One thousand years after the Giant Warriors caused an apocalyptic event known as the seven days of fire, humans are living in constant fear of the Toxic Jungle. This ever-spreading forest is filled with poisonous plants and gigantic monstrous insects; even the very air is deadly. Nausicaa is the kind and wise princess of a small, peaceful country known as the Valley of the Wind, which has so far avoided the spread of the forest. One night a large airship containing one of the Giant Warriors crashes into the valley. The following day soldiers from the powerful nation of Tolmekia invade the Valley of the Wind to reclaim and revive the warrior. As the only one who truly believes that there is a way for humans to live alongside the insects, Nausicaa must find a way to stop the war that now threatens her people and protect the Toxic Jungle before the Tolmekians burn it to the ground.
The first time I watched this I perceived it as an enjoyable ride, but profoundly inferior to the otherwise excellent Ghibli features. After viewing it again I've changed my opinion rather fundamentally and in this review I'll try to explain why, while trying to maintain a quick and basic approach. Story: 8.5/10 Storywise, Nausicaa combines the environmentalism that was so prominent in Princess Mononoke with a theme of pacifism as we're introduced to a setting 1000 years after civilization was destroyed by Giant Warriors. As toxic gases fill the air and insects have mutated into huge beasts, humanity has succumbed into smaller countries in the few habitable areas. One of these countries is the peaceful valley of the wind, home of Princess Nausicaa. The story is very elaborate with several countries wanting to use the last remaining Giant Warrior for their own purposes. At the core of the warfare that follows the conflict is Nausicaa; a young pacifist who desperately tries to save the rivaling countries from annihilating each other. The narration is a varied mix of lighthearted humor, emotional extravagance and all the other aspects that are required to structure a Ghibli movie. Animation: 8/10 If you're familiar with Ghibli you probably know that you can expect visual splendor even from their older titles. Nausicaa has managed to remain artistically pleasing and presents fluid movement, classical character designs along with frame after frame of memorable creatures and sceneries. The insects in particular are very well animated. Sound: 8/10 Joe Hisaishi didn't quite top the scores he's made for other Ghibli features but the soundtrack in Nausicaa is still impressive. Emotional moments are enhanced almost perfectly with beautiful tunes that go along very well with the solid voice acting. Characters: 8/10 Several different entities with different motives clash together in a battle of stupidity that's likely to ruin any hope of survival for humanity. An intellectual heroine tries to make them realize their mistakes by offering her life in the name of peace. The extremely loveable Nausicaa reaches the peak of her performance when she approaches a ship that constantly fires at her, while stretching her unarmed hands into the air in a plead for ceased fire. Along with other women like Kino (Kino's Journey) and Oscar (Rose of Versailles) she's the best lead Ghibli has ever dashed out, and her characteristics have been copied into nearly every single other protagonist in their movies ever since; for a good reason it seems. Overall: 8/10 I have no idea why I initially thought of this as inferior to other Ghibli movies. I may not hold it as dear as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, but its emotional impact is impossible to deny. When Nausicaa sheds tears for the misunderstood Omhs (insects that, when provoked by humans, go rampage) it's like she sheds tears for humanity itself. Do yourself a favor and watch this!
Story Interesting enough, a little contrived. The story is good, but has the same 'don't make nature mad or it will come get you' idea as a lot of other films and parallels can be drawn with Princess Mononoke. Animation Very well made. Excellent considering the age of this animated feature. Did a lot to create the signature Ghibli style. Sound The vocal performance is very good. I particularly enjoy the performances put in by thebig name dub actors. The music fits well and adds to the films atmosphere throughout. Characters Good characters, go against stereotypes. No character is what you would expect from an animated feature of this age. This is one thing that Hayao Miyazaki does extremely well. You are unsure how each character will act before they are properly introduced. Also since they are not playing out over-used stereotypes, their unpredictability makes them more life like and approachable. Overall Very good, worth a watch. Being the first Ghibli film makes it a must see for any die hard fan, and a good place to start for those who wish to start a collection.
The early 80’s was a time for war dramas to appear and along with Barefoot Gen and Hokuto no Ken, came around the same time this movie. It is the first of numerous family oriented movies made by Hayao Miyazaki, another colossus in the hall of fame, along with the other dudes I mentioned in previous entries. His take on the subject is far more fantasy based, without taking away the actual feeling of dread with what has happened to the world. Miyazaki pretty much brought Disney level of quality in Japanese animation. Sure, Osamu Tezuka in the 60’s had already been influenced by Walt and even surpassed him in thematics. Still, anime productions were up to that point low-budget productions, hardly looking eye-candy enough for mass audiences who demand good visuals. Sounds superficial but it is true that good visuals make good advertisement and most people won’t pay a ticket to go watch a movie with mediocre artwork. To be honest, those two Momotaro movies back in the 40’s easily matched Disney film quality but they were also founded by the military, which never repeated again after the war. And no company wanted to fund so much money into making an animated feature for the still rather small audience of Japanese animation. It wasn’t even close to the several millions of faithful audiences, parents and children going to the cinema in order to watch eye-popping visuals and funny characters. But as I said, the 80’s were the era of change for both the east and the west. Disney started to lose its place at the top as its movies were beginning to not be as interesting as they used to and many had already come into contact with Robotech and a few other anime with interesting concepts and were ready to try something different. Miyazaki finally managed to get his funding as well and eventually created on of the highest budget featured films of that era; the adaptation of his own manga, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.Now before I go on, I must make clear that his original work was still in the making and this was only supposed to be a summary of it. The actual story in the manga is far more elaborate and complicating, longer in duration and far more philosophical than what the movie ended up showing. But for that time it was still the most mature family-oriented animated-movie, and that was enough to deem the project a success. So what is Nausicaa? Is it just a war drama between two nations at war? No, it is also about the shape of the world as well, having turned into a huge poisonous jungle, full of gigantic insectoids that attack humans when provoked. It is also about the relics of an ancient humanity, whose weapons still are found and used in war. It is also about the struggle of a single girl to maintain order and discover a way for mankind to survive the ever growing jungle. Although the way the plot unravels feels simple to grasp for those who lack long-span attention, the themes and symbolisms the movie is filled with are numerous and provide food for thought for those who pay attention to the details. If I could sum the movie’s premise, I would say it is about nature getting angry with mankind and its constant wars and a girl tries to find a way to stop all the impending destruction. So yeah, one could easily label this film as nothing but anti-war propaganda for tree-huggers with a rather simple take on the whole problem. Which is true as far as the plot is concerned but in reality it is a lot more. First of all, having direct messages like “war is bad” and “be good to nature” in a family-oriented film is just fine and expected. Plus, back then such themes were hot topics with the Cold War and the fear of the Amazon forest being levelled in a few decades. So you can’t really blame the film for showing the deepest worries of its time. Plus, it is not exactly happy-go-lucky in its plot either, so one can’t label it kiddie stuff either. Many people in it are killed in rather horrible ways out of human folly and even the villains have their reasons for being… well, not exactly evil but ruthless. It is a savage world after all and each tribe wants to get resources from the other tribe; how hard is it to see it happening? And even the so-called angry nature, it is not presented as good-natured as most western films do. It is in fact shown to be completely neutral and amoral, reacting to humanity’s actions only to prevent further destruction. All that are much more realistic that, let’s say, the plot in Avatar. Visuals aside, that movie had less depth than a rain pond.Thematics aside, there are many other elements to notice in it. Like for example Nausicaa, the main heroine. WHY IS SHE A GIRL??? Surely, back then having such a dynamic character was a role reserved for males, yet all of Miyazaki’s main characters are always girls. So what, is this also some propaganda in favour of feminism as well??? Not at all, Miyazaki loves having young girls as heroes, because it brings out easier the antithesis between their innocence and the cruel world they live in. The most shocking moments in it is when Nausicaa herself, being up to that moment a happy girl trying to help others, is suddenly being taken over by murderous intension after watching her people and family being attacked and killed by invaders. At that moment you really see the shock she goes through and the pain she causes to others in the same way others caused to her, a thing that would feel almost natural and expected if she was a boy. So no, Nausicaa is a great Miyazaki archetype exactly because she IS A GIRL. Also, unlike most of everybody else, Miyazaki never sexualizes her to feel like a thing of male lust. In fact, nobody in the entire movie seems to have a role specialized for his or her genre. Even the invading general is a woman for example and it doesn’t feel weird or sexual to anyone. Miyazaki manages to subvert the whole gender role fuss that is so stereotypical in almost any other story and uses it purely to transmit messages. Heck, we might as well see everybody as asexual, which is again interesting on its own. And he managed to do that by simply giving them all buggy clothes that hide their actual body figures. Everybody in the film wears clothes that he can almost swim in, or really bulky armours, all with the in-story excuse that they protect the body from the dangerous gasses.Gender roles and baggy clothes aside, the very setting of the world is wonderful in a spooky way. The way the poison jungle is depicted and the way the insects in it move and communicate is just special in its own way. Also, Miyazaki loves the feeling of flight, and thus there are numerous scenes where Nausicaa and many others fly in the sky with quite interesting looking flying machines. Thus the entire movie shows a scary world and the wish to escape from its sadness by flying free in the skies. Also, the fight scenes are quite good on their own. There is great variety in the way people and monsters fight, from swords and shields, to muskets, to airships shooting at each other, to crustacean beasts running amok by the thousands and trampling anything in their path, to huge demon machines firing laser beams that level several kilometres in their path. All accompanied with numerous simple to understand dialogues around why people are constantly forced to fight even if they know it is only causing grief. You won’t find this stuff in a typical kiddie movie.By the end of the movie, you actually have managed to understand why everything happens as it does, what are the roots of the problem, and even up until the last minutes you have no idea how all this mess can be solved. You get to understand how everybody feels and acts and why he or she acts as such. It is quite easy to direct your sympathy towards them for all they are and all they try to accomplish, each on their own way. The ending may feel far fetched but in the context of the film it is somewhat excused and if you don’t overthink it, you may actually love the feeling of sadness and hope it is so filled with. It is a really powerful one and it is not about the good hero duelling the evil tyrant or something like that. This movie never befalls into that mediocrity. Thus after all the things you have seen throughout the film, with the scary jungle and the nations at war, and Nausicaa soaring the skies in a quest for redemption, thousands of monsters marching and demon machines rising to turn everything to dust… you get an equally powerful ending which is no longer about the power of weapons or fear or hatred. It is something a lot more buddhistic if I may say and I liked it for what it is all about.Although the movie pales before the manga, it is still a very powerful piece of art that is good to watch no mater how old it becomes. To be blunt and biased about it, Avatar is similar in themes yet complete bull before it. And so are most other movies who try to transmit messages but do it too artificially or in an average way. So yes, I like this movie for all it is and for all it never tried to be. And now for some excused scorings. ART SECTION: 9/10 General Artwork 2/2 (well-made) Character Figures 1/2 (generic) Backgrounds 2/2 (well-made) Animation 2/2 (good) Visual Effects 2/2 (good) SOUND SECTION: 9/10 Voice Acting 3/3 (good) Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series) Sound Effects 3/3 (good) STORY SECTION: 8/10 Premise 2/2 (interesting) Pacing 2/2 (good) Complexity 2/2 (a lot) Plausibility 1/2 (a bit forced but otherwise ok) Conclusion 1/2 (a bit forced but otherwise ok) CHARACTER SECTION: 9/10 Presence 2/2 (strong) Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded) Backdrop 1/2 (simplistic but it’s there) Development 2/2 (a lot) Catharsis 2/2 (a lot) VALUE SECTION: 9/10 Historical Value 3/3 (all-known) Rewatchability 2/3 (high as it has a lot of things going in it) Memorability 4/4 (you betcha!) ENJOYMENT SECTION: 7/10 Assuming the pretenciousness doesn’t kick in, it is a wonderful movie. VERDICT: 8.5/10
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