Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a landmark Japanese anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film, which is based off of Miyazaki's manga of the same name, was released to Japanese theaters on March 4, 1984. While the film was created before Studio Ghibli was founded, it is still considered by many to be the studio's first film, since all of the major people in Studio Ghibli were involved with the project. Nausicaa won the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize in 1984, and is ranked as one of the 50 greatest science fiction films by the Internet Movie Database.
In the 1980s, a heavily-edited and English-dubbed version of the film titled Warriors of the Wind was released to theaters and on VHS in the United States. Miyazaki and fans of Nausicaa tend to strongly dislike this version of the film. An uncut and re-dubbed version was released on February 22, 2005 by Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
The story of Nausicaa takes place 1,000 years after the "Seven Days of Fire." This catastrophe destroyed human civilization and most of Earth's original ecosystem. A few scattered human settlements survived, but they are isolated from each other by the Sea of Decay, a lethally toxic jungle of fungus swarming with giant insects that seem to come together only to wage war.
The character of Nausicaa was named after the princess in the Odyssey that assisted Odysseus. Her character was also inspired by a Japanese folk hero that is known as "the princess who loved insects," as well as by the writings of Bernard Evslin. Nausicaa is a princess of the Valley of the Wind, and she possesses an unusual gift for communicating with the giant insects. In particular, she is able to communicate with the Ohmu, which are armored, caterpillar-like insects that are the most intelligent creatures in the Sea of Decay.
She is also skilled at "windriding," where she flies with an advanced glider-like vehicle with a jet assist called a mowe. Nausicaa frequently explores the Sea of Decay, while wearing a mask, to conduct scientific experiments in an attempt to define the true nature and origins of the toxic world.
The Valley of the Wind is threatened when the state of Pejite unearths a God Warrior embryo; the God Warriors were one of the giant, biological weapons used in the ancient war. The embryo is stolen by the state of Tolmekia; both states hope to use this weapon against each other, and then, against the Sea of Decay. The Tolmekians are attacked by insects while transporting the embryo to their land.
Their ship crashes in the Valley of the Wind, and the next day, the Tolmekians invade the valley to secure and revive the Warrior. The people of the valley are forced into armed resistance, and Nausicaa must find a way to bring an end to the situation.
This DVD release contains two discs. The second disc just contains the storyboard version of the film, while the first disc contains three extras. First is a "Behind the Microphone" documentary; it includes interviews with the English dub cast, as well as some footage of the American voice actors recording their parts.
The second is a half-hour documentary titled, "The Birth of Studio Ghibli," which tells the story about the birth of Nausicaa, as well as the history of Studio Ghibli. It was a very informative documentary; however, I was a little frustrated that Disney chose not to simply subtitle the documentary. Instead, the translation was as a voice-over done by an English speaker, which ran over the Japanese audio.
The last feature is the original Japanese trailers and TV commercials for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind; this feature ran for about eight-and-a-half minutes.
The film is a fantastic story with environmental undertones. The writing and storytelling, the lush animation, and the music combine to make this film a masterpiece. After watching the film, I can definitely say that it's not an all-ages film. Between some of the shots included in the film, combined with how the story is told, I would feel most comfortable recommending this film for anyone 13 and older.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD that my husband bought for me as a gift.