey itself. (4) The heroine of the Japanese story, however, is the core of the Miyazaki's Nausicaa. This girl, as the story's title suggests, loves insects, something not only unusual but also socially unacceptable for a female of her class; her friends and parents are appalled by her fascination and fear for her future. Her response to their anxiety reveals a broad critique of human conventions with respect to nature: "People's love for such things as flowers and butterflies is indeed superficial and strange," she says. "It is when a man has sincerity and seeks the true nature [of things] that his spirit is good." (5) Having sincerely sought the true nature of things, she concludes that people's revulsion at her love of caterpillars is childish; after all she reasons, "Caterpillars turn into butterflies." (6) Her embrace of nature leads her to regard "all the artificial ways of people [as] evil. …

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