Fly the Valley of the Wind on this real-world ‘Nausicaa’ glider

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The glider used by the title character in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind has become an iconic visual in animation history – and now it exists in the real world.

Or to be accurate, a glider modelled after Nausicaa’s does, and has successfully completed a test flight in front of a crowd of onlookers in the skies over Takikawa Sky Park in Hokkaido, Japan.

The glider is called the M-02J, and based on the ‘Mehve’ glider seen in the 1984 anime masterpiece. The craft boasts a 963cm wingspan and a 267cm fuselage. Like in the film, the pilot lies flat against the top pf the vehicle, and steers by shifting their weight around.

The M-02J is the work of Kazuhiko Hachiya, who has been working to produce a pilotable version of the aircraft since 2014. Like the animated version, Hachiya’s craft is built around a small jet engine, which is used to achieve take off and attain gliding altitude.

Read more: Studio Ghibli’s Isao Takahata on animating his final film

“I wanted to create an aircraft that’s fun and gives us hope,” the Japan Times quotes Hachiya. “I hope some day director Miyazaki will look at it.”

While this most recent test flight was a success, Hachiya – a pilot and artist, who conducted the flight in a helmet decorated with wings – says he hopes to improve stabilisation for future efforts.

The 1984 film, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, was produced at now-defunct animation studio Topcraft. While that studio split, Nausicaa’s success lead Miyazaki, fellow director Isao Takahata, and producer Toshio Suzuki to form Studio Ghibli. Nausicaa is often regarded as the first Studio Ghibli film as a result, although that honour technically goes to 1986’s Laputa, Castle in the Sky.

In the film, Nausicaa takes flight uses the Mehve – the name taken from the German “Möwe”, meaning ‘gull’ – to survey a toxic wasteland, the result of humanity’s wars and environmental folly, encountering colossal beasts known as Ohmu. The gliding sequences were groundbreaking, and the elegance and flight potential of the Mehve design showcased Miyazaki’s love for aviation and mechanical design – themes he would return to in 1992’s Porco Rosso and 2013’s The Wind Rises.

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Adeline Darrow
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