Considered by many to be Hayao Miyazaki’s life work, “Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind” is a fantastic film. Mixing up his now famous themes of crimes against nature with a bleak post-apocalyptic setting, the viewer is taken on a grand tour of Nausicaa’s sadly familiar world and its creepy-crawly inhabitants. This is an essential movie, full of cloud-grasping visuals and magical adventure that is rightly considered a timeless example of Japanese animation.
Nausicaa is the young innocent princess of the Valley of the Wind. We have jumped 3,000 years into the future and mankind has been brought to the brink of extinction thanks to industrial war. Nausicaa’s world is being engulfed by the “Sea of Decay”, a deadly forest filled with toxic plants that is spreading across the land and devouring everything in its path. The forest is protected by hordes of strange giant insects.
Earth’s population has become increasingly desperate for a solution and has resorted to digging up a terrible old weapon, a monster from the old war that is said to have the power to destroy the advancing forest lands. Murderous struggles between jealous governments erupt as control of the weapon means control of the world. Yet again, humanity has become its own worst enemy.
Nausicaa’s people are peaceful, they are happy living a life next to the forest, secluded from the rest of the world, and most of all, they believe in Princess Nausicaa. She has a magical presence that belies her young age and beams with an unbounded love of life. She obviously cares a great deal for others; be they vicious insects or ignorant soldiers, to her- every life is worth saving.
However, when the Valley of the Wind is forcefully thrown into conflict and armies arrive to tear apart her homeland and separate her friends and family, Nausicaa’s heartfelt pacifism is put to the ultimate test.
This is the archetypal Miyazaki film with a darker edge than many of his most recent movies. Like his 1997 effort Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki refuses to shy away from the more objectionable moments of violence to provide the viewer with a shameful glimpse at boundless human cruelty; and so with many of his other films, we find ourselves turning against mankind and cheering on the forces of nature.
Nausicaa is a classic Miyazaki heroine; she is unassuming, innocent and full of love and provides a great contrast with the more “normal” characters surrounding her; typical personalities full of revenge, greed, ambition and desire.
Obviously, there is no Nausicaa in our world and perhaps Miyazaki is suggesting that unless we drastically change our ways and learn to live with nature, humanity is doomed- there will be no last minute reprieves.
On that cynical note, the animation, as you would expect from the master of Japanese anime, is wonderful. Miyazaki lets his imagination run wild in Nausicaa’s world; a vivid place that contrasts endless bleak deserts with lush green land; forests bursting with bright natural colours. His expansive vision of the world is realized in epic fashion as Nausicaa’s love of flight often gives us a brilliant, transcendent birds-eye view of the world below.
Music composer and long time Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi makes a great impression with a varied collection of tunes. He captures the clash of modern technology with primitive culture perfectly by combining eclectic electronic sounds with basic drum beats and strings. The film climaxes with a beautiful and haunting vocal song that was echoing around my head hours after watching.
This is a wonderful adventure story that should be enjoyed by almost everyone. While Miyazaki’s none to subtle social commentary may sound tiresome, I urge you to look into Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind; there are so many layers to this film but watching it is an almost effortless experience thanks to Miyazaki’s consummate story telling skill. It is a thought provoking, but also a heart wrenching and exciting adventure story that contains some truly unforgettable moments of magic on screen.