After The Castle of Cagliostro, Hayao Miyazaki made Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Although this is generally considered a Studio Ghibli film, it is actually not. Studio Ghibli was not founded until a year later. However, it is still included in the ˜Studio Ghibli Collection’ DVD series. Miyazaki was approached to allow an adaptation of the manga he wrote, and he initially refused. He only agreed to have an adaptation made if he could direct it. They agreed, and NausicaÃ¤ of the Valley of the Wind was born.
It’s original North American release was entitled Warriors of the Wind. However, it was cut so much that most of the film’s message was gone, most of the characters changed, and it told a different story in order to make the film more marketable to kids. After this, Studio Ghibli made an ironclad deal with Disney which specified ˜no cuts’. And thank god they did. Imagine Princess Mononoke as a children’s film!
In Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind’s future, the world has been torn apart and the planet’s ecosystem has been destroyed. A ˜toxic forest’ dominates most of the land, contained thousands of spores that kill humans. Insects have also evolved into hideous bug-like creatures that humans see as aggressive killing machines. Various settlements of humans have found pockets of land that are protected from the toxic forest. One of these settlements is the ˜Valley of the Wind’. Nausicaa (Sumi Shimamoto), the princess of the Valley of the Wind, is a very skilled fighter, but is also thoughtful, kind, and peace-loving. Everyone wants to destroy the toxic forest. Everyone except Nausicaa, who says they should learn to understand it before they try and kill it. When she investigates more, she discovers a lot of things about the toxic forest, as her and her friends try discover whether or not the human race is doomed to extinction.
Yes, the film has a strong environmental message. However, the difference between this and things like Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, is that this is, wait for it, subtle. That right. An environmental message in an animated feature that is subtle. The message creeps in the dialogue and it feels like it’s actually for the story and not so the developer can shove their ideals down our throat. The story is well-crafted and is very engaging (in typical Miyazaki fashion), and you really do care about the characters. The ending climax is extremely intense and dark, and it firmly makes sure you know that this is not a kid’s film and does have some adult things in it. That’s not to say no child can watch it, but maybe wait until they’re about 11 or so, so they’ll find the intense/violent scenes thrilling rather than upsetting.
The film does have it’s problems, though. For one, it can get rather confusing at times. There’s about 4 sub plots going on at once and it keeps jumping back and forth between them. You start to wish that they just would simplify it down and stick to one or two stories. A couple of the characters seem pointless (seriously, what was up with that psychic woman?), and sometimes they don’t explain things all that well.
These are only minor nit-picks, though, as Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a very good film. It has superb animation (far superior to the animation in The Castle of Cagliostro), great voice acting , and characters that feel like real people put in real situations.