Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Review By: John Fragglepuss Evans
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Pre-Studio Ghibli
First Released: March 1984, 117-minute film
Summary: “A thousand years have passed since the collapse of industrialized civilization. A toxic jungle now spreads, threatening the survival of the last of the human race.”
The Valley Of The Wind is home to one of the surviving human populations. The people of the valley are kind and high in spirit, despite the toxic jungle that neighbors them and could spread into their home at any time. One of the most admired people in this civilization is Princess Nausicaä, a compassionate girl that helps in the constant struggle with powerful insects called ohmu, who guard the neighboring poisonous jungle that is spreading across the Earth. While others see the insects and jungle as dangerous, Nausicaä attempts to understand the unknown forces in a different manner, striving to restore the bond between humanity and the Earth.
Nausicaä is a Studio Ghibli film that predates the studio. The film is written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who went on to write and direct some of the most popular and successful Studio Ghibli films. The success of Nausicaä in 1984 aided in the creation of Studio Ghibli, with a lot of the staff that worked on Nausicaä joining the studio in its creation.
Hayao Miyazaki is known for recurring themes in his films and Nausicaä is the first instance of many of these themes, such as peace, environmentalism and a strong female protagonist. Nausicaä is admired by her village to the point that they will follow her advice, despite their personal beliefs, because they know she is strong, smart, compassionate, and would not lead them astray. She is powerful in such a significant way that she is able to influence pretty much anyone that comes in contact with her.
Nausicaä’s musical score is composed by Joe Hisaishi, who went on to compose many of the Ghibli musical scores, so you know it is beautifully done and memorable to the point of being able to connect the music with a specific scene in the film. One of my favorite characteristics of Studio Ghibli films are the remarkable soundtracks, with Nausicaä being no exception.
The characters in Nausicaä are another positive aspect of the film. I absolutely love Nausicaä, the protagonist. I particularly enjoy her interaction with all of her surroundings: Humans, animals, insects, plants, and just the environment in general. She is a strong character that is loving and respected by pretty much everyone. In addition to the protagonist, there are many other characters you care for. There are three main groups introduced throughout the film and each group has a variety of characters that develop as the film progresses. The three factions have differing ideals and do not get along, each in an attempt to accomplish their goals by different means. All sorts of major decisions are made by group leaders, and while some choices appear better than others, the group leaders are making decisions with their people in mind, they are not simply one-dimensional evil leaders making terrible judgments to destroy all happiness in the world. I appreciate this type of complex character, which is common in Ghibli films. Whether or not you agree with the actual decision, you can understand why the character is making said decision. I like this because it shows how the world is not black and white, but a complicated place with different groups working toward different goals.
You might enjoy this if: 1- You are not familiar with anime and need an introduction. 2- If you enjoy other Studio Ghibli films. 3- You want to watch a quality film, anime-related or not. 4- You are big into anime, but have not seen Nausicaä yet.
You might not like it if: 80’s style animation bothers you to the point of not being able to enjoy a show.
Note to the Viewer: The story of Nausicaä coming to America is a sore spot for Hayao Miyazaki. In 1985 New World Pictures produced an English-dubbed version of the film that completely butchered it. The title was changed to Warriors of the Wind, most of the characters names were changed, almost 22 minutes of footage was cut, the voice actors were not informed of the plotline, and even the film’s cover was changed to show three male characters that are not in the film. In addition, the narrative was changed, losing the environmentalist focus, making the Ohmu seem like completely different characters, and making the film considerably marketed to children. The Nausicaä problem resulted in Miyzaki adopting a strict no-cuts policy with his films.
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