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Anime Info

Creator: Hayao Miyazaki
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Length: Movie (1:56)
Purchase: Here From Amazon.com

Summary

+ Miyazaki animation is always beautiful
– Like watching a rough draft of Princess Mononoke
+/– Musical score is sometimes bland, other times weird
+/– Sound effects are like the old Voltron cartoon

Overview

The casual viewer of Hayao Miyazaki's body of work will not need to see this film. Its ideas are better developed in Princess Mononoke or even Castle in the Sky. Fans of the original manga may enjoy watching an animated version of Princess Nausicaa while perhaps lamenting that the films brevity doesn't allow for every detail in the comic. Film buffs and anime fanatics will enjoy watching the early developmental stages of Miyazaki's favorite themes and motifs while completists will want to buy the DVD for their collection.

Public Rating

Our Rating

Score of 4 out of 5
4 out of 5 · Higly Recommended

Nausicaa of the Valley of Winds Review

Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 11/8/2006

Introduction

In 1982, Hayao Miyazaki began working on the first part of what would become a twelve year project, the manga Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. Although he stated that Nausicaa would never be the basis for a film, he was later convinced to make an animated feature based on the story and in 1984 the anime Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind was released by Studio Ghibli. In the early 1980s a butchered version was released on home video as Warriors of the Wind. This version was so terrible and disappointing that it led to the now famous Studio Ghibli “no cuts clause” for future releases of its films. Miyazaki has been quoted as saying that people should put it "out of their minds". It is even rumored that when Disney secured US rights to Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki sent the film's distributor Miramax Pictures' co-chair Harvey Weinstein an authentic katana with the simple message – "No Cuts" when it was rumored that Weinstein wanted to edit the film to make it "marketable".

Now twenty years after it was originally made, Walt Disney home video has released an uncut and re-dubbed version of one of Hayao Miyazaki's early masterpieces. Set 1'000 years after war and pollution have decimated the planet, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind tells the story of Princess Nausicaa's valiant struggle to end war and restore the balance of nature.

Review

Nausicaa is twenty years old and it shows. While Miyazaki's animation is always beautiful to look at, the animation in this film simply pales compared to recent animation by Miyazaki and other directors. Where this film shines is in story, character development, and occasionally musical score. The film opens with a startling pre-title sequence in which Lord Yupa explores a ruined city that has succumb to the poisonous rot which has spread across the world since the collapse of technological civilization a thousand years ago. Nausicaa contains many of the pacifist and ecological themes further developed in later works such as Princess Mononoke. Consciously or not the anime bears a striking resemblance to other science fiction films and novels, especially Dune with which it shares a far future feudal setting and many ecological concerns as well as a hero who may fulfill an ancient prophecy. The monstrous caterpillar-like ohmu from Nausicaa and the giant sandworms of Dune also share a superficial similarity.

The titular hero is introduced in an opening scene that can only be described as trippy. As electronic music, heavily influenced by the acid rock and acid Jazz of the sixties, plays in the background, Nausicaa arrives in the poison forest on a personal, glider-style flying machine. As she explores the forest bizarre animals and plants drift past. Deep within the forest she comes across the shell of one the giant insects called an ohmu and several notes play on the sitar. The ohmu shell is used by her people as building material; examining the shell the Princess decides to take one of the eye lenses home to use as an airplane canopy. The details of the future world are clearly thought out. Tools and weapons look functional; Nausicaa's glider looks like it could actually fly. Later when other societies are introduced the people have distinctive styles of dress and design elements.

Like most of Miyazaki's films, Nausicaa occasionally pauses for the contemplation of nature. Shortly after finding the ohmu shell, Nausicaa rests under the eye lens she has recovered as the beautiful but deadly fungal spores drift through the forest. They cover the ground like new fallen snow. If it weren't for her special breath mask, Nausicaa would be killed by the poison. Dangerous beauty is one of the many interesting dichotomies explored in a film layered with meaning. Nausicaa's reverie is interrupted by gunfire. The sound effects, almost certainly created in a studio, are of the generic variety common to most anime of the early eighties. They are one the aspects of Nausicaa which date the film yet at the same time give it a surreal, fantasy quality. This is a story that takes place within a fantasy world that previously existed only in Miyazaki's head. And although familiar in some aspects, the film is often as unique as the man sometimes referred to as a Japanese Walt Disney.

Show More Tracking the source of the gunfire, Nausicaa discovers Lord Yupa being chased by an enraged ohmu. In a scene almost as visceral and exciting as Prince Ashitaka's encounter with the bore god in the opening scene of Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa is able to lure the ohmu back into the forest, she has an uncanny ability to communicate with animals. They seem to understand her intent if not her language but do exactly what she requests of them. This scene is in many ways is very reminiscent of Paul Atreides learning to ride the worm in Dune; the primary difference being that riding the giant sandworms of Arrakis is part of the Fremen culture depicted in the Dune novels and films while Nausicaa's ability to communicate with the giant insects and forest creatures seems to be her unique gift. Nausicaa's people seem inherently adept at flying in fact besides riding horse size bird creatures, flying seems to be the primary form of transportation in Nausicaa's world allowing Miyazaki to revel in his favorite visual motif – humans in flight.

After rescuing Lord Yupa from the ohmu, Nausicaa tells her old teacher that her father King Jhil is dying, the price of dwelling so close to the poisoned wasteland. One of the plotlines is Nausicaa coming into her own as leader of her people. Nausicaa and Yupa travel home and we learn why it is called the Valley of Wind. The people of the Valley have used windmills and wind driven machines to harness the power of the fresh wind blowing off the sea. The Valley is a peaceful, almost utopian agrarian society threatened by ecological disaster as well as political machinations of more powerful kingdoms. Again, like Dune, the people are sustained by a prophecy that a messianic warrior will one day arrive to bring peace, justice, and balance to the land. In Dune the prophecy has bee planted by the mystical Bene Gesserit sisterhood as a ploy to protect its members.

In Nausicaa there is no sense that the prophecy is false. It is a straightforward, genuine prophecy, honestly hoped for by many in the Valley. The prophecy is depicted in a tapestry in King Jhil's bedroom and related to Nausicaa by a blind Prophetess who is King Jhil's closest advisor. There is no mystery or subtly in this portion of the story, Miyazaki clearly wants the viewer to associate Nausicaa with the prophecy. The more interesting aspect of this scene is Lord Yupa's deeply felt concern that the human race may be doomed. Lord Yupa is more than a swordsman he is a deeply thoughtful troubled human being who happens to be good with a sword. In his travels, Yupa has seen that those kingdoms not destroyed by the poisons from the wasteland have fallen to famine and warfare. He fears that a similar fate awaits the Valley of Wind.

The precursors of war enter the Valley of the Wind shortly after Yupa's arrival. A transport ship from the Kingdom of Torumekia crashes in there territory. On board is a Princess from the Kingdom Pejite, just before dying she begs Nausicaa to burn the cargo. Not quite understanding, Nausicaa promises the dying girl that everything onboard the plane has been destroyed. As the girl dies, a wounded insect emerges from the wreckage. Nausicaa once again uses her skills with animals to lead the creature away from her Kingdom. In the wilderness, Nausicaa once again encounters an ohmu, perhaps the same one encountered earlier. She and the creature stare at each other and seemingly have a short but potent mystical connection. Shortly thereafter, military forces from Torumekia arrive to claim their cargo. The cargo is in fact the heart of one the dreaded giant God Warriors that a thousand years ago destroyed the previous civilization in a devastating war that ended in a holocaust. The God Warrior is clearly Miyazaki's stand in for the atomic bomb. Like many Japanese filmmakers he is nearly obsessed with the idea of atomic annihilation. Uncovered by the people of Pejite, the God Warrior has been incorporated into the war machine of the militant Kingdom of Torumekia.

One of the predominate themes of Miyazaki's films is pacifism. Miyazaki is, in a sense like Japan itself, both repulsed and fascinated by Japan's military past. Contemporary Japan has tried hard to cultivate a pacifist image but at the same time the heroic figure of the samurai is revered and celebrated throughout Japan and the Japanese honor the veterans and dead of WWII as much as Americans do. In recent days the debate over nuclear arms has divided Japan's government. Likewise Miyazaki is a pacifist who drives his anti-war message home through exciting depictions of war and combat. Nausicaa is no different. When the enemy forces enter the Valley the resulting scenes of combat are exciting and dramatic; not futile and absurd as in Princess Mononoke.

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This is especially true when Nausicaa leaps to the aid of her fallen father. Here we see another dichotomy beautifully expressed – compassion and vengeance contained in the same person. The same girl who earlier gently led a giant insect back to the wilderness rather than kill is here ready to kill those who have killed her father. Her fight against the Torumekian soldiers is an animated action ballet reminiscent of martial arts epics such as Hero or Crouching Tiger. It seems Miyazaki had not yet fully developed his pacifist philosophy – his philosophy is in a more embryonic state much like the insects that inhabit the forest.

Interestingly it is the professional swordsman, Lord Yupa, who is the voice of reason in this scene. Holding his dagger to the throat of one the Torumekian soldiers and blocking Nausicaa's sword on his own forearm, he reminds Nausicaa that fighting now will only cause suffering for her people. Nausicaa reluctantly surrenders to Princess Kushana, the commander of the Torumekian forces. In what may be considered a jab at Japanese Imperialism in the years leading up to World War II, Princess Kushana promises peace to the Valley if the people obey Torumekian commands and aid in burning the wasteland. The blind prophetess who warns against this plan; past attempts at destroying the Wasteland only produced more Wasteland – enraged ohmu spread across the land destroying everything in there path, when the ohmu died the poison fungus took root in their carcasses. The prophetess's words raise the ire of the soldiers and incite the crowd when it is revealed that the King has been shamefully killed in his sick bed. Rather than see more bloodshed Nausicaa agrees to return to Pejite with Kushana as a hostage. The evening before her departure, Nausicaa reveals a secret to Yupa that may prove the key to restoring the balance of nature in their war ravaged world and Yupa swears he will find away to stop the Torumekian from awakening the God Warrior. The remainder of the film will concern Yupa's quest to prevent the annihilation of the world and Nausicaa's mission to restore the balance of nature, and bring peace justice to the land.

At just under two hours long, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is not as richly detailed or complex as the multi-volume manga series that inspired it. However it tells an exciting story rich with social and ecological themes. The well developed characters are reminiscent of characters seen in later films; brave and courageous yet compassionate Nausicaa is the female equivalent to Prince Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke and the ruthless and determined Princess Kushana could be cousin to Lady Eboshi. Perhaps the major criticism of the film besides the occasionally annoying sound effects and uneven musical score would be the homogeny of the characters. The story is set thousands of years in the future, the world is still divided into nations and apparently cultures but everyone is Caucasian. The world is an increasingly racially diverse place and it can be surmised that it will continue to be so as the years advance.

Conclusion

Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind Genius is not born it is made. Watching Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind after having seen films such as Princess Mononoke is to watch an artist in his embryonic stage of development. Ideas that are fully developed themes and concepts in later works are in Nausicaa notes and rough drafts. Nausicaa is occasionally depicted as vengeful but is generally a compassionate and pure- hearted character. Prince Ashitaka in contrast is literally plagued by demons throughout much of Princess Mononoke. The dialog in Nausicaa expresses pacifist themes but the depiction of combat still tends to glamorize violence rather than criticize it as in Princess Mononoke. In Nausicaa, Miyazaki's concern for the environment is a more general belief in the importance of the balance of nature while the more mature Princess Mononoke celebrates a spiritual, quasi-religious reverence for nature. These are subtle differences perhaps but demonstrative of Miyazaki's continuous development as an artist.

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