Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
|Poster art by Raf Banzuela
While technically not a Studio Ghibli film, 1984's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is widely considered the studio's first feature released a year before the studio's inception.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is based on a manga of the same name, written and illustrated by Miyazaki.
The film starts, a thousand years after the fall of industrialized society. A toxic jungle and the creatures within have spread to threaten the last remnants of the human race.
Nausicaä, the Princess of the Valley of the Wind, is an adventurous, brilliant, and kindhearted girl who explores the jungle and has learned to live harmoniously with its inhabitants, the Ohm (giant trilobite like insects). The people of the Valley of the Wind become embroiled in a war between Pejite and Tolmekia and soon their way of life as they know it falls under attack.
The English voice cast for Ghibli films has always been a nice icing on the cake for me. They are always able to bring out some big name talent but they never seem to detract from the film itself. There were some Ghibli films dubbed before this one despite them being made later. The dub came in 2005, 21 years after the original release.
Some anime purists will only watch with the original Japanese audio but I think that you can be distracted from Miyazaki's stories and visuals by having to read subtitles. I prefer the English dubs but watch it the way that feels right for you.
Alison Lohman voices the titular Princess Nausicaä. She gives her an innocence and sweetness that works so well for the character. Patrick Stewart nails his role (I mean when does he not?) as Lord Yupa, a great warrior and sort of uncle-type figure for Nausicaä. Uma Thurman and Chris Sarandon play our Tolmekian "bad guys" Kushana and Kurotowa. Shia LaBeouf as Asbel is the only one that slightly takes you out of the moment because he is so distinctively Shia LaBeouf.
Rounding out the voice cast are Luke Skywalker, Admiral Adama, Ariel, Agnes Skinner, and Frollo as the narrator. I would have used their actual names but where's the fun in that. It's so much more confusing this way.
The animation is vibrant albeit a bit dated but I mean it's been over 35 years so you can't really knock it for that. The design aesthetic of the world, the costumes, and the Ohm is eerily beautiful which I find rings true with a lot of the rest of this movie.
Apart from the iconic artwork, the music is the stuff of wonders. There is a magic to it that you cannot always explain. In my eyes Joe Hisaishi is to Miyazaki as John Williams is to Steven Spielberg. Miyazaki is perhaps not as prolific, but Spielberg doesn't have to draw his own movies. I could ramble endlessly but I should keep it short.
I am certainly no expert but a loving fan. If you want to learn more about the studio and some of the history and inner workings check out The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.
In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind we see recurring themes that Miyazaki likes to touch on and does in his other films. Living harmoniously with nature, love and family, and his love of planes and airships are a couple that really stick out.
I have seen this movie many times and I never tire of watching it. As of right now this is in my top 5 Ghibli films but after re-watching them all this could very well change. Even from the start, Miyazaki always strove to showcase strong and complex female characters in his films, whether they be heroines, villains, or minor or support characters. That respect for female characters is one thing that keeps me coming back. The studio has come a long way from it's unofficial start with Nausicaä in 1984 but it's still an important chapter and one I wholeheartedly recommend.
- I was trying to find a good poster image for this film and I stumbled upon this great Filipino artist Raf Banzuela. Definitely check out his work here or on Instagram.
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind marks the first feature partnering Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder Isao Takahata, and the brilliant composer Joe Hisaishi.
- Joe Hisaishi's "Official" YouTube channel has been posting a lot more in the last year so you can check out a lot of his (mostly Ghibli) work there.
- This is Hayao Miyazaki's second feature film, his first was The Castle of Cagliostro based on the Lupin III manga series.
- This post is a lot longer than I wanted it to be so I think I need to make things more concise or else I will never get to them all.