Anime Film Review: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a landmark Japanese anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film, which is based off of Miyazaki’s manga of the same name, was released to Japanese theaters on March 4, 1984. While the film was created before Studio Ghibli was founded, it is still considered by many to be the studio’s first film, since all of the major people in Studio Ghibli were involved with the project. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind won the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize in 1984, and is ranked as one of the 50 greatest science fiction films by the Internet Movie Database.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Sumi Shimamoto, Gorō Naya, Yōji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, and
Iemasa Kayumi

Run Time: 117 minutes
Rated: PG

In the 1980s, a heavily-edited and English-dubbed version of the film titled Warriors of the Wind was released to theaters and on VHS in the United States; however, Miyazaki and fans of Nausicaa tend to strongly dislike this version of the film. An uncut and re-dubbed version was released on February 22, 2005 by Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

The story of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind takes place 1,000 years after the “Seven Days of Fire”; this catastrophe destroyed human civilization and most of Earth’s original ecosystem. A few scattered human settlements survived, but they are isolated from each other by the Sea of Decay, a lethally toxic jungle of fungus swarming with giant insects that seem to come together only to wage war.

The character of Nausicaa was named after the princess in the Odyssey that assisted Odysseus. Her character was also inspired by a Japanese folk hero that is known as “the princess who loved insects,” as well as by the writings of Bernard Evslin. Nausicaa is a princess of the Valley of the Wind, and she possesses an unusual gift for communicating with the giant insects. In particular, she is able to communicate with the Ohmu, which are armored, caterpillar-like insects that are the most intelligent creatures in the Sea of Decay.

She is also skilled at “windriding,” where she flies with an advanced glider-like vehicle with a jet assist called a mowe. Nausicaa frequently explores the Sea of Decay, while wearing a mask, to conduct scientific experiments in an attempt to define the true nature and origins of the toxic world.

The Valley of the Wind is threatened when the state of Pejite unearths a God Warrior embryo; the God Warriors were one of the giant, biological weapons used in the ancient war. The embryo is stolen by the state of Tolmekia; both states hope to use this weapon against each other, and then, against the Sea of Decay. The Tolmekians are attacked by insects while transporting the embryo to their land.

Their ship crashes in the Valley of the Wind, and the next day, the Tolmekians invade the valley to secure and revive the Warrior. The people of the valley are forced into armed resistance, and Nausicaa must find a way to bring an end to the situation.

There’s no doubt that Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind has a strong ecological message in it. While other anime films, such as Origin: Spirits of the Past, have also tried to include an ecological message, I have yet to see an anime film present this concept as strongly as Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind does.

Nausicaa herself is a strong female protagonist. Not only does she care about the people of the Valley of the Wind, but she also cares about the insects who are neighbors with her land. While Nausicaa goes berserk after Princess Kushana and the Tolmekians kill Nausicaa’s father, can you really blame her for acting that way? After Nausicaa is taken hostage along with several of her people, she is able to soothe the insects when the ship they are in crash lands and disturbs some Ohmu. Thanks to Nausicaa’s ability to communicate with the Ohmu, she is able to keep the situations that involve them from getting worse.

This film combines sci-fi, an ecological message, and a strong protagonist to tell a compelling and fantastic story. After watching this film, I could tell why Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is such a highly regarded anime film.

When Disney released this film on DVD, it was released as a two-disc set. The first disc includes three extras. First is a “Behind the Microphone” documentary; it includes interviews with the English dub cast, as well as some footage of the American voice actors recording their parts.

The second is a half-hour documentary titled, “The Birth of Studio Ghibli,” which tells the story about the birth of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, as well as the history of Studio Ghibli. It was a very informative documentary; however, I was a little frustrated that Disney chose not to simply subtitle the documentary. Instead, the translation was as a voice-over done by an English speaker, which ran over the Japanese audio.

The last feature is the original Japanese trailers and TV commercials for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind; this feature ran for about eight-and-a-half minutes.

The second disc just includes a storyboard version of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Once again, I will state that I don’t understand the appeal of watching a storyboard version of the film.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a film that really should be in the home video collection of anime fans who enjoy the works of Hayao Miyazaki.

I wrote this review after watching a copy Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind that my husband purchased for me as a gift.

Additional reviews of Studio Ghibli films:

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