Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

PG   |    |  Animation, Adventure, Fantasy


Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) Poster

Warrior and pacifist Princess Nausicaä desperately struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and their dying planet.

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8.1/10
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  • Alison Lohman in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
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18 September 2004 | Lupercali
8
| The first of the 'canonical' Miyazaki films.
The first thing to establish is that this is a science fiction epic. It has more in common with 'Dune' or any number of SF novels - Brian Aldiss's 'Hothouse' springs to mind for one- than it does with a typical western animated children's film. Therefore one's expectations should be a little different, and ultimately it was the SF aspect which gave the movie such a high grade in my books. Whereas it didn't have quite the emotional clout that I look for in an animated feature, it was a stupendously told SF story.

Technically not a Ghibli film (Miyazaki actually used the studio which did most of 'The Last Unicorn', and which more or less became Ghibli when 'Laputa' was made a couple of years later), 'Nausicaa' is a far-future SF story with a princess/warrior/nature-lover heroine and strong environmental themes. There's also an opposing princess/leader trying to use technology to overcome the apparently hostile environment. If you're starting to think 'Princess Mononoke', you'd be on the right track. In some ways 'Nausicaa' seems like an early stab in the direction of 'Mononoke', though the latter would delve far more into spirituality and mythology, eschewing the SF aspects.

There aren't really any major weak points in Nausicaa - unless you count the frustrating 12 drawings per second animation which I constantly complain about in Japanese animation. The backgrounds aren't as amazing and the animation not as good as the last few Ghibli films, but for 1984 it was plenty good enough. I have a fairly trivial complaint in that the character of Kuratowa is drawn in a slightly more 'anime' style, ala Lupin III, whereas all of the other characters are done in a realistic style. He just seems a little out of place, though he's quite delightfully drawn.

The really strong points of the movie are its pacing (at least until the very end. Miyazaki was unhappy with the end too), its story telling, which manages to be sophisticated without being impossibly complex, its engrossing background drawings and settings, - and most of all in the amazing attention to detail in the fully realized post-apocalypse SF-fantasy world in which the story is set. Every little thing is worked out and placed such that you find yourself admiring inventions, ideas, structures, creatures, etc which don't draw attention to themselves, but simply exist as part of the backdrop of the movie. Of course 'Nausicaa' had existed for several years as a serialised Manga, so Miyazaki no doubt knew its universe inside-out.

There's a very clever plot, which I won't give away, but which involves humanity's relationship with the Earth and nature.

It's the sort of movie which you can get thoroughly caught up in, and which will stand repeated viewings. It really is a film which is perfectly pitched at both a young and an adult audience. As Miyazaki's second feature film it is also, rightly or wrongly, usually considered the start of Studio Ghibli, and is arguably worth watching for historical reasons, too.

Not the very best from Miyazaki or Ghibli, but an auspicious beginning.

PS, in case you didn't know, there was a heavily butchered US version floating around called 'Warriors of the Wind', which is universally reviled as a disgrace. Just to make it confusing, some of the Japanese copies are also called 'Warriors of the Wind'. The thing to look for is the 116 minute running length. If you get that, you've got the right one. At the moment the only way you can get the film is in Japanese dialog with English subtitles. Personally I'd go ahead and do that, rather than wait while Disney squats on the US distribution rights (Amazon gives it a release date of 2010 for God's sake). You can always replace it later.

Good stuff.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Adapted from the first two volumes of the original manga which Hayao Miyazaki wrote and drew for Animage from February 1982 through March 1994. He took breaks from working on the manga and worked on the earlier anime movies he did. The manga is longer and more complex than the movie, featuring many more characters and places.


Quotes

Yupa: In the midst of my travels, I heard of an ominous rumor... It said that a monster from the ancient world had been excavated from beneath the city of Pejite where it had been sleeping.
Mito: A monster from the ancient world?
Yupa: It's a God Warrior.
Mito: A God ...
Yupa: ...


Goofs

During the climactic battle scene, the design of Oh-Baba's headband changes several times. It sometimes has gold beads instead of gold-circled turquoise beads on the end-pieces, and alternately terminates with a single or a double line of cord.


Crazy Credits

As the credits roll we see life returning to normal in the valley: Kushana, Kurotowa and the Tolmekian fleet leave peacefully, after Nausicaä has unheard words for Kushana. The denizens of the Valley of the Wind replant trees in the burned-down forest. Lord Yupa and Asbel ride Yupa's beasts to the Toxic Jungle and explore it. When the text "The End" appears on screen we see Nausicaa's discarded helmet in the forest, alongside a green, non-Toxic Jungle sapling.


Alternate Versions

Released in the US and Europe in 1985 as "Warriors of the Wind". This version removed nearly 25 minutes of footage (including the entire opening credits sequence, much of Nausicaa exploring the toxic jungle, Yupa and Nausicaa's discussion in her laboratory, flashbacks of young Nausicaa defending the baby Ohmu, Asbel and Nausicaa's dialogue about the nature of the poisonous forest, several sequences leading up to the God Soldier, and the entirety of the ending credits montage save for the very last shot of Nausicaa's hat). In addition, character names were changed and most of the dialogue was completely rewritten with no regard for the film's plot.


Soundtracks

Saranbande
Written by
George Frideric Handel (as G.F. Händel)

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Animation | Adventure | Fantasy | Sci-Fi

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