Manga Criticism Translation: “At First, I Wanted to be a Manga-ka”: Analyzing the Nausicaa Manga by Kumi Kaoru, pt 2

Blogger/Translator’s Note: This is the long-past-due followup to the translation posted by kransom over at his blog, welcome datacomp.

As stated by kransom, the translation is based on a lecture by freelance writer Kaoru Kumi and included in a book he has written about Miyazaki. More information can be found in the introduction of part 1. For the sake of consistency and other things, all names in the essay are first name first, unlike my usual style.

Incidentally, just as we have translated his writings from Japanese into English, Kumi has translated an English book into Japanese, “Astro Boy and Anime Come to the Americas” by Fredd Ladd and Harvey Deneroff. More information about the Japanese translation can be found here, and you can purchase the original version from Amazon.

So without further ado, Part 2.


Actually, the Nausicaa manga also frequently uses these techniques to create a sense of smoothness between panels, the difference with Yotsuba&! being that the sequence from Nausicaa relies on speech, while the one in Yotsuba&! relies on sound in order to keep the flow continuous. In short, this sequence utilizes a spoken word to smooth the sensory incongruity between the two panels.

Volume 7 p.83

This is the impressive scene where Master Yupa steps in to stop the conflict between the citizens of Dorok and the remnants of the Tolmekian Army at the cost of his own life. Panel 1 and 2 show the boy witnessing the death of Yupa while being carried on monk’s back, while Panel 3 shows him rushing over to Yupa. Here, the cut between Panel 2 and Panel 3 is B’. With a B’ cut however, there should fundamentally be a continuation of the overall action, as is the case with the prior example of Shirley, which is covered by the action where the young maid quickly makes a cup of tea for her master. However, in this example, with panel 2 you have the boy sitting on the man’s shoulders without moving, and then with panel 3 he’s running. Technically, his overall action has been interrupted between these two panels.

However, you can see a line of dialogue in panel 2 where the boy says, “Put me down. I can walk.” Thanks to this line, the overall action is continued. Let’s try covering up the line, if you like (Here, the lecturer puts is hand over the projector to cover the words “Put me down. I can walk.”). Even with this, there’s nothing hindering the transition between Panels 2 and 3, but now don’t you sense something amiss? It’s like a baby stroller being pushed along and then suddenly hitting a bump in the road. But when you add in the line, “Put me down. I can walk,” (moves hand away) now it becomes smooth. The overall action of “rushing over to Yupa” continues in panels 2 and 3. In other words, B’ is established here. I think it subtly proves that Miyazaki cares a lot about having his readers enjoy Nausicaa and has a good sense of what will improve that enjoyment.

Nausicaa also has a clever use of Pattern B”. Let’s see the beginning of the old edition of New Treasure Island once more. If you compare the two, you will find that the two use the same Pattern B”. Here, Nausicaa and Chikuku are returning to a Dorok airship via air. In New Treasure Island the vehicle runs along hastily, while in this scene from Nausicaa, Nausicaa, Chikuku, and the monk are in a rush. That’s right, they both fall into Pattern B”.

Volume 5 p.62

“You’ve come back, too!?” “Chikuku won’t run away!” “A map! I’ve traced the movement of the mold.” “This way!” [CL1] These three panels look perfectly continuous since their dialogue goes on, in spite of the discontinuity in physical action in these panels. It’s the same technique as the one in the three-legged race I referred to earlier.[1]

Speaking of Pattern B”, I know there is another example in Nausicaa.

Volume 5 p. 87

The world of humans is on the verge of destruction, and with Teto in tow Nausicaa goes on a solitary flight. She lands on high ground and decides to wait for the army of Ohmu, who know the key to the situation at hand. The action in these six panels is not continuous, and so one might determine these panels to be an A” sequence[2]. And yet, you can follow these panels smoothly, as if you were watching a movie, in spite of the lack of speech or sound to give you a sense of continuity. Actually, while these panels do not follow Nausicaa’s actions continuously, including how she lands on the ground and how she shoulders her kite, you can still follow those actions smoothly because the overall action of ‘her swooping down from the sky and landing near some high ground and then walking towards it’ remains continuous, or is uninterrupted. And so you sense that they are still continuous. This is Pattern B”.

Let’s look at another example of B”.

Emma Volume 5 (Mori Kaoru/Enterbrain) p.76-77

This is Emma. I’m impressed with this author, who takes a total of four pages just to draw Emma changing into her maid uniform. However, when you look at it, the omissions in the actions that happen from panel to panel are assuredly there. If the sequence were to be drawn in its entirety, a mere four pages would not have sufficed. When you read it, however, it looks perfectly continuous. The overall action of “changing from plain clothes into maid clothes” is done consistently, and the small actions which are not drawn instead take place in your head and complement the action. This is a typical example of Pattern B”[3].

By the way, recall that earlier I explained how the Pattern B you see in movies theoretically cannot be replicated in manga, and that in order to do so you would need some way of falsely approximating the process. Actually, it is not impossible. Here, the monk points his gun at the sky and fires. Then, the subordinates up in the sky make their presence known.

Volume 4 p.124

The sequence from Panel 2 to Panel 3 is key here. If you were to put this into a movie, in panel 2 the bullet would appear to be flying OUT of the screen, and then a cut would happen. Then, in panel 3 you would suddenly see the bullet flying, or, to put it differently, you would see the bullet flying IN when the officers in the sky riding the flying turtle are startled by it. That’s the exemplary editing it would need if it were put into cinema. Simply put, this is a Pattern B sequence. Pattern B may be theoretically not replicable in manga, but take a good look at Panel 3. The trajectory of the bullet is shown by the smoke trail. “Wha… What kind of bullet was that?!” [CL2] exclaims the astonished monk. Indeed, it’s a little more like a rocket. Thanks to this however, you can now tell with just one look that Panel 3 is an IN shot. Wow, this is definitely like a B sequence from a movie!

Incidentally, this kind of smoke is associated with the “action lines” which you might remember from Zipang, where it is used in aerial battles. Contrasting with the physically impossible and fanciful assemblage of lines, the smoke in Nausicaa has a physical existence. It does not feel insubstantial, but rather actually quite real and natural. If we analyze the transitions in those five panels, they are A’ B’ D’ A’; in other words, they are all single-dash (‘) sequences and not double-dash (”) ones.

Miyazaki’s composition of these panels is so awfully sophisticated that I’m terrified, but the examples I’ve drawn upon so far have been from when Miyazaki’s manga had been serialized for a while and he was establishing his own form of manga syntax, and not at the point when he first began serialization, back when his refinement was still lacking. Take a look here at the first page from Volume 1.

Volume 1 p. 9

I touched on it just before, but the second image here is unusual for Nausicaa in that the rectangular panel does not have a border. Actually, when it was published in Animage originally, the title logo for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was inserted here. When it was being collected together for the tankobon, Nausicaa flying with the glider was drawn in, and so the edit from panel 1 to panel 2[4] is not B” so much as it is B”-. It’s the same as the beginning of the revised edition of “New Treasure Island.”

Now what’s a good way to explain the transition from Panel 2 to the giant skull in Panel 3? In a movie it would be a B. You’d think then that it would be a B’ sequence, but when you compare it to the way the bullet was handled in the panel I mentioned earlier, I must say it looks less sophisticated than a typical B’ scene.

And then, doesn’t the edit from Panel 3 to Panel 4 feel abrupt? First, some of her actions seem omitted. 1) The glider lands -> 2) Nausicaa pulls the gun from the glider -> 3) Nausicaa carries it on her shoulder -> 4) Nausicaa faces the Sea of Corruption and walks (Here, the lecturer demonstrates the way in which Nausicaa walks). That is how Nausicaa is supposed to act in this sequence, but three out of four of her actions have been removed. Moreover, while in Panel 3 she was gliding very close to the skull, in Panel 4 the scene is set at ground level, and so they cannot be A, B, or D. So, is it supposed to be C? No, because Pattern C is a scene change, which usually does not have the continuous presence of the same subject.

So then, what exactly is the sequence in these panels? If I had to explain it, I might venture to say that it’s like the old version of “New Treasure Island.” That is to say, it can be categorized as B”. However, there we have the consistent action of a moving vehicle. In this page of Nausicaa, the glider vehicle’s action is interrupted. Perhaps, if Panel 4 illustrated the glider flying towards the Sea of Corruption, it would be a smoother sequence, although Nausicaa would crash right into the tree trunks! (laughter) …even if it would be a smoother sequence.

Here’s the same scene from the movie version. Here, it is incredibly smooth.


2, 2’, 2’’

3, 3’




Nausicaa sweeps over the giant skull (1) -> Nausicaa prepares to land very close to the Sea of Corruption (2)~(2)” -> Nausicaa makes a soft landing below onto the sandy surface (3)~(3)’ -> Nausicaa pulls the gun from the glider (4) -> Nausicaa hangs it over her shoulder (5) -> Nausicaa walks towards the Sea of Corruption (6). They are edited in quite a normal fashion. But when you see this and then look at the same scene from the manga, you find that the sequence from the manga has less elegance to it in comparison. It suggests that Miyazaki was unsure of how to transfer and convert movie syntax onto paper when he began drawing the first chapter[6]. Also, the first chapter was 18 pages. With only so many pages, the complicated sequences where Nausicaa appears, wanders through the Sea of Corruption, reunites with Yupa, and then flies to the Valley of the Wind—a sequence which in the movie takes 15 minutes—has to be drawn, then the panel sequences would inevitably feel crammed and rushed.

If you were to again look over this first serialized chapter, you’d wonder why, despite the fact that the drawings are made to be dense, does the comic look so stark-white? Really, why? After thinking about it, I realized the answer: there are no screen tones being used. Do you understand? I brought some with me today. Can those sitting in the back see this? It’s a somewhat thin, net-like sheet. There are dozens of varieties of these, and they’re used by nearly every manga artist, cutting and pasting them onto their manga in order to create effects such as shadows and clothing patterns[7]. But in the first chapter of Nausicaa, all shadows are hand-drawn.

Volume 1, p.19 (with close-up)

With that, it’s pretty white. But actually, in the comic a bit of screen tone does get used.

Volume 1 p.26 (with close-up)

This is a close-up of Yupa’s face. Notice the shaded area. On top of the thin lines drawn here, a layer of screen tone is pasted onto it. This is the last page in the serialized chapter 1.

There are other instances of Miyazaki’s process of trial and error showing up in his drawings.

Volume 1 p.23

Nausicaa here is running with a big smile on her face. This same scene is also in the movie, but in the manga the scene has more of a slow-motion feel to it, and gives the impression of being a slowed-down moment. This is the weakness of B”-. Here, Nausicaa is sticking out of the panel, and is quite possibly Miyazaki’s deliberate attempt to reduce the slow feeling here. This technique, called “off the panel,” is incredibly common in Japanese manga, but this is the only instance[8] of its use in Nausicaa. “How should I draw a manga?” Miyazaki probably asked himself as he was holding a variety of manga magazines in his hand, and tried his hand at making something “off the panel.” Miyazaki had most likely not yet developed his own methodology as of chapter one.

Such is also the case with this panel, where if you look at it after you’ve come to know Nausicaa it seems unpolished.

Volume 1, p.24

First, the use of the “hyuu” sound effect and the streamline seem rather forced. Second, the scene composition gives the impression of unsophistication. For a genius layout man like Miyazaki, the scene is too loose and incomplete. Why is that the case? Well, it’s because too many words, or should I say “speech balloons,” have been crammed into the scene. Later on, Miyazaki would use a multitude of panels to handle such a scene, but I think here Miyazaki decided to depict their conversation only for one panel because Nausicaa and Yupa are holding still. There are many speech bubbles in the panel, so the scene feels relaxed.

And so on and so forth. In chapter 1, examples of Miyazaki’s trial and error are everywhere. “There’s a lot I want to talk about, a lot I want to convey, but I am not trained enough to put what I really want to tell into manga. This is so frustrating!” thought Miyazaki, I suppose. However, the second chapter is much more stable. And listen, ladies and gentlemen, he finished the second chapter not in pen, but in pencil! When the first manuscript for Nausicaa was handed over, the Sherlock Holmes (aka Sherlock Hound) project was given the go-ahead, and so Miyazaki no longer had any time to draw manga. However, Animage persuaded him to continue the series, with Miyazaki finally agreeing to do so, on the condition that he could draw the Nausicaa manga in pencil because it enabled him to finish it more quickly. Nausicaa, as a result, became the first commercial manga ever drawn in pencil.

Volume 1, p.35 (with close-up)

One of the unique characteristics of the manga version of Nausicaa is how the shadows are rendered by drawing a series of thin lines. This is influenced by the French comic artist Moebius[9]. Look at the right image. You can see that these shadow lines are chipped subtly. That’s because it’s drawn in pencil (laughter). For your information, Miyazaki seems to have used a variety of pencil types, including a B and an H.

But then around the second half of the second volume, the comic goes back to being in pen. Now I might have this wrong, but I get the feeling that even after that it occasionally goes back to being in pencil. Here, for example.

Volume 3, p.41 (left) Volume 3, p.42 (right)

For the sake of the Nausicaa movie, the manga’s serialization was put on hiatus. The image on the left is a panel from the final page before Nausicaa was put on hiatus, and the image on the right is from the page right after serialization resumed. In the collected volume (tankobon), they’re printed on the same piece of paper, one on the front and the other on the back, but in reality there was a 13-month gap. Now if we were to magnify the dangling ends of the gas mask…

Do you see? The lines in the image on the right are more chipped. This means it’s a pencil drawing. You might know that in animation key frames are drawn in pencil, and so while making the Nausicaa movie, Miyazaki became more attuned to using pencil. I guess after the manga resumed, he was unable to draw with a pen the way he wanted to, and so after the manga started up again, the first new chapter was done in pencil. But then in the next chapter, the comic goes back to being in pen. Incidentally, when he resumed the Nausicaa manga after having completed the movie Kiki’s Delivery Service, the lines look a little chipped. I think that it was also drawn in pencil. Then, it returned to pen.

Now we’re going back to analyzing what it means to be “cinematic.” Having the background be out of focus is a technique frequently used in live action film, or should I say, photography. Suppose there were many little flowers blossoming and you attempted to use your camera to shoot one of them very closely. However hard you tried, the shot would get crowded by the other flowers. For that reason, you have the camera focus on just the one flower and leave all of the other flowers out of focus (Lecturer projects it on the screen). This is a terrible example though, granted (laughter).

The “out of focus” method is also in Nausicaa.

Volume 2, p.116

This scene is the duel between Yupa and Asbel. It’s an action scene, and yet it’s more akin to stopped motion. In my opinion though, I wouldn’t call it stopped motion so much as the removal of sound.

Look at this scene from the Nausicaa movie (DVD playback). A giant transport vehicle crashes into the Valley of the Wind. By the window is a girl who looks the same age as Nausicaa. The sound disappears in this cut. Movement in this scene hasn’t stopped, and yet doesn’t it seem like time has stopped for an instant? The panel in question, the one with Yupa and Asbel, achieves the same result on paper, although this scene was drawn before Nausicaa was ever turned into a movie. It is said that Takahata, who joined the production of Nausicaa the movie as a studio manager, worked as the sound supervisor as well and removed all the sound in this cut. His sound removal method must have impressed Miyazaki, as Miyazaki applied it to the Nausicaa manga in a more refined way later.

Volume 3, p.139

Here, Nausicaa is fleeing from a Dorok cavalry. Of the guards who are desperately covering Nausicaa with their bodies, one of them gets hit and falls over. It’s quite exciting. At the same time, the lack of a rendered background emphasizes her psychological shock and as a result gives off a sense of stillness, a sense of stopped motion [10].

The overlap technique seen in films is also used. It’s not used that often, but if you take a look here:

Volume 5 p.75

For some reason, the monk has a worried look on his face, and Nausicaa appears behind him flying. Drawing an image like this on paper is a little too bold, but in actuality the image does not feel out of place. In other words, it reminds us just how heavily we have adapted ourselves to the scene dissolves that occur in movies and television.

Speaking of which, this is a manga which faithfully uses rectangular panels. There are, however, exceptions, like here.

Volume 3 p.13

This image brings back some memories from when I was in elementary school, especially the illustrated encyclopedias that would be available in the school library. Boys who are into science or technology like illustrated encyclopedias, and a young Miyazaki would be included among them. (laughter). Now have a look.

Volume 7 p.105

Oh! Here we have Nausicaa relaxing with a silly look on her face (laughter). She’s forgotten her usual self-denial and self-restraint, feeling quite relaxed and refreshed, with the image of the garden bleeding past the edges of the page as if to reflect the calm in her mind[11]. The author wanted Nausicaa to relax for a short while. After this, she would be sacrificed to a journey filled with despair…

…Which is my own humble analysis of Nausicaa. Seeing this manga, I’m impressed that almost all of the panels are rectangular, something quite unusual for modern manga, while each of those panels is packed with the passion and energy of such an extraordinarily talented creator. This gives off the impression that Miyazaki was holding back. As he was most likely extremely conscious of how the movie’s sequences and transitions would be edited, the activity in the actions from panel to panel, in other words A”, are united with the context of words and dialogue. In short, Nausicaa is the manga which blends cinematic methods exquisitely into classical manga syntax.

Miyazaki learned Disney-style full animation at Toei Animation, and then left the studio where he and his comrades ended up falling in labor union activities. He and Takahata joined the TV cartoon industry, trying to achieve maximum “cinematic” efforts using lower budgets and fewer animated drawings. In his autobiography, veteran animator enthusiastically writes about how Miyazaki had been living his vision.

This is Miyazaki’s storyboard from the 1971 Lupin III[12]. Otsuka compares Miyazaki’s storyboard with one done by a different animator. If we look at this other storyboard done by someone we’ll call “Mr. X…”

The Animator Clawing His Way (Sakuga Ase-Mamire),
Revised and Expanded Edition by Yasuo Otsuka,
published by Tokuma Shoten Publishing, p.149

…there’s an A cut. However, with Pattern A, the action must be continuous, which makes drawing the images for it labor-intensive. Miyazaki’s storyboard on the other hand is entirely D edits. If the action isn’t continuous, then the drawings become easier to do, all the while Miyazaki remains perfectly faithful to the principles of film editing.

Looking at the Nausicaa manga more closely, not only can you see that the D’ sequences are well-done, but that there are a lot of A’ sequences (with actual A sequences being impossible). When A sequences appear in TV anime, a character’s actions must be singular, and it must be a simple action—like an arm extending—to shorten the amount of labor put into the drawing. Manga, however, is by nature a series of still images, so with Pattern A’ or even Pattern A”, the readers will conceive the movements in their heads. Showcasing clever uses of this mental mechanism is the air battle scene I showed you earlier. In Panel 8, the gunship is depicted flipping like a springboard diver jumping backwards into water. If you were to actually try to animate it, the process would have been laborious and would have required many frames of animation to be drawn. However, because it is manga, the complementary actions are envisioned mentally by the reader, where less labor is needed than in drawing animation frames, and so it becomes an easier task.

Thus, what you have here are the patient efforts of Japanese animators over dozens of years to make TV cartoon shows as fully cinematic as possible in spite of difficult circumstances in production, as well as the brilliant efforts of Japanese manga artists over dozens of years to achieve cinematic style on-paper in spite of the fact that manga is just composed of still images. One of the most brilliant fruits of their labor is the subtle and bold fusion of the two sides that is Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. That is my conclusion. (Applause) What? Why are you all clapping here? (Big laughter, huge applause) I’m grateful! Oh, don’t you think NHK will have to invite me as a guest commentator whenever they have their “Manga Night Talks” show about Tezuka’s New Treasure Island? (laughter).” Not that Tezuka Productions would ever give the OK on it, even though this is the 80th anniversary of Osamu Tezuka’s birth[13] (laughter).

Next week, we’ll continue to discuss Nausicaa. This time we discussed technique in depth, but next time we’ll be analyzing and getting at the core of its story and themes. I hope to see you all in this classroom next week. Class dismissed.


[1] It goes without saying that the three-legged race I mentioned earlier is A”. However, the two girls’ swing of conversation fills cinematic gaps among the three panels.

[2] Notice how in panels 1~5 there are no speech balloons, sounds, or entire figures. On the other hand, you have Footnote 9, or “Osaka splitting her chopsticks apart,” where sound and figures make it easier to follow the panels smoothly, as if it were cinematic.

[3] In an interview, Mori mentions liking this sort of panel sequence.

[4] For the sake of convenience I called this “panel 2,” despite it having no actual borders.

[5] Actually there’s another solution here. If one were to insert a panel of Nausicaa preparing to land in between panels 3 and 4, it would become B”.

[6] I also referenced Yukihiro Abeno, who said, “Miyazaki is the ultimate and most fortunate amateur manga author.” (Seidosha Publishing, Eureka Special “World of Hayao Miyazaki” Issue)

[7] The first time this was used in a manga was by Miyomaru Nagata. Around 1955 or so.

[8] An omission.

[9] Moebius, born on May 8th, 1938. He is famous for having influenced the styles of Katsuhiro Otomo and Hayao Miyazaki, and apparently Moebius style had an influence on Tezuka’s Hidamari no Ki, the samurai drama featuring Tezuka’s ancestors. As an aside, Moebius named his own daughter “Nausicaa.

[10] In Nausicaa, when an action scene occurs the closing line in the panel becomes diagonal.

[11] I believe this technique of piling fragment-like panels on a larger, non-bordered image was first used in Japan by Shotaro Ishinomori (January 25, 1938 – January 28, 1998).

[12] At first Satoshi Dezaki drew the storyboard for the sequence, but Miyazaki rejected it and drew this afterwards. Though keep in mind that Dezaki was not “Mr. X.” In fact, the second storyboard on this page was drawn by a younger animator whom Otsuka got to draw it years after the production of the first Lupin.

[13] The old New Treasure Island was finally re-released on February, 2009.


3 thoughts on “Manga Criticism Translation: “At First, I Wanted to be a Manga-ka”: Analyzing the Nausicaa Manga by Kumi Kaoru, pt 2

  1. that was an amazing read. Seeing each element analyzed like that is a first for me, and I appreciate each step mentioned.

    It makes me appreciate these works on a new level. I’m sure I will be looking at frames differently now.

    I haven’t read or watched Nausicaa in a long time, but I have thought about it recently. The manga and movie are both amazing. To this day, Miyazaki movies are in their own category. I watched most as a kid, and watching them again makes me realize just how amazing it is.
    There’s a different story for each audience, all in one movie.

    I’m listening to the music right now and getting chills. MASTERPIECE!!


  2. Pingback: welcome datacomp » Blog Archive » Manga Criticism Translation: “At First, I Wanted to be a Manga-ka”: Analyzing the Nausicaa Manga by Kumi Kaoru, pt 2 now up at Ogiue Maniax!

  3. Pingback: My blog is featured in Ninety’s Blog Spotlight, and some life updates and blog projects | Anime Vios

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