I did not see Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind until it had been out for about 11 years. It was much harder to access works from Japan back in those days. Thankfully, things have changed a lot since those early days of n-th generation VHS tapes crammed as full as possible with anything we could find.
Set 1000 years after the destruction of modern society, Nausicaä and her people live peacefully in the Valley of the Wind. They remain ever vigilant in order to keep the Sea of Decay from encroaching on their land and destroying it. The wind keeps the airborne poisons of the Sea of Decay from making the air they breathe into a poisonous miasma. After a giant airship crashes into one end of the valley, Nausicaä and residents of the valley are drawn into a war they do not want.
Many people consider Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind to be a part of the Studio Ghibli canon. However, it was produced prior to the founding of the studio. The funds raised by the film’s release allowed director Hayao Miyazaki and producer Isao Takahata to form Studio Ghibli with their longtime friend and producer Toshio Suzuki. While produced by Topcraft, the film is now owned entirely by Ghibli and Miyazaki. I consider it one of Miyazaki’s crown jewels.
The animation used in the film was amazing for the time. Ghibli used special techniques to achieve the uneven segmented movement of the Ohmu. It has stunning background work, and intricate character work on the many different types of giant insects. Ghibli has a way of making their works appear simultaneously simple and complicated. Even now, 34 years after its original release, the film looks amazing.
The extremely talented Sumi Shimamoto voices the title character in the original. She brought a kindness and earnestness to the role, making the character simultaneously strong and gentle. She places near the top of my favorite voice actors in Japan. Legendary voice actor Gorō Naya (best known for playing Inspector Zenigata in the Lupin III franchise) really shines as the inimitable Lord Yupa.
Joe Hisaishi’s created his first film score for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and what a score! I could listen to this soundtrack for days and never tire of it. The music evokes a sense of wonder, intensity, and natural majesty. Hisaishi went on to score every Miyazaki film at Studio Ghibli. He is a true master of the film score, and I find it sad he is not more well known in the West.
I love this film. It has an ecological message, but presents it without ruining the story. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is dystopian without being pessimistic. It’s a grand adventure unlike anything produced in the West, and it has a permanent place among my favorite films of all time. I highly recommend it.
Release Date: March 11, 1984 (Japan)
MPAA Rating: PG
Original Title: 風の谷のナウシカ (Kaze no Tani no Naushika)
Language: Japanese, English
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief social drinking)
Language: 1 (mild, infrequent)
Violence: 2 (battles, massive death, some blood, nothing really graphic)