Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Humanity has polluted the world far beyond recognition in a great war. Insect life has evolved into the manifestation of the world’s anger with humanity, with the Giant Warriors keeping the insects in check. Enter Nausicaa, the princess of the Valley of the Wind who has a strong affinity for nature. Things become problematic when the nation of Tolmekia invades, hoping to unite the people of the Valley of the Wind with themselves in order to destroy the world-consuming Sea of Decay.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ, kaze no tani no naushika), like Spirited Away, is a film animated by Studio Ghibli under the direction of Miyazaki Hayao. However, while Spirited Away is a good example of modern Miyazaki, Nausicaa is definitely something that represents classic Miyazaki.
Needless to say, Nausicaa is a movie that is epic in just about every dimension. Nausicaa is based on a manga series of the same name, also written by Miyazaki. I must say that he created a terrific, post-apocalyptic world. In general, the anime industry is on no shortage of post-apocalyptic shows, but Miyazaki did a good job of making the world in Nausicaa unique. In fact, it feels like many later anime tried to borrow a few pages from Miyazaki’s notebook (Last Exile comes to mind) in creating their own universes.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind also had a terrific cast of characters. I think a trademark of a good story is that it’s really difficult to really identify anyone as the “bad guy”. Even as Tolmekia invaded the Valley of the Wind and murdered Nausicaa’s father in cold blood, you can see that they, in their own eyes, were perfectly justified in their actions. Of course, as seen in several other Miyazaki movies, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind featured a strong female lead in the title character. I did like how her strength was depicted, and by that I mean she is strong enough to be perfectly honest about her own feelings about things.
Being that Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a nearly 30-year-old movie, it goes without saying that it doesn’t exactly look like modern anime. Nonetheless, I can tell Ghibli spent a lot of time, effort, and money in creating this movie. As a result, you can really see how meticulous the animators were in bringing this movie to life. Of course since they didn’t have the aid of computers, you can’t see the finer details like hair moving like you can in Spirited Away, but Nausicaa is still a great example of better-looking anime from the 1980s.
The voice-acting was terrific as well. Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro (1979) veteran Shimamoto Sumi impressed Miyazaki so much in her voicing of Clarisse that she won the role of the title character in Nausicaa. Despite being 30 as of filming, Shimamoto was truly convincing as a teenage girl. Sakakibara Yoshiko as Kushana and Naya Goro as Lord Yupa also stuck out from the cast among the better voice actors in the movie.
Like the later Spirited Away, Nausicaa was scored by Joe Hisaishi. I feel like the score was like the Girl with a curl in that the good pieces were really good while there were a few that made me cringe a little. I thought the theme that played during the opening titles was absolutely fantastic, but some of the action scenes had some rather ill-fitting 80s synthesizer pop music. Thankfully, said pop tunes only appeared notably in a couple scenes, but Nausicaa still could have benefited from their removal.
The biggest issue I had with the movie was that the ending felt a little rushed. While everything was tied up at the end, I would have liked a little more explanation of certain elements. I think it may be because the movie was already at about the two-hour mark in length, and Ghibli felt the extra bit of exploration was not worth the cost of animating more scenes; let me reiterate, this movie was pretty clearly an expensive production.
Nonetheless, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is definitely representative of the better Miyazaki movies I have seen so far, and it’s fair to say that it is representative of the better anime movies I have seen in general. Even if you don’t like anime, you need to see Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.