“Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” stars Sumi Shimamoto, Gorō Naya, Yōji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, and Iemasa Kayumi. Released on March 11, 1984, the film is about a fearless princess who attempts to prevent the destruction of the jungle that is filled with giant mutant insects.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as The Castle of Cagliostro, Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, and Spirited Away. It is based on the 1982 manga of the same name by Miyazaki. While it is part of the Studio Ghibli lineup, the film was actually released before the foundation of the famous anime studio. The concept of Nausicaä started off as a manga which Miyazaki created for the magazine Animage. The manga was so popular that Miyazaki was asked to work on a film adaptation, with the condition being that he could direct. It was a struggling process for Miyazaki in terms of the screenplay, but it paid off extremely well upon its release, with many people considering it as one of the best animated films of all time. What’s interesting about it, in my own perspective, is that the creator of the source material (Miyazaki) was responsible for writing and directing the film version. This doesn’t happen very often when it comes to films based on books. Mostly because many authors prefer to tell their stories via pages with words. As part of my quest to see most of the Studio Ghibli classics on the big screen, I decided to revisit it and share with you my personal thoughts on Miyazaki’s second directorial effort. Like Castle in the Sky and Lupin III, I will be looking at the English dub version with the cast consisting of Alison Lohman, Sir Patrick Stewart, Shia LaBeouf, and “Kill Bill” star Uma Thurman.
The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where a war known as the Seven Days of Fire destroyed civilization and created a poisonous forest populated by a bunch of giant mutated bugs. Good luck trying to kill them with bug spray. The film’s central character is Nausicaä (voiced by Shimamoto in the Japanese version and Lohman in the English version), a princess from the kingdom of the Valley of the Wind who struggles to find a solution for humans to co-exist peacefully with the insects. Unfortunately, her mission gets a bit more complicated when another kingdom, Tolmekia, plots to use one of the humanoid bioweapons that caused the Seven Days of Fire to eradicate the toxic forest along with its monstrous residents. The entire plot is one big environmental message that has been told in several other films that revolve around this type of theme. You know, “animals have feelings just like humans do” or something like that. What makes this theme more relevant and convincing, to me, is its storytelling. Like his films that came after it, Miyazaki uses his incredible talent to showcase a beautiful, yet dangerous, world while providing a well-written and groundbreaking story that doesn’t rely on sugarcoating its environmental and anti-war themes. The characters were also well-developed as well as relatable. They don’t classify themselves as good guys or bad guys, they’re regular people that do what they think is right, even though it could lead to violence. The main character, Nausicaä, is not only one of my favorite animated characters that Miyazaki has created, but also one of the strongest female characters ever to be put into film. She’s confident, fearless, loyal, and vulnerable. Those traits alone were portrayed wonderfully thanks to some decent voice work from Lohman. Sir Patrick Stewart was also impressive as Lord Yupa, the Valley’s swordsmaster, as well as Shia LaBeouf as Asbel, a pilot from Pejite who helps Nausicaä on her journey. Sometimes it’s always nice to have big-name celebrities voicing the anime characters as long as they have the ability to bring them to life for the American audience. The animation was brilliant from the first ten minutes of the film to its compelling third act. Everything about it was top-notch, including its action scenes, the Valley of the Wind, the Toxic Jungle, heck, even the parts where Nausicaä flies on her glider. So far, Miyazaki’s films have impressed me with their artistic and gorgeous animated sequences, and this film still manages to continue this streak, even after 33 years of its release. Its musical score by Joe Hisaishi (in his first collaboration with Miyazaki) was pretty darn solid and, occasionally, memorable. In fact, as soon as I walked out of the movie, I wounded up humming to one of Hisaishi's musical pieces. Crazy, I know, but it's true.
Overall, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” marked a strong beginning for Studio Ghibli when it was first released 33 years ago, and it still remains as one of the reasons why the studio exists in the first place. With its well-developed characters, fantastic animation, and a story that respects its main themes as well as its setting, the film soars to great heights while also serving as one of the main inspirations for anime fans and Studio Ghibli fans alike. There can be some sequences that might be a bit too intense for younger audiences, but those were only minor issues that didn’t harm the film that much. If you haven’t seen this incredible film, I would highly suggest you do so.