Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Review

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind 

Release date: 11 March 1984

Relation to Ghibli: Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Produced by Isao Takahata

Synopsis:

Far in the future, after an apocalyptic conflict, dubbed the “7 days of fire”, has devastated much of the world’s ecosystem. The few surviving humans, now divided into warring factions, live in scattered semi-hospitable environments within what has become a “toxic jungle.” Princess Nausicaä lives in the arid Valley of the Wind and can communicate with the massive insects that populate the dangerous jungle. Under the guidance of the veteran warrior, Lord Yupa, Nausicaä works to bring peace back to the ravaged planet, while other intend to destroy it.

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It’s hard to tell a compelling story. It’s also hard create an expansive universe. Miyazaki manages to do both superbly in Nausciaa of the Valley of the Wind. Technically, this movie was created before Studio Ghibli debuted, but it could still be one of their strongest films yet.

Having written the source material (manga series) for this film added extreme clarity and substance to the piece. The characters are incredibly fleshed out, and Miyazaki has made creating a plethora of deep, individual characters look easy. However, using a 7-volume manga as the backbone of this film did have issues. Like with most adaptations, turning a book or comic series into a movie means cutting out parts which are (usually) either pointless in regards to the film’s direction or extra development that is deemed unnecessary. Towards the second half of the film, there was a rapid introduction of characters, countries and factions, which complicated the world more than it “filled it out”. It would have been difficult to summarise everything he had created in his manga, but Miyazaki’s pacing made the film sometimes sporadic and confusing, even being hard to enjoy in some instances. Much like Lupin, I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t look away without missing an important piece of information, with little time to soak up what I’d just experienced. With that being said, pacing is the only issue I had with this film.

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As the film begins, we are immediately thrown into a new world full of faded scenery, polluted atmospheres and incredibly hostile inhabitants. The viewer is then introduced to the protagonist, Nausicaa, her interaction with the environment and some insight into this world’s geography. While it may sound like a lot, it never felt overwhelming. In fact, I loved the opening, and its title sequence. The addition of ancient art and mythic flashbacks added depth to the world without outright telling the viewer its history, leaving the audience curious as to how deep, and how far back this world goes. This intrigue is weaved throughout the entire film, as it only becomes more and more complex. Gazing into the beautiful, yet terrifying toxic jungle, I was always curious as to what other creatures inhabited these awe inspiring environments.

This is the first time I’ve written a review where I’ve used the term “faultless”. But there is no better way to describe Miyazaki’s art in this film. Starting with the characters, most costumes were simple yet effective; being used to emphasise class or their nation’s advancement advancement in technology. It became clear after looking at the villages that despite living in a time of technological advancement, they had been knocked back by the “seven days of fire”, an apocalyptic war that effectively destroyed civilisation. Nausicaa is simple in design too, but the use of the blue colour attaches a more regal atmosphere around the young princess. What makes Nausicaa’s art probably the greatest is the depth that each environment holds. The viewer is never just looking at a still forest, or barren desert. The animation makes it very clear that they are complex ecosystems, rich with organisms. In that way, the audience adds extra detail to the art with their mind, envisioning what remains hidden, meaning the animators didn’t have to overcomplicate designs.

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There are many themes present in this film that can now be considered Ghibli staples:

The relationship between humans and their environment. Miyazaki is the biggest proponent that the two aren’t separate entities, rather inseparable parts of the universe. This connection should be respected, and we should coexist in harmony. Personally, I believe this theme is best explored in this film. The director’s feelings towards environmentalism are embodied in most of his characters. While Nausicaa technically holds the role of princess, the protagonist considers herself a pacifist-warrior, more concerned with uniting the world as opposed to a single kingdom. It’s classic tale of how, while it seems like the inhuman creatures are the monsters, mankind is the real toxic waste. As if it were an homage to his childhood, Miyazaki loves implementing both the good and evil of adulthood, as if to say “sometimes grown ups just don’t get it”. Yet, there really aren’t and heroes all villains; just conflicting viewpoints. This is another theme Ghibli enjoys utilising; having a protagonist unite conflicting views through an act of courage in order to shed light on a more serious issue, usually being linked to the environment.

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This film also debuts Ghibli’s most popular character archetype; a young, intelligent female protagonist who exercises kindness in even the most dire of circumstances. That isn’t to say that Nausicaa is perfect. The viewer witnesses her struggle to balance both her responsibilities as the princes in the Valley of the wind as well as her connection to the toxic jungle. She must battle, and even kill opposing kingdoms which causes intense inner conflict within her. It’s not her actions that the audience judge her for; it’s her attempts to uphold her morals even in the most dire of circumstances. Instead of ditching her morals when things get tough, she clings onto them tighter, which wins her the love of not only her kingdom, but the viewers.

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When reading the story on pen and paper, it sounds almost horror-ish. While the themes seem common enough (both in the ghibli catalogue and anime in general), exploring environmental issues, the evils of humanity and the morality of the universe, it’s still surprisingly dark. I was shocked, when scanning my shelf, to see that this film had a lower movie rating (G) than Princess Mononoke (M). Yet, Miyazaaki’s ability to inject his protagonists with optimism leaves the audience with a sense of hope and confidence, even in the most grim situations. This unadulterated innocence cannot be found in any of the adult characters; it lies solely within child characters, like a special trait that only the younger viewers can empathise with. It almost seems like the director is talking directly to the children, knowing that they would be the only ones to get it.

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The music in Nausicaa is incredibly atmospheric. Joe Hisaishi does a fantastic job of not only creating a compelling scoresheet, but producing music that is distinctive to this film. Each song is both beautiful and tragic simultaneously. You feel a great sense of wonder when flying over the toxic jungle, but also a sliver of hopelessness. The song “Requiem”, which features a child singing is a personal favourite of mine. It’s incredibly haunting, and it stays with you even once the film has ended. It added a layer of importance to the flashback scenes it meshed with, and did an excellent job at building up tension.

Nausicaa of the valley of the wind is an excellent piece of animation, and it’s no wonder that it would later spawn Studio Ghibli. It’s impressive use of visuals, music and story create a compelling story, though nothing morally complex. I would have liked to see a slower pacing, though it would have been difficult to explore all facets this piece did. A must watch for any fan of animation, as its historical significance is un-refutable.

Art – 10

Story – 9

Writing – 8

Overall – 9/10

Image sources:

https://www.moviepilot.de/movies/nausicaae-prinzessin-aus-dem-tal-der-winde/images/54617, http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Nausicaa-of-the-Valley-of-the-Wind-Blu-ray/10049/, https://www.mfah.org/calendar/nausicaa-valley-wind, http://www.neoverso.com/1984/03/spoilers-nausicaa-in-valley-of-wind.html?m=0, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRZ5JalHjhs, http://www.ifccenter.com/films/nausicaa-of-the-valley-of-the-wind/, https://www.fathomevents.com/events/studio-ghibli-fest-nausicaa-of-the-valley-of-the-wind?video_id=XGSt0xCdXEI

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