My first movie for the year 2015! I surely spent the 117 minutes of my life well watching this one. Another Hayao Miyazaki masterpiece with a heroine in the character of Nausicaa, this film boasts of a great story with well-made plot twists.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a 1984 Japanese animated post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure film, written and directed by the great Hayao Miyazaki, based on his own 1982 manga of the same name. Isao Takahata produced the film for Tokuma Shoten and Hakuhodo, and Top Craft animated the film. The musical genius, Joe Hisaishi provided the music. This was released in Japan on March 11, 1984. Although created before Studio Ghibli was founded, this film is considered to be the beginning of the studio and is often included as part of the Studio’s works, including the Studio Ghibli Collection DVDs and Blu-rays. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nausica%C3%A4_of_the_Valley_of_the_Wind_%28film%29)
This Miyazaki masterpiece frequently ranked among the best animated films in Japan and is seen as a seminal influence on the development of anime, as the film’s success led to the foundation of Studio Ghibli and many other anime studios. Anime News Network’s Theron Martin praised the film for its character designs, as well as Hayao Miyazaki’s direction and Joe Hisaishi’s score. He also said that the film “deserves a place on any short list of all-time classic anime movies.” On the other hand, Commonsense Media, which serves to inform parents about media for children, rated the film positively and cited its good role models and positive messages, but also warns parents about its dramatic setting and violent scenes while Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 83% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 11 reviews with an average rating of 7.8/10 as of August 2013. Like all Studio Ghibli films, this has been a large box office hit in Japan. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nausica%C3%A4_of_the_Valley_of_the_Wind_%28film%29)
As stated earlier, the main subject of the story is Nausicaä, a young princess of the Valley of the Wind who got involved in a struggle with Tolmekia, a kingdom who attempts to utilize an ancient weapon to fully eradicate a jungle of mutant giant insects. Nausicaä, knowing the consequences of such thoughtless actions decided to make her move to stop the Tolmekians from destroying the jungle. Preventing the Tolmekians from doing what they planned was not an easy feat and she had to go through several adversities before succeeding.
The film opens with a scene of a heavily polluted land, with Lord Yupa checking the remains of a village and with the narration, “A thousand years have passed since the collapse of the industrial civilization, a toxic jungle now spreads threatening the survival of the last of the human race.” This is perhaps the most powerful opening acts I’ve ever seen in an animated film in a long time. The narration with the destroyed earth as its background gave the movie the ability to immediately send a powerful message to its viewers.
A few minutes later, Nausicaa, the swift, cheerful and peace-loving princess of the Valley of the Wind, appears wearing her usual ‘princess warrior’ outfit with a mask, riding her glider and then landing into the toxic forest to explore its most feared ‘treasures’. She then starts to go deeper into the jungle and eventually found an ‘ohm’ shell. She has managed to befriend the Toxic Jungle since she was little (as seen in the latter part of the film). The Princess has this sort of ‘mysterious power’ which allows her to communicate with the jungle and all the creatures in it. She understands the jungle more than anyone else and often travels on a compact jet-powered glider in order to find out about the origins of the Toxic Jungle, further understand its nature, and even find a cure for both humans and the world, most especially find a cure for his dying father.
The conflict with the Tolmekians started when their aircraft, carrying the lethal warrior and a prisoner, Princess of Lastelle of Pejite, crashed near the Valley of the Wind. Nausicaa seeing the incident unfold immediately went to rescue the passenger on board. However, the princess of Pejite died after a few minutes leaving Nausicaa with an important ‘task’– that is to completely burn the aircraft which carries the embryo of this so-called Giant Warrior. Shortly after, troops from the Kingdom of Tolmekia invaded the Valley of the Wind and took a hold of the embryo.
It was revealed later on that these Tolmekians, led by Princess Kushana and Officer Kurotowa were planning to eradicate the Toxic Jungle with the use of the Giant Warrior. This Giant Warrior turned out to be the target of the troops from Pejite. It was originally in the latter’s possession but was stolen by the Tolmekians.
Nausicaa, together with five other villagers from the Valley of the Wind, were then forced to come with Kushana who is leaving for Pejite. The Princess and her people had no choice but be held as hostages in order to protect the rest of the villagers. On their journey, Kushana’s aircraft had a battle against a gunship operated by Asbel from the Kingdom of Pejite. Kushana’s troops were eventually devoured by fire while Nausicaa and her people survived the close encounter. It turned out that Kushana was still alive so the former decided to take her with them. Nausicaa found out that Asbel (the one from the Kingdom of Pejite) may still be alive as well so she decided to go to the Toxic Jungle alone to save the young warrior.
One important part of the film was the scene where Nausicaa, having successfully saved Asbel, fell into the seemingly bottom part of the Toxic Jungle. Nausicaa and Asbel explored this part of the forest. It didn’t take long for the Valley of the Wind Princess to realize how the Toxic Jungle evolved and works in order to protect every living thing in it. The Toxic Jungle plants purify the polluted topsoil, producing clean water that remains hidden underground.
Asbel and Nausicaa returned to Pejite only to find out that this too has been destroyed by giant insects. They met other villagers from this land who were riding a ship then. At that moment, the Pejite leader had already set a trap to have the giant insects destroy the Valley of the Wind so they can get the Giant Warrior back. Upon knowing this, Nausicaa, who aggressively tried to stop them with their plan, was held hostage by the Pejite troops. Fortunately, Asbel and his mother together with a Pejite girl helped her get out of the prison so she can warn her people.
Nausicaa was able to finally travel back to the Valley of the Wind and on her way, she saw two men from the Kingdom of Pejite with a baby ohm tied to their aircraft. They were luring all the other giant ohms. Nausicaa tried to stop them even though they were already firing at her. The Warrior Princess successfully put a halt on their plan and taking over the baby ohm, she communicated to the other giant insects, as if talking to them like they were actually humans, and pleaded for them to stop their move and go back to the jungle. She even jumped in front of all the other giant insects which seemingly cost her life.
By some sheer magical event, the baby ohm started healing Nausicaa’s wounds. The rest of the insects calmed down and also helped in healing Nausicaa. Rising from the dead, Nausicaä then starts to dance on top of the hundreds of glowing golden tentacles. Her clothes turned into blue because of the ohms’ blood. Dancing on top of the glowing golden tentacles was like walking through the golden field. This was seen as the fulfillment of the prophecy – in which after thousands of years, a warrior clad in blue will appear and restore the balance of the earth. The Ohmu and Tolmekians left the Valley of the Wind afterwards while the surviving Pejites remain with the Valley people, helping them rebuild and restore their land.
Hayao Miyazaki really knows how to use his inspirations (he was inspired by a range of works including Ursula K. Le Guin‘s Earthsea, Brian Aldiss‘s Hothouse, Isaac Asimov‘s Nightfall, and J.R.R Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nausica%C3%A4_of_the_Valley_of_the_Wind_%28film%29) in order to craft a story which tackles relevant issues faced by the human race. This is one of the many reasons I admire him. The poisoning of Minamata Bay and how nature responded and endured to live in a poisoned environment sparked Hayao Miyazaki’s imagination. This led him to create the polluted world of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
It’s also good to see empowered female characters in his films. Just like in his other works (Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke to mention a few), old female supporting characters were always present. In this movie, Obaba played the role of the ‘wise man’ of the village who guided the people in the important decisions of their lives. She was also the one who spoke about the prophecy to Lord Yupa and Nausicaa.
At first, I saw the Tolmekians and Pejites as the villains in this movie. The Tolmekians, heartlessly killing innocent people from the Valley of the Wind and taking into hostage Nausicaa and the other villagers was really cruel. Also, the Pejites who planned to destroy the Valley of the Wind just so they can get the Giant Warrior back was utterly selfish. But then again, if we will reassess what the film is trying to say, we will see that the Tolmekians and Pejites per se are not really the antagonists in this story, but the greed and fear that they have unconsciously fed within them. Greed because of that strong urge to take over possession of the Giant Warrior so they can secure their safety in the future and fear because of that distressing emotion strongly aroused by the feeling of danger due to the existence of the Toxic Jungle (which is said wipe out all of the human race in the years to come).
Nausicaa, the young and brave princess of the Valley of the Wind showed such unconditional love to the Toxic Jungle and to everything that’s in it. Because of her courage and hard work, she was able to protect the dreaded jungle and lead her people to respect, if not love, and understand nature which is rendered as welcoming, spiritual and restorative for those who enter it calmly and sincerely.
I would say Nausicaa is one of the best heroine I’ve ever seen in an animated film. She is not only a brave warrior, but also a loving daughter and a genuine friend to all the people of the Valley of the Wind, especially to children.
I like the fact that this movie’s theme focuses on environmental concerns. It just shows that Hayao Miyazaki also wants to use his works in sending important messages to the public. No wonder when the film was released in 1984, it came with a recommendation from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The story and the characters were well thought of and the script was well written. I would also like to cite the musical scoring in this film led by Joe Hisaishi. Such powerful melody made the film even stronger and more heart-rending.
Truly a great movie!! To all the anime fans out there, this film is a must watch!
(Photos used are not mine, credits to their rightful owners)