Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Japanese voice acting by Sumi Shimamoto, Goro Naya, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Yōji Matsuda, Iemasa Kayumi
English voice acting by Alison Lohman, Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman, Shia LaBeouf, Chris Sarandon
Review by Jordan
“It’s so beautiful. It’s hard to believe these spores could kill me.”
The post-apocalyptic world of the Valley of the Wind, bordered by the poisonous forest and independent to the neighbouring kingdoms of Tolmekia and Pejite is that of freedom of imagination, where a prophesy predicts that a vividly described saviour would descend onto a golden field to reinstate peace between humanity and the creatures of the Earth. The feared, giant insects of the uninhabitable forest that spreads further towards civilisation, led by the formidable, trilobite-in-appearance Ohm, are communicated with by the Valley’s Princess Nausicaä, who wishes to heal all of the suffering endured in the aftermath of the Seven Days of Fire a thousand years ago.
When a Tolmekian cargo ship crash lands in the Valley, killing all of its passengers including a Pejite hostage who pleads with Nausicaä for the cargo to be destroyed before she dies, a strange, living organism is discovered that soon has Princess Kushana of Tolmekia and her troops invade to reclaim it. This organism is revealed to be a link to the past chiliad, and its existence threatens the co-existence of all the land’s inhabitants.
Nausicaä is one the finest heroes of Japanese animation, and Hayao Miyazaki’s pre-Ghibli masterpiece is in many ways his most immense and significant achievement. Through her complex character, being at once a warrior and a pacifist feeling immense sadness at the tendency for humankind to look to war for resolution or response, Miyazaki pioneered all that the studio would represent; stories that lean to hope and optimism in the face of adversity and loss. The sudden murder of her father at the hands of the conniving Officer Kurotowa enrages her to slay several of his guards, before the legendary swordsman Lord Yupa intervenes, and the devastation she emits is palpable as she falls to the floor. She seeks safety for her people and is ashamed that her own hands are capable of violence, seeing parallels to the nature of the creatures who are angered only when threatened and otherwise live in peace.
Environmentalist themes, which Miyazaki would later explore in Princess Mononoke, are of course present, but in using such tremendous scope to craft a world built on fear and irrationality, what we’re made to consider is the bravery it takes to defy a force thought irrepressible when a more hopeful resolution is within our grasp. The warring kingdoms of Tolmekia and Pejite are blind to the devastation of their plots, and each justify their actions as the lesser of two evils. Nausicaä is an optimist, but boasts the intelligence and strong desire to achieve harmony in spite of the progressively worsening situation unfolding around her; the moments of fear she feels are subsequently of tremendous effect, as she is beloved and respected by all who would see the weight placed on her shoulders.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is the type of immersive science-fiction journey you wish would never end, with a tone all to itself crafted from the courage of its hero and alien environments pre-dating Planet Zebes of Metroid. Every ounce of dialogue and lore feels important, as do all the flora and fauna that populate the dense, mysterious forest, making Miyazaki’s second feature film his most influential, and perhaps his true masterpiece.
5 golden tentacles out of 5