Hayao Miyazaki is revered as one of the greatest storytellers to grace anime. His imaginative works and touching storylines appeal to the old and young alike. Among his most famous works is Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which asks the difficult questions of whether the apocalypse is really the end, or how man and nature can coexist even in the wake of an antagonistic existence. Despite knowing this from the outset, it’s still amazing to see just how he, and the talent at Studio Ghibli managed to turn what would be the planet’s greatest disaster into such a vision of wonder and excitement.
In an unknown time, and an unknown place, the apocalypse was wrought upon the world. The war, which the survivors refer to as the Thousand Days of Fire, made much of the land uninhabitable, as the toxic jungle, known as the Sea of Corruption spread across the land. A few settlements remain, though they are separated by the wastes. Many dare not enter the wastes, lest they become food for the giant insects that took up residence, including the mighty Ohmu – giant isopods that rule the jungle.
One particular kingdom, the Valley of the Wind, is a verdand land that rests by the oceans. Nausicaa, the princess of the kingdom, is a kind soul whose appearance belies great strength, and the experience of an experienced scavenger and wind-rider. The kingdom’s quiet existence was disrupted when an airship from the neighboring kingdom of Tolmekia crashes and spills its mysterious cargo. Nausicaa rushes to the scene to find a shackled girl. In her dying words, the girl tells Nausicaa that she is Princess Lastelle of Pejite, and the she must destroy the ship’s cargo immediately. This is a wish that sadly remains unfulfilled, as the Tolmekians storm in and capture the Valley of the Wind. The captors plan to take Nausicaa to Tolmekia as a hostage, but are shot down, which leads Nausicaa on the journey of danger and discovery as she tries to return to her kingdom before the invaders, or the expanding Sea of Corruption swallow the Valley of the Wind.
The tale of the Valley of the Wind, the Sea of Corruption, and the massive Ohmu are all intertwined as a smart, subtle allegory. The core philosophies of humanity, from concepts of pacifism to the idea that man will continue to bring about his ruination through war and waste shine through a sharply written tale of heroism, bravery, and a simple desire to survive. The latter becomes especially prominent through the film’s subplot, as tensions mount between the Valley’ residents and the Tolmekians and slowly escalate toward violent rebellion. The destructive oppression of the Tolmekians is an ironic contrast to the pacifistic, nature-loving Nausicaa. Her side of the story is more a tale of wonders, as she explores the Sea of Corruption, and learns the cause of the jungle’s spread.
The world is brought to life with fantastic art and animation. The sight of Nausicaa soaring through the skies on her glider, or the monstrous Ohmu as they lurch across the land is simply breathtaking at first glance. The visuals are complemented by detailed vibrant backgrounds that sport a vibrant, painting-esque quality. To round out an amazing presentation, the film is wrapped in a score by Joe Hisaishi that conveys the extremes of wonder and strife.
Nausicaa is a classic in every sense of the word. It is a film whose quality is that which all anime films, if not all films in general, should aspire to reach. The thoughtful storytelling and dialogue, with the amazing presentation all come together to form an amazing experience that all anime fans should take part in. Indeed, it shouldn’t be a question of “if”, but a question of “when” one should take part in this masterpiece.
A special thanks to my Secret Santa for the recommendation, and to Reverse Thieves for setting the whole thing up!
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