Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

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One of the first solo directing efforts for the master, Miyazaki, “Nausicaä” is a classic environmental monster fantasy epic concerning the usual Miyazaki themes. Of course the words “typical” and “Miyazaki” could never be used in the same sentence, and Nausicaä is a sheer precursor for future projects Miyazaki would embark upon. Your courageous martyr/heroine, the valiant humble hero, the mystifying figure, the wiser hero, and a government empire seeking to destroy the land. But it’s the way Miyazaki composes these arch-types that make his films worth watching without a doubt.

Our heroine Nausicaä is a young but wise beyond her years princess who is beloved from the people of valley, and Miyazaki paints her as an admirable character who we can root for in the end, and, as all people from Miyazaki’s culture, the older characters get the better spotlights and are revered for their wisdom. “Nausicaä” is one of the darker entries in Miyazaki’s filmography featuring a story of a post-apocalyptic society, a basic biological wasteland, and monsters whom seek to destroy beyond everything else. However, it is also one of the more adult entries which tracks the heroine Nausicaä trying to keep her beloved valley of the wind from being destroyed by Ohm’s humongous snail like monsters, the sea of decay a rapidly growing toxic organism that’s destroyed most of Earth, and an evil empire whom wants to raise a gigantic monster to destroy rival countries. Nausicaä, as a heroine is more of a spiritual entity who can hone in on emotions of the creatures in the forest, and basically knows how to lead her people whom deify her.

In spite of the vast array of characters, though, my favorite was Lord Yupa, the mysterious traveler who is also a world renowned swordsman. Once again, Miyazaki’s entry is nothing short of spectacular landscapes and scenery. He paints the world and wilderness as often confining and cluttered while the sky is once again open and limitless in its dimension. “Nausicaä” and its plot is mostly centered around the race to save the valley of the wind setting the stage for a spectacular climax that was also immensely beautiful, but there’s also some very good action sequences that really amount to the most exciting scenes. At risk of sounding like an apologist, I took in to account that this was one of Miyazaki’s first solo outings in to one of his own projects, yet “Nausicaä” was one of his weaker films.

I wasn’t overwhelmed during the course of the film, which was truly disappointing since most of the films I’ve seen from him have been incredible. Nausicaä suffers from a pretty boring lore which involves the sea of decay and these creatures that really don’t give us any sense of dread or threat at all. The characters stand as almost wooden figures without any real personality. While we get a sense of Nausicaä and her heroism, her personality never really comes in to play, nor does the hero, or Yupa at any point. The story really goes without much excitement or wonder through sporadic segments, and I was never as interested in the characters as I was hoping to be. “Nausicaä” is the example of an artist finding his bearings and then rebounding with better films later on. Miyazaki displays his imagination for all to see, and really does give us a world filled with both danger and wonder.

In this land, decay has spread all over the world and most of the forests are indeed poisonous; but in a way the valley of the wind is that untouched Utopia destined to be destroyed by man’s greed, and the biological tragedy that continues to plague the world. Much of the film’s best moments rely on the power of human bonding as we witness these villagers relying on Nausicaä to help them overcome the military’s hold, and these monsters potential destruction, while Miyazaki gives us utterly beautiful mid-air scenes, and interesting characters that actually have dimensions within dimensions and aren’t based around their concepts. While this is indeed, and sadly, one of the weaker entries in to the Miyazaki gamut, it’s still a lot better than many of the modern animated films you’ll see in theaters. Filled with a fun story, a dark concept, interesting characters, and a story that shows a master at work, “Nausicaä” is a beautiful epic.