Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

naus5A thousand years have past since the Seven Days of Fire, which lay in ruins the civilisation of mankind. A toxic jungle has engulfed the land, while what remains of humanity dwell in divided tribes on the outskirts in fear of the poisonous jungle and the insects within. Nausicaä, a girl harmonious with nature, strives for a cure and coexistence with the jungle – isolated from the other human rulers who aim to restore mankind to its rightful place using a secret power discovered from the ruins of the lost civilisation. With the time of the prophecy at hand, how will humanity lead itself out of its thousand years of darkness?

Another great Hayao Miyazaki film that makes an easy show of maintaining that desirable balance between innocence and viciousness. On one side we have Laputa: Castle in the Sky and My Neighbour Totoro, which are idyllic and often appear to have no real threat about them. On the other we have some of the more recent efforts, the Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke era, that carry a darker, more sinister tone but still push the idea that everyone is inherently good and the real evil is misunderstanding and refusing to listen to others. Disney have done quite a few Studio Ghibli films now, and for the most part they’re some of the best dubs I have seen, but I still feel that they need to take care with their translations to make sure that the delicately elegant balances that Miyazaki constructs.

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind is one of Miyazaki’s earliest efforts, producing this film back in 1984 after its humble beginnings as a comic book series. Though the visuals may now seem a little dated compared to his latest fare, all the usual Ghibli telltale signs are already there: the beautiful artwork, stunning horizons, the penchant for flying machines and best of all an energetic female protagonist to take us on an adventure.

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As the princess of a peaceful, rural valley on the edge of a barren wasteland, Nausicaä’s life is pretty calm until a ship with a weapon from the old industrial age crashes nearby. Warriors from a far-off country arrive to retrieve what they lost and there presence draws Nausicaä and her people into a great political conflict. It’s a story that is equal parts fantasy adventure and environmental motifs that look to be laying the foundations and testing the waters for the settings and personalities for future films such as Princess Mononoke. This film certainly does have its dark and serious moments, but there is a pastoral and bright optimism that arises out of the violent scenes.

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The storyline had me absolutely hooked. Nausicaä is strong and pure without being a cliche or a Mary-Sue character. She uses her charisma, determination and innocence to help those around her whilst discovering her own strengths and capabilities. The supporting cast are varied and unique and have the same idealism about them as Nausicaä, yet they are still believable as characters without seeming twee. The antagonists themselves aren’t intended to come across as inherently evil but rather as characters that just have a different perspective on things which often makes them sympathetic characters themselves.

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Since Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a Miyazaki film, you know that it’s beautifully done. There’s a fantastic level of creativity in the creatures, machines and plant life, especially when you consider when this film was first created. Coupled with an impactive story and an admirable heroine, the film delivers a strong message about environmentalism and how society is permanently damaging the planet.

Whilst Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’s flaws are minimal, I did notice that the musical score was a little lacking in places when you consider how fitting it was in films such as Porco Rosso, Laputa and My Neighbour Totoro it sometimes seems a bit unsatisfying. There has also been a lot of discussion on whether the ending was truly fitting to the setting and tone of the film and whether more could have been done to make everything a little bit more fulfilling.

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Whether you’re a long-time Ghibli fan or just starting off, this film won’t disappoint you. It’s a piece that’s worth multiple watches that will make you appreciate the visuals, metaphors and social commentary. You can also just enjoy it for what it is: a great story.