Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, 1984.
Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Featuring the voice talents of Alison Lohman, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Edward James Olmos,and Shia LaBeouf.
GKids has secured the new home video distributor contract for Studio Ghibli films, and they’ve released a big batch of them on Blu-ray, with more bonus features than what was found on the earlier Blu discs. This review covers Nausicaä’ of the Valley of the Wind, which was Hayao Miyazaki’s first movie, although it predated the creation of Studio Ghibli.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is famed Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki’s debut movie, which is an adaptation of his manga of the same name. It was released prior to Miyazaki’s founding of Studio Ghibli, but it’s now part of the company’s stable of films, so it fell under the deal that GKids recently made to take over North American home distributorship of Miyazaki’s movies.
When this movie was released in 1984, I was a teenager who thought he was too cool for anything animated, although I had been exposed to the works of Ralph Bakshi and knew that the medium could be used for more than goofy kids’ stuff. I was wish I had known about Nausicaä back then, even if it had been in the form of the butchered version released by New World Pictures in the United States in 1985. Instead, I discovered Miyazaki through Princess Mononoke and worked my way backward from there, while keeping up with what he’s created since then.
One of the things I find admirable about Miyazaki is his ability to create a fully-realized story world, set a great story in it, and then move on to the next thing. I’ve never gotten the sense that anyone at Studio Ghibli is conducting meetings that include the word “franchise,” unlike Disney, Fox, and pretty much every American studio. While I fully admit I’m a Star Wars and Marvel movies nerd, I’d hate to see the creation of new stories suffocated by a strident desire to turn any successful film into the beginning of a tentpole series.
Set a thousand years after the Seven Days of Fire destroyed civilization, Nausicaä’s eponymous main character is the princess of the Valley of the Wind, which she struggles to keep pristine as never-ending war threatens its existence. One night, an airship crashes in her valley and Nausicaä fails to kill the embryonic bioweapon that’s aboard, despite the lone survivor’s insistence that she must.
Soon, a rival kingdom led by Princess Kushana invades the valley in search of the weapon, and Nausicaä must fight to not only save her land but also restore the balance between humans and nature, which is a theme that runs through many of Miyazaki’s movies. You can watch the film in Japanese with English sub-titles or dubbed with the English-speaking cast, which consists of Alison Lohman, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Edward James Olmos, and Shia LaBeouf (yes, Shia does a good job with his dialogue; he worked on this film before he became a parody of himself).
I watched this film with my ten-year-old son and asked him for his thoughts afterward. Here’s what he had to say: “I love the world and everything it shows. I actually want to see more of the world explored. I also like the connections between the different groups. I love the backstory of it, and how interesting it is. 9/10.”
This movie came to DVD in 2005 and was released on Blu-ray in 2011. This new Blu-ray edition from GKids, which is Studio Ghibli’s new home video distributor, includes the movie on DVD as well as a booklet with statements from Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, Miyazaki, and Nausicaä producer Isao Takahata. The bonus features on the Blu-ray disc expand on what was available previously for this movie:
- Feature-Length Storyboards: This feature presents the movie in the form of Miyazaki’s original storyboards. If you’re really into examining the creative process of bringing a movie from storyboards to the finished form, you’ll want to watch this all the way through (too bad there’s no way to put the movie next to the storyboards), but otherwise, it’s not worth much more than some sampling.
- Audio commentary with key animator Hideaki Anno and assistant director Kazuyoshi Katayama: This is a good track that covers much of the nuts and bolts of the making of the movie, along with some insights into Miyazaki’s use of symbolism. It’s in Japanese with English sub-titles.
- Interview with Toshio Suzuki and Hideaki Anno (42 minutes): This is an audio-only discussion that was recorded for Japanese radio in 2009. It includes English sub-titles, of course, but it’s a bummer that doesn’t include any visuals too. However, it is a worthwhile listen for Miyazaki fans.
- Creating Nausicaä (11 minutes): Miyazaki discusses the movie’s origin as a manga that he created during the early days of his animation career.
- Behind the Microphone (8 minutes): This is an archival piece that was created when the film was dubbed for North American release in the late 90s.
Theatrical trailers round out the disc.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★