Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
It has been over twenty years since Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was released in Japan, and anime fans here in the States have been waiting anxiously for a authentic version. At long last, the wait is over and anime fans can rejoice. The epic masterpiece (as the box kindly tells us) is now available for everyone here to buy.
Nausicaa is well known and respected among the anime community and is considered one of the true all-time anime classics. This is one of the few "must-sees" in anime. Itís not only the film that for all intensive purposes launched Studio Ghibli, but itís also considered to be Miyazakiís life work.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is hard to pin down with a basic one sentence description. The movie does have your classic Miyazaki strong female lead and emphasis on environmental issues. This is probably also his best example of each. Nausicaa shows off a lot of the bad side of man through war, greed, fear, lust for power and a lack of respect for the environment. However, it leaves you with a very positive and uplifting message and feeling.
The story starts off with us seeing Nausicaa as sheís exploring the Toxic Jungle. Not too long in, she hears someone in trouble and quickly rushes off to try and rescue them. We soon get to see that it was Lord Yuba, who was returning to the Valley of the Wind. Lord Yuba is her long-time friend and a very well respected man in the story. During this opening sequence, we also get to see a little of Nausicaaís special gift. It seems that for some reason she is able to communicate with the insects of the Toxic Jungle and calm down their rage. From Lord Yuba, we learn about how the Toxic Jungle is spreading across the land, killing and wiping out all of the villages. He was traveling from land to land to see what was left.
The story really starts after a Torumekian airship crashes in the Valley of the Wind. The airship was carrying the Princess of Pejite as a hostage and this giant pulsating mass, which is identified later on. The Torumekians come to the Valley of the Wind to get back what the ship was carrying, but they also take over the Valley of the Wind to use it for their own purposes. The Torumekian Empire is in a war with the Pejite Empire, and both countries want what the Torumekian airship was carrying. It turns out that they both thought of using it for what might have been a good reason at the time, but they are very fearful of what the other side might do with it, so they are at war to try and gain possession of it. The Torumekians decide to take hostages, including Nausicaa, and go back to their homeland, leaving the giant mass in the Valley of the Wind until they can decide how to use it.
We get to meet another character at this time in Asbel. He is the prince of Pejite who shoots down the Torumekian fleet as it leaves the Valley of the Wind, but he is also shot down himself. Nausicaa is able to escape along with the other hostages, landing in the Toxic Jungle, where Asbel crashed as well. From this point on, the story is about Nausicaa trying to save her village from the Torumekians and the insects of the Toxic Jungle that the Torumekians are using to help them take over the land.
Despite the action and war taking place Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind's true story comes from the Toxic Jungle, and thatís what really moves this story and gives it life. We learn through Miyazaki's great story-telling that the Toxic Jungle actually isnít this all-powerful evil; itís actually quite the contrary. We also learn exactly who is to blame for the Toxic Jungle in the first place.
Nausicaa, despite its age, still has great animation. It certainly does not look like a movie thatís over twenty years old. The animation is fluid, with good looking characters and incredibly done backgrounds. The world of Nausicaa looks amazing, and it is all the more amazing when you consider that this movie is entirely hand-drawn. One of the things that really stood out for me was the shot of the stampeding herd of Ohmu. Itís night, and you canít really make out much, except for this red hazy light in the Ohmuís eyes, but it just stood out as having this incredible look to it. The way it represented the pure mass of creatures moving was just amazing, and I was in awe of the way it looked. It also helped to give you a sense of the drastic situation and what the villagers of the Valley of the Wind must have been feeling.
One thing that seemed a bit out of place was some of the music at times. During some of the great action scenes, I was expecting big, dramatic orchestral pieces, but instead you get something that sounds more like J-Pop. The music was not bad during the few times that this happened, but it did seem odd for the setting. Additionally, since Studio Ghibli has a contract with Disney, you are not going to hear typical voice actors doing the voices of the characters, but actual Hollywood movie stars. At first, the thought of this bothered me, because Iíd rather not hear Patrick Stewart or Uma Thurman do a voice; however, after a short time into the movie, I wasnít even thinking about that and in fact, I was very impressed by the voice talent.
The movie has some very likable and strong lead characters headed by Nausicaa. This is more of a pet peeve that I have for certain animes, but at times Nausicaa can almost seem too much like a goody goody character. It rarely happened and her overall likeability and appeal quickly got rid of any feelings like that.
After a two decade wait, fans will most likely want some good features to go along with the movie. Those fans will not be disappointed with what they get here. The DVD comes with interviews of the biggest voice talent in the movie, a segment on Studio Ghibli's origins, and perhaps one of the most interested features that diehard fans will love: the entire movie in storyboard form.
After all is said and done, what truly stands out here is a very impactful and well told story. Nausicaa simply put is a wonderfully entertaining story that is sure to touch the hearts of those who see this anime. For many anime fans, the twenty year wait was just too long; however, after finally being able to get their hands on it, Iím sure that some of the frustration has left. For new and old fans to anime alike, Nausicaa will not disappoint.