Friday, January 04, 2008

Books in 2008, #1

#1. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1 by Hayao Miyazaki

Meh. Not a great start to the new year. This was actually my third or fourth time trying to finish this thing. I'd bought it a few years ago when I sought to get to know manga a bit better and well...I always gave up reading after fifty or so pages.

Nausicaä is the story of a girl of the same namesake, a princess in truth, who has the ability to bond telepathically with animals and the dangerous inhabitants of the forest. She lives in the Valley of the Wind, riding amongst the clouds, and doing everything she can to sneak past the ever-encroaching Sea of Corruption that threatens to cover all the land in order to study plants and bugs. Ultimately, she will play a pivotal part in the war over essential resources that is tearing kingdoms apart.

I think one of the biggest walls that Nausicaä builds in deterring me from the get-go is the artwork. I just don't like it. Miyazaki's work is too loose, too hard to navigate (especially when the action is turned up). The black-and-white pictures are often hard to look at for too long, and a few characters even resembled one another, making it even more difficult to know when scenes were being shifted elsewhere. Granted, some sections looks amazing. The mind-fucked Ohmu charging out of the forest to stop those that are hurting their young, the reveal of Nausicaä's secret stash of spore plants, the airborne battles high over the polluted land.

But a graphic novel is a mixed bag, one where every cut needs to be its own while simultaneously working well with others. Here, the writing and art do not mix well. If anything, the writing is a bit...cliché. The world Miyazaki has created is beautifully done, what with all the spores falling down like puffs of snow and the imaginative critters (fox-squirrels!!!) bounding about every corner. Yet, it is a Chosen One story. We've all read them before. They are formulaic no matter how different the surroundings are. And Chosen Ones need to be liked. Nausicaä is a rash, quick-thinking, and compassionate girl. Not terrible, not terribly compelling. I just never warmed to her (or anyone in the book, for that matter).

I wonder how the film version compares to the manga. Considering how much I love Spirited Away, it can't be any worse. Yah? Guess I'll just add it to my list of movies I want to see, but probably never will. Huzzah.

So, in short, I will not be reading Volumes 2 through 7 any time soon. Nor ever, probably.


Daniel Ausema said...

I had a college friend who loved this series, so he badgered me until I read the first. I'm quite graphic novel-illiterate (and was even more so then), so I can't really compare it to others. I remember finding it interesting, but I also wasn't tempted to read on in the series.

Paul Abbamondi said...

This is really the first piece of manga I've tried to read. Doesn't give me too much hope, but maybe I'll find another series more up my alley.