In many ways, Nausicaa was Studio Ghibli’s prototype film. It introduced many factors that would become staples for the studio, the pro-environmentalist message, the strong female protagonist, the highly critical view of violence and, of course, the gorgeous artwork. Nausicaa was produced by Topcraft before the Studio went bankrupt, got bought by Miyazaki and Takahata and became Studio Ghibli. Since Nausicaa was the film to establish the Ghibli formula, and since most of the creative team behind it, including the writer, Miyazaki, went on to found Studio Ghibli, many people count it as the Studio’s first work. Let’s take a look and see how well it holds up.
Our story opens in the toxic jungle, a dense area with poisonous plants and spores everywhere that giant insects make their habitat. We’re introduced to Yupa, a man who wanders around the toxic jungle trying to unravel its mysteries, and our hero, the young wind rider, Princess Nausicaa. They return to the wind valley, a haven where humans can still live peacefully thanks to the wind keeping spores from settling there. They catch up for a while, but all isn’t well. An aircraft crashes and they find themselves in possession of a giant pulsating cocoon. One desired by the powerful armies of two kingdoms, Pejite and Tolmekia. Nausicaa finds herself and her valley caught in the middle of the conflict and has to find a way to safeguard her home and stop the creature in the cocoon from being released. The story structure in this film is impeccable. The pacing is perfect. The silent moments are used superbly. Even the environmentalist message is excellently handled. As is the anti-violence component. Neither one comes across as preachy or like they’ve otherwise been dumbed down. Which is weird given that those are both themes that tend to be done very poorly, especially in movies for kids. The world is spectacularly built and a lot of thought clearly went into all the elements. There’s really nothing the film does badly. Although, if I were going to nitpick, I might say that the ending is a little cheesy. But even then it’s not in a way that’s annoying or feels contrived.
The characters, also excellent. Nausicaa is one of the best protagonists I’ve seen in a long time. The antagonists aren’t just petty or evil for the evils, they have actual motivations that make sense and substance. Even the more minor characters who you don’t see much of feel like actual people. And any named character is going to have a reason to be there. There’s no one who’s extraneous.
The art is amazing. Especially for a film that’s nearly thirty years old. The world is vibrant and beautiful. The backgrounds are stunning. The character designs look nice and the tech just looks really cool. This is simply a gorgeous film.
The film has a really strong cast. Shimamoto Sumi, Naya Goro, Sakakibara Yoshiko… everyone really. The music is… enchanting is probably the best term. It’s always perfectly suited to the situation and serves to just immerse you in the action. And the film is already incredibly enthralling.
The ho-yay factor is a 1/10. There really isn’t any.
Nausicaa of the valley of the wind is simply brilliant. It’s an excellent film with amazing visuals, a compelling story, unforgettable characters, spectacular music and excellent acting. It does everything right and any complaints I might make about it are very minor. Final rating: a perfect ten. If you haven’t seen it, make it a point to. Next week, I’ll look at a more recent Ghibli film, Ponyo.