Nausicaa of the Uncanny Valley

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infantpipoc

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Edited By infantpipoc

This is a blog yours truly thought up at the “tender” age of 29 after this Retronauts episode led to them reading some funny books. Thanks to the site’s inclusion of Tamoor Hussain.After he introduced the topic of Japanese voice actors into the “Giantbomb canon” on the site’s watch along anime podcast, I finally started to write this following bullshit up.

NieR Automata resembles Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki a whole lot. To be fair, YOKO TARO and his crew were not the first Square employees to steal from that influential graphic novel or animated feature. Final Fantasy would have looked differently if they did not take Horse Claws from Nausicaa, change the color from black to yellow and name them Chocobo. Still, from giant creatures chanting KILL KILL KILL in the beginning to an evil hive mind by the end, plus the ever escalating wasteland crisis in-between, Automata takes the cake for being uncanny.

Between Automata made into an animated series and Nausicaa movies remade by Hideaki “Known for EVA” Anno’s Karah Studio, yours truly could not help but make connection in 2022 despite the high possibility that the latter piece of news can just be an April Fool’s joke. Those 2 post-apocalypse stories simply share enough character archetypes and story lines. So here are 10 Japanese voice acting talents in Automata who would be right at home in Nausicaa. If that Anno news turns out to be true, then I guess they are 10 lambs led from the sweatshop of Square Enix and Platinum into Karah slaughter house.

(Nausicaa characters’ English names were taken from Viz Media’s translation. If you are sensitive to spoiler like them spoiler culture kids, this is your only warning before scrolling down.)

1. Back to her root

Yui Ishikawa as Naucicaa

(Ms. Ishikawa played 2B in NieR Automata)

By 2017, then 27 years old Yui Ishikawa had been voice acting for a full decade. But the playable-for-the-most-part protagonist 2B in NieR Automata was still seen as her first starring role. It’s kinda sorta typecasting since her most well-known part before then was the ass-kicking Misaka Arkaman in Attack On Titans. Shortly, about one year exactly after Automata launch, there is the decreasingly stoic titular heroine of Violet Evergarden, a child soldier turned writer for private postal service.

All 3 ladies are good soldiers in their respective fascist to different degrees regimes with a newly discovered to different degrees conscience. Those who had read Nausicaa would probably say that this is an archetype Kushana shares, but Ms. Ishikawa is uniquely fit for the role of more naturally empathetic Nauicaa with her voice acing debut back in 2007 taken into consideration.

Heroic Age is a mostly overlooked show from 2007, aired the same time as Gurren Largan can do that to a show. In short, Heroic Age is Blizzard’s Star Craft style 3 factions fighting a space war story with the following twist: There is a fourth mercenary faction called Heroes, who are in fact just giant monsters fighting for either human or mostly for the Protoss like faction known as Sliver. Into that soup walks a nice human princess named Dhianeila( Greek myth is a gift keep on giving, huh?) played by Ishikawa. She is looked upon as the shining beacon for human kind and used as navigator for faster-than-light travel. She also needs to guide a Hero named Age to protect her people. So it’s basically the plot of the un-animated seventh and final volume of Nausicaa. So maybe Yui Ishikawa can play another platonic idea of royalty, only this time in a wasteland instead of space.

2. Wise Wasteland Wanderer

Hiroki Yasumoto as Yupa

(Mr. Yasumoto played Pod 042 in NieR Automata)

It would be fair to say that YOKO TARO’s stories feel new by cutting out archetypes. In 2010’s original NieR, there is no evil mastermind pulling the stir behind the scene. Automata’s ever escalating tragedies result from the fact that there is no old and wise pointing the way forward. Maybe with exception being the Pods, those floating things that would shoot on the command of pushing of right shoulder button.They are also behind the Ending E that video game critics showered praise on. Pod 042 with a masculine voice is played by Hiroki Yasumoto.

Unfortunately yours truly is not too familiar with Hiroki Yasumoto’s filmography, aside from Guanyu, the quasi Chinese war god in that Three-Kingdom themed SD Gundam show. He would not be the last one on this list. But there is one thing going his way

Mr. Yasumoto was cast as the narrator in those glorified teaser trailer for the Automata anime. I dare say that his performance there showed gravitas on par with Sir Patrick Stewart himself. The actor who played icons such as Professor Xavier(Given how little Star Trek yours truly had seen, they are not going to mention people’s space dad.) voiced the wandering swordsman and wise man Yupa in the better-received Nausicaa movie dub, Mr. Yasumoto might not be half as bad as the replacement in the remake.

3. Never assume a tin-cans gender

Aoi Yuki as Kushana

(Ms. Yuki played Pascal in NieR Automata)

Aoi Yuki could also play a good Nausicaa since Automata’s good old uncle Pascal is also the gentle leader of faraway peaceful town who got forced into a war. But Ms. Yuki’s capability of mixing gravitas and vulnerability in her performance makes her the more suitable NieR Automata cast member to play the more complicated Kushana. I wrote “more” because Ayaka Suwa as A2 is a lot like Kushana as well. But Ms. Yuki has a more recent example to help her case.

Said “more recent example” would be Lucy in Cyberpunck Edgerunners. Like Kushana, she is also a charming young lady who is about a couple more years into a dangerous career when the protagonist just gets started. Both break their internal walls as the stories progress.

Pascal’s tin-can appearance in Automata also helps Yuki’s case. As Anno pointed out in the Nausicaa movie blu-ray audio commentary, Kushana appeared first in the graphic novel full-armored with helmet on and visor down. In other words, she looked like a tin-can first and with her words in-print the male readers did assume that the head of Tohmekian army is a man. If Ms. Yuki put on her usual boyish performance, the effect could be the same.

4. Mustache twirling stoic

Natsuki Hanae as Kurotowa

(Mr. Hanae played 9S in NieR Automata)

Natsuki Hanae to yours truly is basically Troy Baker’s Japanese counterpart with NieR Automata being his Last of Us. The similarity goes as far as the fact that they both played the video game characters live on stage respectively: Baker was of course present in that LOU stage play in 2014; Mr. Hanae along with aforementioned Ms. Ishikawa and Mr. Yasumoto did dramatic reading of newly-written YORO TARO script as late as early 2020’s NieR Theatrical Orchestra 12020, the one that was switched from filmed-in-front-of-a-live-audience to streamed-to-a-online-audience due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I guess Mr. Hanae would one-up Mr. Baker since he will still voice 9S in 2023’s Automata anime, while HBO’s LOU cast “lone-wolf-with-a-cub expert” Pedro Pascal as Joel.

2014’s Gundam wannabe Aldnoah Zero was the first time I had heard Mr. Hanae played a starring role. That show’s ever stoic and plotting protagonist Inaho Kaizuma is a baby face just lacks a mustache to twirl.

At first look, Kurotowa in Nausicaa looks like the villain archetype in any swashbuckler finished with a mustache. While he was consistently plotting until a plot point knocks him out cold for about 3 volumes out of 7, the goal was always to ensure the mutual survival between him and Kushana. In many ways, he is a fusion of the smart-ass in 9S and 2B’s card-pulling mission thus makes Hanae a fitting cast choice.

5. The twins who started it all

Ryoko Shiraishi as Rastel and Asbel

(Ms. Shiraishi played Devola and Popola in both NieR Replicant and NieR Automata)

Ryoko Shiraishi is another voice actor that yours truly know very little about. Her only starring role known to me is the “Orge Princess” in comic-book adaption Sket Dance. But writing this blog after 2021 had the advantage of yours truly play NieR Replicant in the form of that re-release with long subtitle with an insight into the android twins Devola and Popola.

The twins were very much behind the plot of Replicant, just like the twin sibling Rastel and Asbel kick started the plot shortly after the introduction to Nausicaa, her friends and the Valley of the Wind. The sister Rastel would give Nausicaa a plot device that would not matter until the very end before she died. The brother Asbel’s zealot revenge act was what took Nausicaa away from Kushana’s warpath and started her own journey. With Devola and Popola also have a butche and fem appearances and voices respectively, Ms. Shiraishi’s vocal performance would fit the twins like a glove.

6. Smell like teen spirit

Ayaka Suwa as Ketcha

(Ms. Suwa played A2 in NieR Automata)

Now we are into where the 1984 film stopped and the rest of the story began. The two warring imperial factions in the graphic novel are different from those in the movie. Dorok, the empire that provided the rogue gallery in the books was nowhere to be found on film. Neither was refuges from that state there. One such refuge, a girl named Ketcha plays significant role in a major subplot of the book.

The A2 line used in Japanese ads for Automata “Me, a traitor? No, it was the Command who betrayed us.” might describe Ketcha’s feeling in the books perfectly as someone who became a refuge due to her country’s reckless war efforts. Yet, she still tries to do the right things. Helping elderly monks of her culture, doing interpretation job for factions. There is the kind of teen spirit that wants to rebel for good causes. Ayaka Suwa’s performance as the playable for the home stretch A2 is that kind of teen spirit so she can repeat as Ketcha in Nausicaa.

7. Old boy in a mask

Mai Katowaki as Chikuku

(Ms. Katowaki played Emil in both NieR Replicant and NieR Automata)

Ah, Emil, the boy who wear the so-called YOKO TARO face mask. He is the much put on shop keeper in Automata but a much more compelling character in Replicant. Nevertheless he is someone with at least one foot in the old world. Just like Chikuku in Nausicaa.

The mask-wearing boy or prince-in-exile in the graphic novel is the last survivor of a dead kingdom probably rightly demonized by the empire destroyed it. Despite the sin of his fathers, the little lad seems like a jolly good fellow and quite friendly to the protagonist. Ms. Katowaki’s performance can be transplanted from NieR games upon here with no modification.

8. The creeper brothers

Daisuke Namikawa as Namulith and Tatsuhisa Suzuki as Miralupa

(Mr. Namikawa and Mr. Suzuki played Adam and Eve respectively in NieR Automata)

Creepers and sickos are YOKO TARO’s usual style when the Drakengards games are taken into consideration. Like the aforementioned Devola and Popola, Machine Life Form twins Adam and Eve are actually tame compared to some Drakengards “heroes”, especially with their goal obscure. It’s kinda waste of talents like Daisuke Namikawas and Tatsuhisa “grown ass little brother expert” Suzuki.

Thus the Dorok co-rulers Namulith and Miralupa in Nausicaa are likely the better use of their voice acting talent. I mean Adam and Eve do not ever plot against each other behind the scene, how boring was that. Both rulers would get got by Nausicaa in the books, with the elder Namulith being the first to be nuked on her command and the younger Miralupa led to a nicer corner of the underworld. Before those 2 occasions happen, yours truly just want to hear the 2 actor perform in a better story.

9. The aforementioned hive mind

Joji Nakata as the Master of Crypt

(Mr. Nakata played the Girl In Red Dress in NieR Automata)

Picture Timothy Dalton, the twice James Bond actor, probably with a mustache, and you would have pretty good idea of Joji Nakata’s vocal performance. Or maybe picture Sean Bean. In short, despite being bit one-note, good old Mr. Nakata put up good villain performances. Type-moon probably has him on speed-dial for whenever they need to cast a mustache twirler.

He playing an evil AI with girl in red dress as interface is probably an homage to Hellsing, a comic book and later anime about a John Wick like Dracula played by Mr. Nakata killing people for the British. He killed lots of Nazi while took the appearance of a little girl during World War 2. That’s a rare occasion in which Nakata plays anti-hero instead of villain.

Back on topic, the similarity between Machine Life Form Hive Mind in Automata and the Master of Crypt in Nausicaa is almost laughably uncanny. Both are old and cannot-wait-to-see-the-world-burn-so-I-can-rebuild-it kind of evil. The only difference is that YOKO TARO was too chicken shit to kill the former while Miyazaki had his heroine nuke the latter. Nakata can literally phone this one in and it would leave a great impression.

With the Bayonetta 3 fiasco between a lead voice actor and Platinum, yours truly did think about not releasing this blog about how Platinum put together a fairly impressive Japanese cast back in 2015 or 2016. But I pulled the trigger eventually since this is also a tongue-in-cheek accusation of their joint petty “theft” along with Square Enix.

There are Nausicaa characters with no counterpart in Automata what so ever thus cannot be included here. Like the nice folks living the Valley of the Wind, mercenary Worm Handlers, the Forest People who learned to live with the apocalypse and a nicer hive mind known as the Master of Garden. My next blog in this style is aiming to do a full cast of a video game. I will get to it when get to it. If you have read this far, thank you and I hope to see you again.

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noboners

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I wish I remembered more details of Nier: Automata to be able to actually discuss this with you since Nausicaa (manga and film) is one of my favorite pieces of media. I am incredibly curious on what a live action version of that story could look like, but in the meantime I appreciate the write up and the casting choices (of the names i recognized at least)

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infantpipoc

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@noboners: Why thank you for the comment. In light of my recent Shin Ultraman viewing, it actually is dreadful for me to imagine Hideaki Anno doing live action.

And would you kindly point out the name you recognize?