DM Haight

When the world has been scorched, and the only forests are havens of poison, in a magical tale by one of the most brilliant film makers of this generation, it is up to one girl, a princess no less, to save her people, and the surrounding kingdoms from imminent doom. Hayao Miyazaki’s richly imagined Nausicaa of The Valley of the Wind is a post-apocalyptic tale about the struggle to survive and what it means to be kind in a place where kindness is valued less than clean drinking water. It’s a thousand years since civilization, its apex version anyways, has collapsed. A toxic jungle is creeping forward across the desert, slowly enveloping villages, leaving them ghost towns, and their residents little more than bones. Nausicaa isn’t afraid of the jungle. She knows the dangers, but she is smart enough and patient enough to get in and out unmarked by its treachery. She is in-tune with nature, far more so than her counterparts in the village. She follows the Ohmu tracks and finds a shell, a humongous shell, the likes of which can sustain her village’s need for materials for the foreseeable future. This is her character. She’s is a child of the world, understanding, scientific, patient. She knows the poison spores can kill her, but she can still remark at the beauty, the snow-like way in which they fall upon her as she basks in the forest in her protective suit.

This is a great example of the type of film you can expect from Miyazaki, and it’s a perfect introduction for older audiences to the prolific director’s work. Unlike many of his other pieces, Nausicaa has a great deal of violence ingrained at its core. It’s a film about the aftermath of war, about the decimation mankind inflicted upon itself. What was once lush forest is now desert, and what is still forest is uninhabitable for man. Finally we see ourselves as the outlier, the one separated from the rest of the living world. It’s not that humanity can’t exist, if anything the film shows that it can, under any circumstances, but the message is one that tells us that the world may not want us anymore. It’s a great example of Miyazaki at the helm of one of his more political works. He chooses to delve into the topic of conservation, and working with the planet, and not squeezing it dry of resources. It’s a good thing to think about for older audiences, even after all these years, nearly thirty since the film’s release.

The animation style of the film is early Miyazaki. It’s very easy to see the differences from Nausicaa and Ponyo, but this does not mean that Nausicaa is any less beautiful. What we see is a desert most of the film, but the landscapes and characters are so well conceived that it takes us away from the emotional desert that films such as this can leave us in. It’s a science fiction film with enormous planes and airships, all sinister and yet filled with life. There are gigantic bugs, animated in a unique way, making them seem like they move differently than the rest of the world they live in (a technique used again in Howl’s Moving Castle). The male characters almost unanimously have huge, ridiculous mustaches and eyebrows. And the character designs are not overly complicated. Even Nausicaa herself is simply designed, with a blue jacket, red hair, and a classic face. The world Miyazaki gives us is minimalist for his style, but still incredibly immersive.

We watch as the young woman breaks from her shackles of childhood and tries to emerge as an adult, a leader. The message is simple, and yet one we seem to need pounded into our head: be kind. Nausicaa’s method of breaking into adulthood is through kindness toward everyone and everything. She is unlike almost every female character in the film, in her bravery and her sensibility. She knows that nature is the only way to survive, and her own experimentation leads to drastic discoveries that could save civilization. But those in power do not want to listen, and an invading army bent on destroying the jungle only hits us harder, since it is a mirror image of the fights we still face today. It’s Miyazaki at his most political, mixing violence and naturalism together to create a character who is both intimidating, brave, and most of all, loveable. From the English dub we get voice actors like Patrick Stewart, Shia LeBeóuf, Uma Thurman, Mark Hamil, and Alison Lohman. The top notch cast members only help to deliver the messages this film needs to pound into the minds of the general audiences. The liberal message is one we desperately need to hear, and given the excellent animation style, the well written narrative, and great voice acting, it’s no wonder Miyazaki is still able to make the films he does and still be as successful. Nausicaa is an outstanding film with more to offer with each and every viewing.

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