Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is the first film released by Studio Ghibli, and as a result it is the first film in my Studio Ghibli marathon, which will be running in parallel with the film series being put on by the Gateway Film Center in Columbus Ohio. With one film a week through May, I will be kept busy and entertained by these marvelous animated films, many of which I will be seeing for the first time. Nausicaa is one such film that I am experiencing for the first time, which makes it such a treat to see these wonderful films for the first time not only in my lifetime, but to see them on the big screen as my first experience with many of the Ghibli catalog (I have seen some of the most popular films in the canon). I am extremely thankful and excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to share my thoughts and experiences as the marathon continues.
The first film, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, kicks things off as though both Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki have been perfecting their craft for years. Set a thousand years after an apocalyptic event which started the spreading of the Toxic Jungle, which threatens most of the planet, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind follows the Princess Nausicaa, a brave warrior from the Valley of the Wind, a community set along the ocean coast, protected from the Toxic Jungle by the winds from the sea, which push the pollution inland. But when the Pejite and Tolmekian’s, two neighboring communities, begin warring over a Giant Warrior embryo, thought to help destroy the threatening insects which accompany the Toxic Jungle, Nausicaa must intervene to save not only her people, but the Pejite and Tolmekian’s too.
To experience such a fully realized imagination on the big screen is a marvelous experience. While writing that synopsis, it may seem convoluted and complicated, but the film really plays out as a world building exercise, as Miyazaki takes us into his mind and shows us a wonderful world full of fun, loving, threatening characters and the issues that arise between the three communities, as well as the issues that arise with the insects (the Ohms) and the Toxic Jungle itself. Seen through the eyes of someone like Nausicaa, who is a princess of a peaceful land, really helps bring the conflict into perspective. Nausicaa is a strong, young, female lead with plenty to bring to the table.
While she may be the princess of a peaceful community, she is also daring, adventurous and brave, which is shown right out of the gate as we see her masterfully handle her glider as she explores the dangers of the land outside of the Valley of the Wind. Wearing a skirt that is a bit too short only plays into the mystique of Nausicaa and the introduction of Studio Ghibli’s style. I heard a few comments after the film from nearby patrons that the film was a little weird (but they liked it all the same). Hayao Miyazaki has been called the Walt Disney of Japan, but his films take on a little stranger or weirder element than you will see in the fairy tales of America’s Disney films, so expect the unexpected if you have not experienced a Ghibli film before.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind has all the elements from Ghibli that make them great: a strong, adventurous lead; a fantastic, fully realized world full of interesting characters, creatures, locations and conflicts; and beautiful animation. There really is little more to ask for from an animated adventure such as this. The 80s score is a wonderful addition to the film as well, filling the room with a sense of dread and wonder at the appropriate times. Upon further reflection of Nausicaa, all of the elements seem to grow in my estimation, for at first the strangeness of the world was startling, but as each passing minute of the films run time passes by, I became more and more immersed and comfortable in this world, rooting for Nausicaa, everything she stands for, and the hope of the humans to survive the impending doom of the Toxic Jungle, and live harmoniously once again with not just the Jungle and insects, but with themselves.