In 1984, one year before Studio Ghibli was founded, Hayao Miyazaki created Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Based on one of his own mangas from 1982, the film was released by Topcraft though Studio Ghibli took it in as one of their own films and released it on Blu-ray and DVD under the Ghibli name. It’s easy to see why. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a beautiful and richly detailed film that is frequently and deservedly listed among one of the top animated films of all time.
Nausicaä tells the story of Princess Nausicaä who lives in the valley of the wind one thousand years after the earth was destroyed by an apocalyptic war named the Seven Days of Fire. The Seven Days of Fire destroyed civilization and left behind a Toxic Jungle filled with giant, mutant insects and poisonous gas and plants. Nausicaä frequently explores the Toxic Jungle in a bid to try to figure out how the humans and the insects can co-exist together. Soon, her beloved valley is drawn into a war between the Pejites and Tolmekia, and she must try to stop the killing and prove that the insects and the humans can live in harmony with each other.
Miyazaki’s love of environmentalism and desire to project that in his art is prominent here. There is a moment when Nausicaä’s rage, after the death of her father, causes her to kill a bunch of Tolmekia guards and from that moment on she vows to stop the killing in any way that she can. The audience isn’t given Nausicaä’s age, but she is certainly wise beyond her years and she uses it to her advantage. She is a wonderful character, well written and so kind. More characters need to be written like she is written. It’s a startling and powerful example of what it would be like if all the young people in the world suddenly developed an insane amount of compassion and courage. I will admit that I cried. I cried so hard.
Not only is the character of Nausicaä powerful, the story is powerful as well. Even thirty some odd years ago, Miyazaki saw the dangers we were careening toward, and that makes Nausicaä perhaps the most poignant film I’ve seen in a long time, and it was an anime. Sadly, not very people will watch the film for that very reason but it certainly needs to be viewed to appreciate the urgency and the real-life connections it makes, even in our day and age. Miyazaki never fails to amaze and his writing is so strong here. Sure, his dialogue may be a little stilted at the beginning when Nausicaä is traversing the Toxic Jungle by herself but I’m not sure how much of that is the result of being dubbed or what.
Finally, Nausicaä is beautiful. The animation is some of the best that I have ever seen. I should have been watching Miyazaki films before this. More like I should have been watching anime before this. The color palette is exquisite, full of earthy tones for the hulking Ohms and then fleshing the insects out around the Ohms in muted reds, pinks, blues, and purples. The lower saturation of the colors doesn’t really make them seem out of place in this wasteland. In fact, they balance out quite nicely with the bright clothing of the people of Pejite and the Valley of the Wind. Really, everything is so atmospheric it’s hard not to get drawn into this world that Miyazaki has created.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a film that everyone should see at least once. If not for the artistic style of Miyazaki, but for the timely story he has written.
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