“In a post apocalyptic world, a princess must stop a kingdom from using a weapon that will wipe out all of the plant and wildlife in existence.”
Directed by: Hayo Miyazaki Rated: PG, 117 minutes
The world as we know it has ended. 1000 years ago, a war broke out that devastated humanity and left it in ruins. In humanity’s place, a jungle has arisen that is toxic to any human who sets foot in it. Giant mutated bugs and plant life have become the dominating species. Those humans that remain live in scattered settlements away from the jungle, but the jungle inches closer with every passing year. One of these valleys, the Valley of the Wind, believe in a prophecy. A warrior “clad in blue and surrounded by fields of gold” will one day reunite man and nature. That prophecy keeps them going and motivated to live on despite their circumstances. This is the story of Nausicaa, the Princess of the Valley of the Wind.
Before Hayo Miyazaki was the animating genius that we know and love today, he spent a lot of his time writing and illustrating manga. Probably his best selling and most well known manga though was the seven volume post-apocalyptic fantasy tale Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Written over a span of twelve years (1982 to 1994), Nausicaa sold millions and inspired many to go on to write and create their own fantasy world, including Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the Final Fantasy series. So of course it made sense to adapt it into a feature film right? Tokuma Shoten thought so when he approached Miyazaki, who agreed to have the film made on the basis that he wrote and directed it. Miyazaki at the time only had The Castle of Cagliostro under his belt (among some storyboarding and art work in the past), so it was a bit of a gamble, but the gamble paid off. Nausicaa is not only one of Miyazaki’s best films, it’s one of the more important animes to ever be released.
But Nausicaa almost didn’t get the love and attention it deserves on our side of the shores. After the success of Nausicaa in Japan, New World Pictures created an English dub of the film and released it under the name “Warriors of the Wind.” It was a heavily edited version of the movie, made to be more oriented towards children, and almost all the heart and meaning of the movie was removed. Miyazaki was highly disappointed with what New World Pictures did and because of that created his now famous “no-edits” policy in regard to English dubs of his films. In 2005, Disney re-dubbed and re-released the movie, to much more positive reactions. While not 100% perfect, the Disney dub is a fantastic representation of the original Japanese film and is a worthwhile alternative for those who might not want to read subtitles.
Alison Lohman (Drag Me to Hell) plays the titular character and really brings a lot of heart to the script. She has such a light voice, but can really carry a lot of passion within it. Her optimism and kindness never feel forced and you find yourself consistently rooting for her. Shia LeBeouf (Transformers) plays Asbel, the boy Nausicaa befriends and helps stop the Tolmekians with and he brings with him a charm that he seems to have lost in his later works. His determination is evident and you can really see that he’s putting his all into it, not just being a celebrity who’s there doing a voice. The rest of the cast is incredibly solid, which includes Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Edward James Olmos and Frank Welker, and all of them bring their A-game. It’s also worth noting that this was one of Tony Jay’s (Hunchback of Notre Dame) last performances and, while his part is small, it’s always to hear his soothing Shakespearean voice.
The animation is pure Miyazaki at his best, and some of the effects they use are incredibly innovative for their time. Part of that is due to Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno, who handled a lot of the digital effects as well as a lot of the action scenes in the movie. Things flow incredibly well and while some effects could seem slightly stilted compared to today’s CGI-driven films, it still holds up incredibly well. The aesthetic of the film is brilliant, mixing fantasy, futuristic, and an almost Middle-Ages esque feel together and it really makes the film feel unique. You can see how creators could get inspired by the films look and design.
My only gripe, and it’s a small one, is sometimes the film gets bogged down by an unnecessary amount of subplots that don’t really seem to go anywhere. Nausicaa, the manga, is a massive story and has a lot of depth and complexity to it. The convenience that it had was that it could spread everything out and really get to the heart of all of these extra stories. The problem with a two-hour movie is by putting in all these extra stories without a ton of payoff, it can make the film drag and seem too busy for its own good. It doesn’t detract too much from my overall enjoyment of the film, as the main story, the message of environmentalism without shoving it down our throats or getting preachy, and the incredibly likable characters definitely help, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Overall Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a fantastic, deep, well acted, incredibly animated, beautifully designed Hayao Miyazaki classic that all anime fans should definitely go out and see. Sometimes it can drag thanks to an abundance of subplots, but that doesn’t hurt the film too much in the long run. If you have any desire to see this movie, please by all means do so. It’s two hours well spent.
My Verdict: 9 0ut of 10