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Saturday, 4 August 2018

Retro Review: Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind (1984)

Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind
Genre: Animated Science Fantasy Adventure 
Japanese Box Office Gross: over ¥743 million 

Plot: Warrior/pacifist Princess Nausicaa desperately struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and their dying planet 

'Miyazaki's Colours Of The Wind'

Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind is noted as Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki's first main movie and one that gave birth to the Japanese animation company and it combines many elements and themes, as well as sub-genres to create what is a fantasy adventure flick that is unlike any of the Western offerings, but also that sci-fi fantasy fusion formula was later replicated in 1986's Castle In The Sky

A post-apocalyptic sci-fi landscape venture, it is a mish-mash of different concepts, ideas based on the original novel penned by Miyazaki-san himself and before Avatar and Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, Nausicaa of the Valley Of The Wind managed to dig deep into the environmental and weighty themes and concepts without going overboard with it. The film also received backing by the famous WWF, the acronym for the Worldwide Fund For Nature. 

Set 1,000 years after the apocalyptic tragedy ''The Seven Days Of Fire'', Nausicaa is a princess of the Valley of the Wind, who tries to keep things in order, despite the impending and never-ending war, which escalates and threatens to tear it and her people apart. This is coupled with deadly toxic gases that go on to breed huge insects, such as beetles and worms. When an airship strikes in her valley and a rival in Princess Kushana invades it and who is in search of a bioweapon, Nausicaa must spring into action to not only save her land and the inhabitants on it but to restore peace to the Valley. 

Going into Nausicaa, I had heard so many positive things about it and was already aware of the high praise lavished towards this film that I have come across from all quarters, and yet, it was up to me to decide if this was as good as it was lauded back in 1984 and today. My expectations were relatively low, but also after seeing the poster, I was assuming I would be getting something similar along the lines of My Neighbor Totoro or Kiki's Delivery Service, in terms of playing it straight and I just didn't expect that level of action and little scenes of intrigue that came with it. Well, having seen it in full now, truthfully and thankfully, it did; although I must say it took quite a while for me to get into the story fully and for the action scenes to spring to life. 

There are massive airships, robotic bugs that are oh so similar to the ones in Starship Troopers, Mad Max-type vehicles, medieval castles and kingdoms and the battle between traditionalist vs modernist spearheaded by the title character: a motivated, strong, young - yet noble & brave female protagonist, whose spirit remains strong and hates war and fighting and wants nothing more but for people to come together, work together, side by side with each other. The other characters are opposite of Nausicaa, yet who are just as well-written and developed, characterisation-wise as herself. 

The film took a while to get going and I didn't become engrossed with it until the 24th minute and whilst the plot is complex to get one's head around, when it all unfolds it's great to see with enough nuances and at times, thought-provoking dialogue to back it up. I also enjoyed the English dub with Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Alison Lohman and even Shia Labeouf all impressing in their voice-over roles. 

Coming away from Nausicaa of the Valley Of The Wind, I can't help but agree with those who love and enjoy this offering: it is extremely good and the story got better as the film went on, which was a big deal for me, because had it not been for the other characters besides Nausicaa who manage to ramp it up, I think I would have given up on it. Miyazaki is a terrific storyteller who manages to create these lavish open-world fantasy universes with such depth & crams as much as he can into them. In Nausicaa, this is his boldest and probably his most mature effort compared to Miyazaki's more care-free and entertaining offerings. The animation may not be as polished as Ghibli's later films, but there is still that charm that circulates throughout the entire film that makes it watchable and sustainable throughout. 

I'd say it falls in line with and has a tad more in common with Castle In The Sky as open world adventure-based fantasy animated films and they each share that same enchanting & mythical spirit that makes them so revered by its own fans. 

Final Verdict:

My rating might go up when I revisit it again, but it's assuredly up there in the Ghibli top 4 for me so far; I prefer it over Whisper of the Heart (so easily) and is on par with Kiki's Delivery Service, but Castle In The Sky still reigns as my favourite with My Neighbour Totoro in second. Granted, it is technically not a Ghibli film, but this is a Miyazaki work and that still counts in my eyes. 

Nausicaa is nothing short of profound and ambitious and as ever with many other Ghibli works, gets A for effort. If you have never experienced this movie before, then you must: it is one of those films that everyone has to see at least once in their lives.


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