"When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness." – C.S.LewisPosts RSS Comments RSS

new samsung galaxy s5 , is there going to be a samsung galaxy s5 , next samsung galaxy s5 , samsung galaxy s5 , the samsung galaxy s5 , release date for samsung galaxy s5 , new samsung galaxy s5 release date ,

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Review

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ) is the first film officially recognized as a Ghibli production, despite the fact that the film was created before the official existence of the Studio itself.  Instead, a small studio called TopCraft was brought under Miyazaki’s supervision for the project.  After the success of the film, Miyazaki, producer Toshio Suzuki and fellow director Isao Takahata formed a new company called Studio Ghibli, bringing over much of the talent from TopCraft as employees.  Joe Hisaishi also began his fruitful partnership with Miyazaki in this film, a collaboration which has now hit 25 years.  For all intents and purposes, Nausicaa is where the Ghibli canon begins, and the familiar Totoro logo feels right at home at the start.

The story of Nausicaa is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a terrible event of the past destroyed much of the civilization that had existed.  All that exist now are isolated pockets and settlements scattered around the bleak landscape, separated by a vast, dangerous and toxic environment referred to as the Toxic Jungle or Sea of Decay.  Nausicaa comes from a small and peaceful village which is protected from the toxic fumes of the forests.  When an airship from a state called Tolmekia crashes near the village, Nausicaa and the townfolk rush to its aid, but discover that the ship belongs to one of the more powerful states in the region, and that it carries a large weapon intended for war.  The village is soon invaded by members of this state, who wish to use the weapon to destroy the Toxic Jungle as well as opposing states.

Nausicaa is an exemplary Miyazaki heroine: confident, intelligent, complex.  At first glance, Nausicaa may seem monotonously pacifistic and good-natured, but Miyazaki inserts several scenes which build her into a realistic and sophisticated person . For example, early in the film, when the village is attacked by the invading state, Nausicaa’s father is murdered in cold-blood.  Nausicaa’s rage and the sudden violence which erupts from it is so unexpected and divergent from her portrayal beforehand that the effects of that scene still linger in my mind.  Although Nausicaa is not among my favourite Ghibli films, the character herself is without a doubt one of the greatest that Miyazaki has ever envisioned.

There are some characters who are not portrayed with as much depth, however.   The wise woman of the village for example, or Kurotawa – the general of the Tolmekian leader – aren’t necessarily weak characters, but they are very familiar archetypes.  I found the wise woman, for example, to be more caricature-like than her equivalent character in Mononoke-hime. Comparisons with Mononoke-hime are inevitable as the two have a very strong man vs. nature undercurrent, and share many similarities in plot.  Take an early scene in Nausicaa, where she calms an enraged Ohmu (giant insects which inhabit the Toxic Jungle) – it mirrors the scene which opens Mononoke-hime, where Ashitaka must defend the village from a demonic boar.  The leader of the Tolmekian invasion also mirrors Lady Eboshi, the complex “villain” of Mononoke-hime.

When we make such a comparison directly, we can see where Miyazaki improved in terms of storytelling.  The early exposition in Nausicaa, for example, feels a bit clunky and obvious, with Nausicaa making her way through the Sea of Decay, conveniently commenting to herself on various things around her, for the audience to hear.  It is an approach that I don’t think the older Miyazaki would have used.  Action sequences felt a bit too conventional at times, and the ending is a bit sudden and unsatisfying considering all that has built up before it.  On that note, however, it should be said that the film is an abbreviated version of a much larger story written by Miyazaki over the span of 12 years (taking occasional breaks to make films) in manga form.  The manga has been called one of the greatest epics written in the medium, and while I am still in the process of finishing it, it is even more sophisticated and satisfying than the anime and apparently has a very thought-provoking ending.

Nausicaa is now a 25 year old film, and the technical details obviously must be evaluated in a relative manner.  The animation and artwork is imaginative and enthralling, but also visibly dated compared to Miyazaki’s newer work.  This is to be expected considering not only the technology involved, but also the size and experience of the staff.  What puzzles me a bit more is the music, which has very uneven quality.  Some of Hisaishi’s compositions, such as the main theme, while being fairly simple musically speaking – as Hisaishi’s early work tends to be, are nevertheless very fitting and memorable.  However, at certain points the score descends into more cliched synthy music common to early anime.  These pieces feel like temp tracks pasted onto the scenes in comparison to some of the better music in the film which, while unpolished, is always creative and memorable.  The voice acting is also not uniformly excellent, but the strength of the performance of Nausicaa by Sumi Shimamoto is enough for me to give a clear thumbs up.  The actress manages to communicate Nausicaa’s sophisticated character so well.  She was also the voice of Kyoko from Maison Ikkoku, so maybe I have some unintentional bias here.

Returning to our comparison with Mononoke-hime, I can see how that film was able to deliver a similar message that was more refined and subtly incorporated into the story as a whole.  Regardless, Nausicaa is still a very moving and effective film.  I don’t know much about the anime climate of those days, but it would surprise me if Nausicaa was not something so fresh and new as to affect the industry creatively in the decades which followed.  Miyazaki’s directorial skills are still a work-in-progress, but we can already see many of the traits which would define him later on. I said before, Nausicaa isn’t one of my favourites from the studio and is one of the less polished Ghibli films, but its obvious importance in the history of Ghibli, its fascinating world and story, and the character of Nausicaa herself make it a high recommendation nonetheless.

6 responses so far

All comments welcome. Don't mind the age of the post.

6 Responses to “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Review”

  1. signorRossion Dec 25th 2009

    Nice truthful review.
    You will be surprised how the ending differs in the manga, it is far better than the one in the anime. How could you hold back not finishing the manga already? 😉
    As for Hisaishi’s music, I really like this movie OST. It is not something I would listen to regularly, 80thies synth music does sound unfamiliar to me now 😉 , but from time to time I like to hear these simple, hypnotic songs. And some parts of the melodies contained in songs which are lesser as a whole could be fleshed out to great new compositions, ‘Kushana no Shinryaku’ is such a song.
    Of course I like the later recorded ‘Symphonic Poem Nausicaa’ most.
    BTW, have you watched any of the videos about the voice acting recordings that are around on Youtube? Quite interesting and funny…

  2. Theowneon Dec 25th 2009

    Nausicaa voice acting videos? I’ve only ever found the Disney English dub ones, which are okay I guess, but I want to see Miyazaki directing the original Japanese voices (as I did in the Mononoke backstage video – what a great experience that was).

  3. signorRossion Dec 26th 2009

    Sorry, I also found only the Mononoke backstage videos, but one has Sumi Shimamoto in it. Watched quite a few of these yesterday, Miyazaki can be quite nasty. 🙂

  4. Theowneon Dec 26th 2009

    I’ve seen that Mononoke documentary about three times now from beginning to end. The voice acting segments are some of my favourite.

    As for Miyazaki, he can be very nasty at times =) At one point, I remember, he heavily disliked the way an animator drew Ashitaka running as if he was afraid of hitting something, and Miyazaki spend ten minutes trashing the (unknown) artist for having an outlook on life that permitted such an approach. But when he’s trying to communicate his messages of the film, like when he explains to the singer the meaning behind the Mononoke ending song, you can see a different side to him. I honestly think Miyazaki is one of the most interesting people in the world. I imagine most people watch Totoro and imagine some Mr. Rogers-like person as its creator. But the reality is far more interesting.

  5. nieuwendorpon Nov 19th 2011

    This film gets a 4.5 from me. Not my favorite Miyazaki film, but a good one.

    But yeah the manga is MUCH better than the movie. The story is broader and more epic, the action scenes are grittier and more realistic, the characters are more well rounded( Kushana in particular), and the world is much expansive and detailed. Before this Princess Mononoke was my favorite work from Miyazaki, but there is no doubt in my mind that this is Miyazaki’s greatest work.

  6. AnonymousDespairon Oct 17th 2012

    Great film. 8/10. You will never see film where theme of people and nature (and their relations) rises so strong and deep. (after it was quite similiar in “Mononoke”, but there subject opens even more deeper imho).

Leave a Reply

Don't be shy - go ahead and comment! Don't mind the age of the post.