Im one of those guys that is incredibly skeptical about so called “Anime Classics” I have been burned and disappointed on more than one occasion. Which is part of the reason why I was so reluctant to actually sit down and watch Hayao Miyazaki’s so called Coup de Gras “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.” This was his first feature on an original project and the beginning of what would be an illustrious career at Studio Ghibli, a studio he pretty much funded off of this film.
I decided to finally take the plunge after going through my entire Ghibli backlog. I am glad to say the hype was true. Nausicaa had production values that were clearly way ahead of its time, a true pioneer and benchmark for what could be done in animation at the time and heck even today. The hand drawn colorful canvas in motion was simply breathtaking to look at and the realisation that one of my favourite scenes in the movie was animated by Hideaki Anno came as no surprise at all.
Visuals aside the most astounding and impactful attributes of this anime are its underlying themes, such as Environmentalism. Sure by now most Miyazaki fans know the man has a fetish for nature and this is his most obvious outlet for the subject in all of his works. I found it quite interesting that he chose a childrens film to “preach” his message, was he trying to instill his beliefs in the children at a young age or was a family film the best way to subtly put his message across to as many people as possible. Either way, Miyazaki finds a way to make you think about the environment in a different light. The Jungle is both a threat and a deliverance to the humans in this world.
Its a threat because it is the home to the generally violent(when provoked) over-sized insects and a deliverance because it takes in all the toxic air that is slowly destroying the planet. Miyazaki manages to create an ironic conundrum that forces the viewer to make an introspective choice as to what they would do in such a situation. i.e resort to violence and destroy the woods that are home to the violent insects or keep the woods and continue to live with the growing threat of being exterminated by said insects. The 3rd choice comes in the form of making peace with nature which is the role that Nausicaa plays.
I also found some underlying themes relating to the use of weapons of mass destruction for war. The scene in which “The Warrior” emerges to destroy the insects is a direct representation of what happened in Hiroshima. The humans from each tribe are constantly at war simply to control this “Warrior” which in the end does more harm than good to the environment. The fact that the very reason the air was poisonous in the first place was because of Fallout, but this didn’t seem to deter the humans from using the “Warrior” at all.
Its a well known fact that Miyazaki is a feminist and this movie is one of the best examples of this fact. Nausicaa manages to be a leader to her people while still maintaining her child like feminine side. Princess Kushana, the leader of the opposing faction happens to be a female as well, but Miyazaki doesn’t just paint characters as black or white. Kushana strongly believes her actions will save the world, and will do anything required to achieve her goal. She is flawed but that’s also what makes her strong.
I think its great that a family film had such deep, thought provoking themes, its because of stellar story telling like this that Miyazaki is held in such high regard. It also helps that the movie had an amazing dub cast and excellent extras that have Director commentaries and a very informative short documentary on how Studio Ghibli was founded. If you are one of the very few people that have not yet seen this Masterpiece of a film. I implore you to do so, it is definitely Studio Ghibli’s best work to date.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is now available on Blu Ray and DVD from Madman Entertainment.