Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was Hayao Miyazaki’s breakout film as a director. It’s an environmentally heavy sci-fi action film that highlights Miyazaki’s pacifist ideology and his wildly imaginative storytelling. While Disney was working on the likes of The Black Cauldron, Japan was producing animated gems like this.
Technically made before the start of his Studio Ghibli, Nausicaä was a tale that didn’t have much support at first because most anime depends on pre-existing properties in the world of manga (Japanese comic books). Since he couldn’t get funding without an already popular manga, he made one and published Nausicaä in serial form from 1982 to 1994. This earned him the necessary backing, but since only 16 chapters (out of 59) had been completed by the time of the film, the plot encompasses only the part that he had finished. While it was a huge blockbuster upon its release because of the manga, the movie ends a bit abruptly, and it feels like there is more of the story to tell, even though the film is ambitious enough as it is.
The hand-drawn animation is detailed and impressive throughout the two-hour film, especially in the climax, and it has that Miyazaki touch that raises it above most other anime. The voice acting in Disney’s English dub is uniformly good, featuring Alison Lohman, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman, Chris Sarandon, Edward James Olmos, Mark Hamill, and the inimitable Patrick Stewart as Lord Yupa. Joe Hisaishi’s outstanding score also grabbed my attention when I first saw it and, not counting the synthesizer segments, is one of my favorite film scores. As for the plot, it’s incredibly detailed, and my above poem only scratched the surface of the layered events, characters, and motivations. With its complex mythology, messianic prophecy, and giant misunderstood insectoid creatures, the closest thing I could compare it to is Frank Herbert’s Dune series.
The environmentalist theme is rather clunky, blaming mankind for polluting the earth’s topsoil and water and building the giant warriors to destroy everything while providing no details about the circumstances. Thankfully, though, the film doesn’t browbeat humanity too much, and when the focus is on the science fiction and the characters, it’s some of Miyazaki’s best work. My VC, who doesn’t care for anime, at least saw and appreciated it for what it was, but, for me, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind remains an influential sci-fi classic.
Best line: (Asbel, after eating some “healthy” nuts) “Why does everything that’s good for you have to taste so bad?”Artistry: 7 Characters/Actors: 7 Entertainment: 8 Visual Effects: 7 Originality: 9 Watchability: 7 Other (heavy environmentalism): -3 TOTAL: 42 out of 60
Next: #201 – Murphy’s Romance
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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