a.k.a. Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä
It is a millennium since the Seven Days of Fire, and humanity is still struggling to survive in this post-apocalyptic world. Cohabitation between humans and the insect world is impossible; a normally benign plant grown in the poisonous soil emits a poison of its own that is incurable to humans. Nausicaä is a princess from one of the scarce communities, and travels far and searches diligently for a cure. Will she be able to find one while defending her people from the neighboring cities looking to bring the human race back to dominance?
summary by Kain
Highs: Story filled with powerful character personalities; one of the last great “feel good” movies
Lows: Ending of debatable suitability; music sometimes lapses into trendy pop
I like to hearken Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind as a transitional anime in the sense that it bridged two defining eras in anime history. Anime beforehand had been a growing, and cautious, medium where few risks were ever taken. It would have taken tremendous amounts of talent to pull off something like this. It succeeded.
The animation, when taking into consideration when it was drawn, is as good as it gets. In particular, the flying sequences are breathtaking to behold. There are no fancy, breaking-the-laws-of-physics aerial dogfights that can be found in other anime. Instead, there exists a certain fragility to flight, as if humans are stepping into yet uncharted territory and are at the mercy of Nature’s whim. Very nice, and makes the movie a thrilling spectacle.
The characters, in particular Nausicaä, are infused with so much feeling and emotion that it’s nigh impossible not to take sides. Even better, there is no clear, distinguishing line between good and evil. Everyone is a victim of circumstance, acting according to their environment. Despite any intentions, Nausicaä ends up becoming a messiah-complex case study. It would have been too easy to make her perfect; instead, she’s rife with personal conflict due to acknowledging her role in life but questioning her ability to fulfill it.
Don’t tell Miyazaki that Nausicaä has religious overtones. In fact, he was so distraught by the Biblical finale that it took him over a decade to formulate, at least to him, an adequate resolution (this remake of sorts ended up being Princess Mononoke, in which San is a decidedly more secular heroine). Some would argue that the conclusion was a cop-out. It’s still up in the air whether I agree or not.
Highs: Conflicting interests make for deep storyline; lively cast of support characters
Lows: Main characters are a bit trite; music occasionally dated
Before being the movie that catapulted Miyazaki‘s career, Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind was a multi-volume manga with enough content for a dozen films. What sets it apart from other condensed, animated manga is that entire parts are dropped without affecting the rest of the storyline, which only makes it incomplete to those having read the original work. Even Miyazaki said he preferred the concise anime version, but that may be biased by love for animation. In any case, Nausicaä‘s storyline is complete and detailed without dragging on, as if the edge of a puzzle had been taken away without leaving holes inside.
The only facet I would have liked to see developed more thoroughly is the state of affairs of all the nations and regions involved. Their relations obviously go deeper than what is shown. However, the viewpoints of all sides are described enough to, like most of Miyazaki’s works, make you not care about who could be considered the bad guy in the story. That is Nausicaä‘s greatest asset, in my opinion. Characters are not too far behind, yet it is not the main characters that attract me the most (I even found most to be a bit bland, Nausicaä included). It’s the bundle of interesting and lovable extras, who affect the whole movie just by being there the way only Miyazaki knows how.
It does not have the smooth glaze of an anime from the computer age, but I have no complaints whatsoever about the art and animation. Everything is of a quality that never grows old, even after twenty years. The only wrinkles show in the music, which sometimes seems to come from a first-generation synthesizer keyboard but is otherwise suiting and captivating.
If you have enjoyed any of this director’s movies, you’ll find something you like here. There’s a little bit of everything in this classic, so bring the whole family over to watch.
Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.