Book Reviews

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1 by Hayao Miyazaki & Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle | Mini-Reviews


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Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Volume 1 by Hayao Miyazaki
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle


Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Volume 1 by Hayao Miyazaki, translated by David Lewis and Toren Smith. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, #1.

My copy: | VIZ Media LLC, February 2004. Paperback, 130 pages.

Source: Library.



In a long-ago war, humankind set off a devastating ecological disaster. Thriving industrial societies disappeared. The earth is slowly submerging beneath the expanding Sea of Corruption, an enormous toxic forest that creates mutant insects and releases a miasma of poisonous spores into the air.

At the periphery of the sea, tiny kingdoms are scattered on tiny parcels of land. Here lies the Valley of the Wind, a kingdom of barely 500 citizens; a nation given fragile protection from the decaying sea’s poisons by the ocean breezes; and home to Nausicaä .

Nausicaä, a young princess, has an emphatic bond with the giant Ohmu insects and animals of every creed. She fights to create tolerance, understanding and patience among empires that are fighting over the world’s remaining precious natural resources.

This was excellent, as I knew it would be. This is the original Nausicaa manga that Hayao Miyazaki later adapted into his classic anime film we all know and love. (Hey, go check out my thoughts on the movie here.) Therefore, there’s almost nothing new to me in Volume 1, just a few different plot points mostly dealing with how Nausicaa gets from, say, Point A to Point B. Probably the biggest different between the manga and film, at least concerning Volume 1, is that Nausicaa actually goes to war, unlike in the movie where events play out because she’s taken as a hostage.

The dialogue here even mirrors the film’s dialogue really well, which both did and did not surprise me. Some words are slightly different in this translation than what they are in the movie, such as the manga calling it the “Sea of Corruption” instead of the “Toxic Forest”. Some names are spelled differently, which makes their pronunciation change, but this is all pretty minor.

I’ve heard that as the manga goes on, it becomes much different from and even goes past the movie, since the movie doesn’t have the luxury of exploring many different paths due to time constraints and cohesive storytelling. But the artwork is classic Hayao Miyazaki, and its so cool to see the original illustrations that would later form the main Studio Ghibli style, which would become famous the world over. If you’re a Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind lover, I highly recommend experiencing the manga, to see where it all began. ♦

5 hearts


Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle.

My copy: Drawn and Quarterly, February 2015. Paperback, 192 pages.

Source: Library.


About the book:

Famously referred to as one of the “Axis of Evil” countries, North Korea remains one of the most secretive and mysterious nations in the world today. In early 2001 cartoonist Guy Delisle became one of the few Westerners to be allowed access to the fortress-like country. While living in the nation’s capital for two months on a work visa for a French film animation company, Delisle observed what he was allowed to see of the culture and lives of the few North Koreans he encountered; his findings form the basis of this graphic novel.

Guy Delisle was born in Quebec City in 1966 and has spent the last decade living and working in the South of France with his wife and son. Delisle has spent ten years, mostly in Europe, working in animation, an experience that taught him about movement and drawing. He is now currently focusing on his cartooning. Delisle has written and drawn six graphic novels, including “Pyongyang,” his first graphic novel in English.

In 2001, Guy Delisle went to North Korea for two months to work for a French animation company. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea is his account of the closed-off, secretive, and regimented society he observed during his stay in the capitol. And he didn’t get to observe much. North Korea is such a mystery to this day, isolated and almost dystopian, and it was fascinating and disturbing to see how little freedom Guy was given during his visit. He was always accompanied by a guide/translator, and was pretty much ferried around to places already determined by the government.

I liked the black and white cartoons, which were simple and really got across how bleak North Korea is. I also liked Guy’s straightforward and dry narration. Some readers have said it comes off as rude, offensive, and arrogant — and, yes, he was a bit of jerk at times, actually a lot of a jerk — but I choose to view it as he was being mostly just truthful. Guy obviously has no sympathy for the way the country is being run, and says exactly what he thinks, not hesitating to point out questionable and appalling facts about North Korea, which are strange to a Westerner, that show how controlled and controlling the nation is.

One interesting tidbit that isn’t a criticism at all: The Hangul that wasn’t actually Hangul really irked me! I know how to read Korean so I was trying to read the Hangul written in the book — except that a lot of it was structured incorrectly, and some letters of the Korean alphabet were drawn strangely or looked entirely made-up. I understand why Guy Delisle wrote Hangul-like gobbledygook: he himself didn’t understand the Korean language when he visited, so since he didn’t know what was being spoken, how could he have conveyed what he didn’t know? He had to make things up.

I liked Pyongyang, and it seems that readers either really like it or really, really hate it. And I mean HATE it. It’s definitely a controversial book, one that I am sure a book club would love to tear apart inch by inch, and which many individuals have already done. I, however, don’t have the energy to pick this travel memoir apart, so I’m going to end with this: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea is, no matter what, a fairly interesting read, potentially thought-provoking, but it’ll be your judgment of Guy Delisle that decides if you like it or not. ♦

Have you read Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind?
How about Pyongyang?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
What’s a book you’ve read where the characters seriously question the world and how society is being controlled?
Comment below letting me know!

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