Nausicaä Anime Review
Kaze no Tani no Naushika
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
US Release By
Post-apocalyptic Ecological Action/Drama
After a great war involving immense constructs ravished the earth and poisoned the land, nothing remains but empty deserts, acidic oceans, and a vast sea of giant fungus known as the Fukai that sprays out toxic spores and threatens to engulf the last vestiges of humanity. In this bleak distant future, a young princess, Nausicaa, lives in an idyllic place known as the Valley of the Wind, so named because of the constant winds that keep it from being engulfed by the Fukai. But everything begins to change one night when a massive airship crashes in the valley, drawing the military forces of Tolmekia--commanded by the general Kushana and bent on making war on the immense bugs known as Ohm who inexplicably protect the Fukai from damage. Within the airship is a growing embryo of one of the very war constructs that nearly caused the destruction of humanity to begin with, and, at least as the Tolmekians believe, the only thing that will save it. Nausicaa abhors violence, but when first taken hostage and then pushed too far by the Tolmekian invaders, she has no choice but to fight, and in her hands and her understanding of the Fukai and the Ohm may rest the future of humanity...
Quick ReviewSwitch to Full Review
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a true masterpiece of anime by the master himself, Hayao Miyazaki. The plot is a sort of cautionary ecological tale, but is not as simplistic or formula as it could have easily been. Imbued with life and meaning by the fact that none of the characters (including the faceless bugs and fungus) are quite as two-dimensional as they initially seem, and given form by the imagination of Miyazaki, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a grand drama, exciting adventure, and meaningful all at the same time. Despite the film's age, it is also beautiful in every sense of the word--from sweeping landscapes full of imagination and subtle beauty to breathtaking flight sequences to the little details of ordinary motion. Completed by an impressive Japanese performance behind Nausicaa and Joe Hisaishi's marvelous score, the only legitimate complaint I've heard about the film is that the lengthy comic version is better--hardly an issue with the film itself.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a masterpiece of anime, and I would say of filmmaking of any sort. It is simultaneously beautiful, exciting, touching, and tells a meaningfully allegorical tale, plus it is filled with the sort of imagination that would make any film worth watching. This is one anime movie that almost anyone, fan or not, should enjoy.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind has been among my favorite anime movies since before I could even understand any of the dialogue, and when I found a translation to give meaning to the characters' words I enjoyed it that much more. It is a true masterpiece of anime by the master himself, Hayao Miyazaki.
The plot is a sort of cautionary ecological tale, but is not as simplistic or formula as it could have easily been. Imbued with life and meaning by the fact that none of the characters (including the faceless bugs and fungus) are quite as two-dimensional as they initially seem, and given form by the imagination of Miyazaki and the masterful animation of his Studio Ghibli, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a grand drama, exciting adventure, and meaningful all at the same time.
Although the movie is old and the coloring is a bit dated, it is a truly beautiful film in every sense of the word. The backgrounds, as is to be expected from Ghibli, are works of art in and of themselves--sweeping landscapes full of imagination and subtle beauty. The character designs are the prototypes for every Miyazaki movie that followed--nearly every Miyazaki girl looks like Nausicaa, but she was basically the first. The animation is also second to none; although it's not the most expensive movie ever made, it is fluid and beautifully executed, from the action, to the fanciful-yet-gripping flight sequences, to the little details of ordinary motion--the initial sequence of Nausicaa removing the eye casing from an Ohm's shed shell is a perfect example.
The Japanese acting is of a similarly high calibre. It is distinctively voiced, well cast, and, although a little broad because of the archetypal characters, quite believable. Sumi Shimamoto is particularly impressive as Nausicaa--nearly perfect through a wide range of emotions, from gentle girl to angry warrior to impassioned savior, all while remaining believable for her age--never too cute, never too adult. Disney's dub features a very high-profile voice cast, but I haven't heard it to comment on.
Joe Hisaishi's marvelous score is also worth noting. A wide variety of musical styles are represented, ranging from India-inspired sitar themes to broad, beautiful orchestral pieces. It also boasts a piece that is among the most memorable anime music I know, a small tune voiced by a little girl that, both haunting and innocent, serves as Nausicaa's theme.
There are only two possible caveats about Nausicaa. One is the comic book version; it is Miyazaki's only major comic, and is considered a masterpiece of the medium by many. The manga is seven volumes long, and since the movie only tells a very simplified version of the same story, it's often said that it just can't live up. Probably true, but even if the story is reduced to its most basic form, it is still powerful and meaningful, and the beauty of the production itself makes the movie a masterpiece regardless of its roots.
The other possible issue relates to a newer Miyazaki production, Princess Mononoke. Mononoke tells essentially the same story as Nausicaa with a slightly harder edge and a setting that is less black and white, and since it also looks a little better as a result of higher budget and modern computer techniques, it steals a bit of the thunder, so to speak. In any case, though, both films easily rank as masterpieces in my opinion, and I believe which is actually better is arguable. In my personal opinion, the character of Nausicaa herself and the breathtaking airborne action sequences edge this movie ahead in the running, but Princess Mononoke also has its strong points, and many will probably prefer it.
In all, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a masterpiece of anime, and I would say of filmmaking of any sort. It is simultaneously beautiful, exciting, touching, and tells a meaningfully allegorical tale, plus it is filled with the sort of imagination that would make any film worth watching. It is sad in many ways that two decades passed between when it was first released in the US as the heavily edited video "Warriors of the Wind" and Disney's proper, unaltered treatment, but those dark days are past. This is one anime movie that almost anyone, fan or not, should enjoy.
Have something to say about this anime? Join our newly-resurrected forums and speak your mind.
Many of Miyazaki's films are quite similar to Nausicaa; Princess Mononoke has a very similar plot but a harder edge, Laputa has a similarly grandiose story and truly fantastic flight sequences, and Porco Rosso shares a bit of the sense of imagination, although it has little to do with Nausicaa thematically.
Notes and Trivia
Nausicaa was, in 2005, finally released in the US in an uncut, remastered version by Disney; this release was something of a parallel to a 20th anniversary re-release and remastering of the film for video release in Japan.
It was, however, the first (and, with the exception of Castle of Cagliostro, only) Miyazaki film to be released in the US in the '80s, as the heavily edited "Warriors of the Wind." Despite about a half an hour of cut footage and changing the main character's name to the less-than-lyrical Zandra, I've still heard good things about this version. However, that mangled release is said to be the reason it was so long before any other Ghibli film saw a proper US release (Castle of Cagliostro was not Ghibli's to license), and why part of the agreement with Disney included a requirement that the films be released completely unedited.
The film is loosely based on the first two of a 7-volume manga series written and drawn by Miyazaki. It is available in English from VIZ. The series was recently re-released in a format more faithful to the original Japanese version, reading right-to-left and in a format closer to the original Japanese books.
If you happen to be wondering, Ohmu (王虫) is written in Japanese with characters meaning "King of the bugs." The name Nausicaa apparently comes from a character in Homer's Odyssey, and the name for Nausicaa's flying machine Mehve apparently comes from the German word for "seagull."
In a random bit of trivia, the Japanese voice actress of Nausicaa, Sumi Shimamoto, also voiced Clarisse in the Castle of Cagliostro, as well as a secondary character in Princess Mononoke. She is not a prolific voice actress, but has worked consistently over the years since. Not all of her roles are so memorable--among them is a supporting role in the absolutely abysmal TV series "Don't Leave Me Alone Daisy."
Another random and odd bit of trivia is that, at least according to IMDB, the film is banned in Poland along with a handful of other relatively innocuous titles. It apparently had something to do with complaints about the depictions of ecological disaster, although given the message of the film this seems questionable--if any readers have more details, please fill me in.
US DVD Review
As with other Disney releases of Ghibli films, Nausicaa comes on a 2-disc set that includes the film in anamorphic widescreen with both Japanese and English dialogue, accurately translated English subtitles. The second disc includes extras, most notably a complete set of storyboards for the film.
It is rated PG; there is some significant violence with a lot of emotion behind it, but there is otherwise very little explicit or objectionable content.
Violence: 3 - A lot of people get killed, and though it's not graphic at all there are some very emotionally strong scenes.
Nudity: 0 - Essentially nothing. Note: It's a surprisingly common misconception that Nausicaa's outfit is a short skirt; it is not--it's a tunic and tan pants or loose-fitting tights.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Not even any significant romance.
Language: 1 - Based on my own opinion; I don't know how much (if any) profanity the Disney release has.
Staff & Cast
Original Japanese Cast (in original credit order)
Nausicaa: Sumi Shimamoto
Jihl: Mahito Tsujimura
O-baba: Hisako Kyouda (aka Naoko Kyouda)
Yupa: Goro Naya
Mito: Ichirou Nagai
Goru: Kouhei Miyauchi
Gikkuri: Jouji Yanami
Niga: Minoru Yada
Teto/Girl C: Rihoko Yoshida
Girl A: Masako Sugaya
Girl B: Takako Sasuga
Boy A: Chika Sakamoto
Boy B: TARAKO
Asbel: Yoji Matsuda
Rastel: Mina Tominaga
Pejite (Mayor): Mugihito
Rastel's Mother: Akiko Tsuboi
Kushana: Yoshiko Sakakibara
Kurotowa: Iemasa Kayumi
Commando A: Tetsuo Mizutori
Pejite (Citizen): Takei Nakamura
Pejite (Girl): Takako Ohta
Directior: Hayao Miyazaki
Character Design: Hayao Miyazaki
Animation Director: Kazuo Komatsubara
Art Director: Mitsuki Nakamura
Original Story/Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki
Producer: Isao Takahata