Thursday, August 10, 2023

Review: "NAUSICAA IN THE VALLEY OF THE WIND" Soars to the Animation Heavens

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 36 of 2023 (No. 1925) by Leroy Douresseaux

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Kaze no Tani no Naushika – original Japanese title
Running time:  117 minutes (1 hour, 57 minutes)
MPAA – PG for violence
DIRECTOR:  Hayao Miyazaki
WRITER:  Hayao Miyazaki (based upon the manga by Hayao Miyazaki)
PRODUCER:  Isao Takahata
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Yasuhiro Shimizu, Koji Shiragami, Yukitomo Shudo, and Mamoru Sugiura
EDITORS: Naoki Kaneko, Tomoko Kida, and Shoji Saka
COMPOSER:  Joe Hisaishi


Starring:  (voices) Sumi Shimamoto, Goro Naya, Ichiro Nagai, Hisako Kyoda, Yoji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Iemasa Kayumi, Kohei Miyauchi, Joji Yanami, Minoru Yada, Mina Tominaga, Mahito Tsujimura, and Rihoko Yoshida

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a 1984 Japanese animated, post-apocalyptic, fantasy film from director Hayao Miyazaki.  The film is based on Miyazaki's manga (Japanese comic), also titled Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which first began publication in 1982.  Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind the movie focuses on a princess who is both warrior and pacifist and her desperate struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and her homeland.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind opens one thousand years after the event known as “the Seven Days of Fire.”  It was an apocalyptic war that destroyed civilization and caused an ecological collapse, creating something called “the Sea of Decay.”  This is a poisonous forest of fungal life and plants that swarm with giant mutant insects, the largest and most dangerous being the the trilobite-like and armored “Ohm.”  The poison from the plants can kill humans, and every day, the Sea of Decay spreads, encroaching on what little open land remains.

Nausicaä (Sumi Shimamoto) is a teenage warrior and princess of the Valley of the Wind, a land that has remained, thus far, free of the Sea of Decay.  Riding the wind and sky in a powered glider, Nausicaä explores the jungles of the Sea of Decay and communicates with its creatures.  That is how she is reunited with the explorer and great swordsman, Lord Yupa Miralda (Goro Naya), who has returned to meet with Nausicaä's father, Jihl (Mahito Tsujimura), the King of the Valley of the Wind.

But tragedy strikes.  The Valley of the Wind is soon at the epicenter of two warring nations, the Kingdom of Tolmekia and PejitePrincess Kushana (Yoshiko Sakakibara) has led the Tolmekian Frontier Forces into the Valley.  Thus, Nausicaä must forge a relationship with Prince Asbel of Pejite (Yoji Matsuda), but there is something worse than two warring nations.  Destruction is headed towards the Valley of the Wind, and it will take all of Nausicaä's talents, skills, and tricks to save her home.

I have previously reviewed the following Miyazaki-directed films:  The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), Howl's Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008), and The Wind Rises (2013).  As Netflix is shutting down its DVD-by-mail division, I am hoping to get to the Miyazaki films that I have not previously watched.

Apparently, the work of the legendary French comic book creator, Jean “Moebius” Giraud (1938-2012), influenced Miyazaki in the creation of his manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.  The influence of Moebius remains with Miyazaki's film adaptation of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.  I also see the influence of the famed animation director, Ralph Bakshi, especially of his 1977 fantasy film, Wizards.  J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings novels (1954-55) are clearly influences, and Frank Herbert's famed science fiction novel, Dune (1965), is also an influence.  In fact, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind the film would arrive in theaters almost nine months before the first film adaption of Herbert's novel, director David Lynch's 1984 film, Dune.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a beautifully and practically designed film in the sense that the environments have both a sense of naturalism and realism to them while the insects are fantastical creations that seem more practical than impractical because they are based on real insects.  This makes the world of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind seem like a credible future world or at least genuine post-apocalyptic future.  Yes, Nausicaä's glider is impractical, but the animation gives it such beauty in motion that I believe in it and I believe in the way Nausicaä flies it.

The film's plot and subplots are strongly environmental and ecological and the conflict is a series of familiar tribal tropes.  However, what carries plot and narrative are the inventive and engaging characters.  Every players, regardless of the size of his or her role, is inviting and intriguing.  Yes, Nausicaä is a star born, a heroine out of fairy tale, folklore, and mythology who captures hearts and holds our imaginations captive.  Still, the denizens of the Valley and the feuding and conniving citizens of Tolmekia and Pejite are a delightful bunch, not good and evil, so much as they are selfish, but likable, each in his or her own way.  The legendary Yupa, like Nausicaä, stands as a typical heroic figure, although he stands behind Nausicaä.

A long time ago, I told a fellow Miyazaki fan that Spirited Away was my favorite of the director's films.  He insisted that I see Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.  Now, I'm not so sure which is my favorite.  Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is like no other animated feature film, and I certainly consider it one of the greatest that I have ever seen.

10 of 10

Thursday, August 10, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.



No comments:

Post a Comment