Guap & Omni Review: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

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The following is a joint review of the movie, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,
by Guaporense and Omnizoa.
I haven't been on these forums very long, but I've certainly been around long enough to get what I believe is a fairly solid grasp of Guaporense's approach to movies, particularly anime.

It's plain enough to see that Guaporense and I differ in our views on a number of subjects relating to how we approach movies as well as televised anime. Some works which he enjoys I simply cannot share his interest in, and I'm sure much the same could be said about some of my choices in anime. We've even argued over how movies should be judged and what merits should be prioritized which I'm sure is usually a productive conversation, but I think we still remain at odds in most cases.

One thing it seems we can definitely agree on though, is a shared appreciation for the movie, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the first of Hayao Miyazaki's original directed work. I wanted to do this cross review with Guaporense because I thought it would provide an enlightening contrast between our approaches to the movie as well as anime is general.

Before I watched Nausicaa I wasn't the big fan of animation that I am now, Miyazaki's movies like Nausicaa and Spirited Away truly changed my life in the sense that they changed the way that I use to spend my free time. Before Miyazaki, I always had a relatively high level interest in film, manga and animation, although nothing very extreme like I do now, of course, I already knew that anime was an enormous world and that like any other world of a cultural medium, it had it's masterpieces. I just never had the level of curiosity to try out these masterpieces (or maybe I was afraid of becoming addicted). That was until, in the 2nd year of my mathematics PHD at time when I had plenty of free time relative to the 1st year of my PHD, I decided to watch all movies from the IMDB top 250, in the end I never got around watching'en all (and now the top 250 is all different, so I have watched only about 200), but I got around to watching Spirited Away.

After being completely blown away by the genius of Spirited Away, a awe inspiring monumental work of art such that very few things in the world can even compare (much less surpass it), I was quickly sold on the concept that animation is a medium that deserves to be pursued with the same degree of respect and interest as heavy metal music and live action movies. Next day I watched Princess Mononoke (which I found good but slightly pretentious) and a two days after watching Spirited Away, I watched Nausicaa.

Before watching Nausicaa I actually already had an idea of how the movie would be like. That's because I had already watched Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke from the same director, but also because I already had a decent grasp of science fiction anime from the stuff I watched when I was a teenager (like Nadesico, Dirty Pair: Project Eden, Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, Macross and Akira), hence, I could expect that, given it's a film from the IMDB top 250, it should be the supposed masterpiece of the genre of science fiction anime. I wasn't disappointed but even quite surprised by the film: I found it superior to Princess Mononoke and about as good as Spirited Away, while being rather ďsillyĒ. However, this goofiness of Nausicaa is exactly what makes it perhaps the best movie I ever watched, a conclusion that I reached after several watches of Nausicaa.

I don't claim to know exactly which elements of a show or movie he gives the most weight, I'll let Guap speak for himself, but for me, personally, I tend to lend the most credit to characterization, in how well I can relate to or empathize with the characters, as well as to the story's logical consistency, the themes it explores, and how well it engages me overall with it's combination of editing, atmosphere, and dramatic stakes. I also want to feel good having seen it.

Nausicaa satisfies all of these interests for me, and from here on I will explain why as well as how and where I believe the movie stumbles or could otherwise be criticized.

Because I'm like that.

It's what you might call a tough love. I judge because I care. It's one thing to insult a movie that simply wasted my time, but I feel it's especially important to knock popular creative works down a peg to keep our judgments realistic and objective. Nausicaa may be a fine movie if even a masterpiece in it's own right, but that's all the more reason for me to try and find fault with it. Understanding a movie isn't just about acknowledging what it does well, but also what it does wrong.


Our movie opens up with a masked man exploring the ruins of a town that has been consumed by what we come to learn is called the "Toxic Jungle", a fungal plague that is slowly spreading across the planet. My first criticism of Nausicaa comes with this scene. Nothing is said here that isn't already made redundant by repeating it later. It does serve the valuable purpose by showing us the aftermath of the fungal plague as well as this particular character's otherwise offscreen exploits, so I suppose you could say my real issue is with the masked man's monologue which only exists for exposition.

The scene is extremely brief though and the real movie begins shortly thereafter with a nearly identical setup with a masked girl exploring a similarly infested environment. Her inner monologue is similarly informative, but this time we're privy to her reactions and interpretations of discoveries which immediately cements her as our viewer surrogate and true protagonist. Nausicaa, as she comes to be called, discovers what we soon learn is an Ohmu shell, the shedded husk of a mammoth insect that lurks within the Toxic Jungle. We quickly learn a lot of different things in this scene which skillfully orients us in the world with a handful of useful factoids: Ohmu shells are an exceptionally strong substance, the Toxic Jungle's spores can kill you in under 5 minutes, and Nausicaa is one very resourceful girl.

A big thing I like about this scene, as well as many after it, is it's attention to detail which helps to bring reality to the world. Because the shell is so durable, Nausicaa must employ plainly unconventional means to remove a single eye piece from the shell including detonating a ring of gunpowder around it with her gun and steadily hacking at it's perimeter with a knife until it comes loose. This scene also accomplishes the task of informing us that Nausicaa's people are scavengers and find highly valuable materials in Ohmu husks.

Hunting Ohmu thankfully seems to be out of the question though for two simple reasons which are demonstrated in the following scene:

1.) Ohmu are giant crawling disasters waiting to happen.

2.) Nausicaa is a pacifist.

Following this scene we see the masked man, the eventually named Lord Yupa, chased out of the woods by a single Ohmu before Nausicaa swoops in and manages to calm it with a combination of shock and positive reinforcement. It's evident from the following explanation of this attack that the Ohmu are quick to upset and Nausicaa can only do so much herself to calm them. This implicit information is shortly followed by a brief backstory explaining that a millennium ago mankind waged war with massive biological weapons called Giant Warriors and the ensuing destruction enraged the ancient Ohmu which stampeded across the land before eventually succumbing to weakness and proliferating what is now called the Toxic Jungle.

Nausicaa's people live in what is called The Valley of the Wind, which logically protects them from the invasive spores of the jungle by providing a natural defense: the valley walls funnel coastal winds from the sea towards the forest, inhibiting the spread of spores. It's from this natural safety and adherence to peaceful practices that the village staves off encroachment by enraged insects and remains isolated from the ongoing territorial wars which still exist beyond it.

It's in this setting that an airship from one of these warring nations crash lands spreading spores and leaving behind the equivalent of an indestructible warhead: a Giant Warrior embryo. This invaluable cargo is what instigates a battle between two different nations to gain control of it and Nausicaa's struggle to convince them not to incur the wrath of another Ohmu stampede.

Nausicaa is a great film partly thanks to it's highly dense plot and worldbuilding. One of the best things about it is that as the plot develops and the film converges to it's finale it provides the film with a sense of danger and tension similar to when the Death Star approaches Yavin in Star Wars. Besides that I appreciate how dramatic that movie is and how high the stakes are: everything appears to be collapsing and the last remants of humanity appears to be in a state of total war of all against all, without end besides the possible extinction of the human race while the last remants of inhabitable land are being slowly devoured by the advancing sea of corruption. All these elements provides the movie with a sense of gravitas much stronger than most other Miyazaki works which makes it a more powerful experience.

The relatively complex setup makes it difficult to succinctly describe Nausicaa to people as any one thing without leaving out some important element. This is why I prefer to describe Nausicaa as well as certain other movies in themes. What themes does it explore, and what does it try to accomplish with it's story?

With Nausicaa, I'd mostly say that it's about environmentalism, or more specifically: it's a moral argument towards a harmonious relationship with nature and a criticism of violence if not war.

Nausicaa herself and the people of her village demonstrate a level of humility and moderation which informs their experiences with the Toxic Jungle and vice versa. They understandably fear the dangerous effects of the jungle's poisons and volatile tendencies of it's largest inhabitants, but they don't lash out in retaliation or aggressively expand to offset it, they simply attempt to eke out fulfilling lives on it's borders knowing that to provoke nature would do more harm than good. Humble protagonists are easy to root for, especially when the antagonists come to call with their own narrow-minded motivations to push their faces into the dirt.

This dichotomy of good and evil isn't so black and white though as the opposing outside forces of Tolmekia and Pejite are morally distinguishable. Tolmekia seems thoroughly evil in almost every degree, but Pejite is divided in two: those than empathize with Nausicaa and her people and those that would willingly throw anyone else under the bus if it means preventing Tolmekia from using the Giant Warrior.

At one point the Giant Warriors are suggested to have been partly to blame for the Toxic Jungle in the first place so it could be argued that stopping Tolmekia takes prevalence above all else, however Pejite volunteering The Valley of the Wind for a sacrifice in the name of this goal places them firmly in a moral grey area. They're doing something bad with good intentions. This moral grey area is intriguingly paralleled by the Ohmu themselves, who are less a moral combination of good and bad deeds, but a neutral party with a fine line temper. The Ohmu seem to be monsters because of how easily they're driven into a blind rage, but Nausicaa suggests that the Ohmu only justly react to desecration of the jungle and violence which is evidenced by numerous scenes throughout the movie.

A big thing I like about the movie is how it helps me to empathize with insects.

Insects are considered so low merely because of how tiny, voiceless, and relatively ugly they are, that even in Japan where Kabutomushi and Cicadas are commonly referenced in popular mediums, it's strange to present insects in any sort of positive or relatable light.

It makes me rethink my treatment of the insects I find in and around my home and I find raising important moral questions is a valuable takeaway from any movie I watch.

The main character, Nausicaa (Naushika in Japanese) constitutes one of the most memorable and adorable characters in all of fiction. The first time I heard her laugh in that maniacal Japanese girl way it reminded myself of the racist jokes in Family Guy about Japanese women, but yet I found it very amusing and fun. Nausicaa not only is a great character in it's own right but also provided a great deal of foreshadowing in the constitution of the contemporary pop idols, which like Nausicaa are young women/teenagers who are worshiped, since Nausicaa herself was worshipped by her people as the Princess of the Valley. And this worship was very deep, considering that some of the villagers though that Nausicaa's smiling meant that everything would be alright. And when she died the people of the valley cried like the North Koreans did when their dictator died in the official North Korean videos, herself being essentially a benevolent despot/dictator for the valley by the film's end, besides of being the Valley's saviour, she becomes a mythical prophetic figure like Christ, Mohammed and Buddha.

I never found Nausicaa to be particularly compelling as a character. Her pacifism seems immediately naive which is compensated for by her assertive attitude which drives her to intimidate soldiers with a CHAINGUN, so I guess I'll let it slide, but I won't pretend that I was ever completely invested in her character.

Nausicaa is a pretty obvious stock hero so there's no tension when it comes to her survival and her personality doesn't really stick out far beyond her moral outlook. The most interesting part of her character is the fact that she conceals a small lab in which she secretly grows spores from the Toxic Jungle, a significant stepping stone in the movie towards explaining the origin of the Toxic Jungle and the motivations of the Ohmu.

The only other scenes I think best highlight her character is when she takes off her mask to smile in the Toxic Jungle as a means to pacify her hysterical friends and the scene in which she gets pushed into acid water by a wounded and enraged Ohmu. Both scenes highlight, in very different ways, her selflessness as a character and even if we know she'll make it in the end, these extreme risks to her personal safety encourage us to doubt and appreciate her despite.

Miyazaki also said that all other characters in Nausicaa exist only in relation to Nausicaa, especially the ďvillainĒ, Kushana, who is the anti-Nausicaa but still a very indepedent and intimidating woman in her own right. Nausicaa however, is by far, the smartest and most capable character in the whole film and her superiority over the rest of humanity makes her appear rather unrealistic. However, as Miyazaki himself explains, he wasn't trying to create a realistic character but instead trying to make a character to deal with his thematic ambitions and later on he focused on making more human-like characters, like Kiki in Kiki's Delivery Service, who is a more ďmediocreĒ person, without any exceptional talents (besides flying on a broom).

Miyazaki also said that all other characters in Nausicaa exist only in relation to Nausicaa, especially the ďvillainĒ, Kushana, who is the anti-Nausicaa but still a very indepedent and intimidating woman in her own right. Nausicaa however, is by far, the smartest and most capable character in the whole film and her superiority over the rest of humanity makes her appear rather unrealistic. However, as Miyazaki himself explains, he wasn't trying to create a realistic character but instead trying to make a character to deal with his thematic ambitions and later on he focused on making more human-like characters, like Kiki in Kiki's Delivery Service, who is a more ďmediocreĒ person, without any exceptional talents (besides flying on a broom).

One sticking point that still remains with me about Nausicaa's character is how she's frequently referred to as a princess.

Personally, I disagree with that choice completely. The Valley of the Wind may have a castle, but it clashes with the rest of the movie to suggest that it's ruled by any sort of kingdom. This is a place where it's apparently an UNUSUAL occurrence for a single baby to be born in a given year and this "kingdom" is frequently referred to as a "village". When Nausicaa's father, the king, dies and no other apparent heir is present not a single word is ever mentioned about Nausicaa becoming the queen. With no other evidence of government beyond title, it's obvious to me that this was simply a poor dialog choice made in an attempt to pre-establish Nausicaa as some sort of representative of the valley.

Ironically, now that Disney is distributing the movie, Nausicaa has inadvertently upset every other Disney Princess ever made.

Think about it:
Unlike practically all Disney Princesses ever put to film, Nausicaa becoming one is never the focus, she's never dependent on a man to fight her battles or reward her for them, and her aspirations are never any Ghibli equivalent of "wanting something more".

She's kind of like Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

You know. If Belle actually killed people.

The art and animation in Nausicaa are not among the best ever, but they were incredible for the time they were made. Nausicaa looks far more visually impressive than any animated film I know about made up to 1985. Not only thanks to the film's advantage in technical resources, as Japan already was by the mid 80's, by far the largest producer of animation in the world, but also thanks to Miyazaki's masterful use of the modest resources at his disposal to make this relatively low budget film visually stunning.

Later Miyazaki films would enjoy vastly greater budgets and hence vastly superior animation and art resources, for instance, the background paintings in later films will be done mainly by Kazuo Oga, whose paintings I found vastly superior to the backgrounds of earlier Miyazaki works. Still, despite these limitations the art of Nausicaa is still highly detailed and very elegant, with controlled use of color, a problem that is comon in animation and some sequences of animation still send me to heaven when I appreciate them.

However, what makes Nausicaa rise above most other animation is the exceptional quality of the direction. One of the best examples are the action scenes. which not only are impressive but they are extraordinarily beautiful. In effect, Miyazaki turns action filmmaking into art in those scenes. And overall, Miyazaki's direction manages to utility the two main colors of the film, yellow and blue, very effectively and the pacing of the film is also excellent, making the film flow from one scene to another in a very pleasant fashion: not to fast but not to slow. Very few movies feel like Nausicaa in that sense, specially if you count the movies not directed by Miyazaki that I watched, only Tarkovsky's The Mirror and Kubrick's 2001 feel like visual music as much as Nausicaa does.

And talking about music, as a metal head I had difficulty understanding the concept that I could actually enjoy a movie's soundtrack as much as I enjoyed Hisaishi's work and Nausicaa is among Hisaishi's best scores, even though he borrows heavily from classical music (copying down some whole sections of masterpieces of classical music, in one occasion Nausicaa's soundtrack sounds very much like Barry Lyndon's).

Hisaishi's music matches perfectly the atmosphere of the film and complements it to a much greater degree than typical scores, it's like Star Wars' scores in that a large part of the film's experience comes from the music. And like Star Wars, this is an epic film and even more focused on epic drama than Star Wars since the personal elements in Nausicaa are relatively smaller next to the plot elements than in Star Wars (whose main dramatic weight lies in the family drama) and the music provides the foundations for the grand opera that this film essentially is.

I ABSOLUTELY have to agree on the music. Many of the orchestral themes are quite memorable and they're all appropriate for their given scenes in tone as well as tempo.

I would also argue that the soundtrack can't really be fairly mentioned without acknowledging the fantastic ambient audio which bleeds into it regularly. An eclectic, but strangely natural sounding combination of synthesized sounds, foley effects, and exotic instruments really help bring the world to life, particularly when it comes to the "alien" elements of the movie. The Ohmu are regularly introduced with a deep echoing warble that reflects their size and uncertain nature while the Toxic Jungle is typically accompanied by an even more psychadelic and haunting track which naturally lends itself to the creeping poisonous nature of the environment. I can certainly see bits of Star Wars in there, but I personally get a much bigger Lord of the Rings vibe given it's tendency to wax between heavy drama and lighter whimsy.

I think due credit should also be lent to the exceptional English voice cast in the dubbed version which managed to land some recognizable voice talent like Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman, Shia Lebouf, and Chris Sarandon. I don't think we get any really standout performances here (except perhaps from Alison Lohman as Nausicaa), but everyone was right at home with their characters.

Besides those factors I also appreciate watching Nausicaa as a comedy. One of the reasons I love it so much is because the movie is so funny in ways that were not intended by Miyazaki, who made this film purely as a serious movie about environmental themes. The village seer acts and looks in a really funny way, so ludicrous and over the top is her style. I also found Yupa pretty funny in his stoic attitudes, as if he were a satire of that archetype. Nausicaa is sometimes funny as well although she is more adorable and passionate than anything.

Opposite side of the fence on this one. I don't think Nausicaa is really all that funny, intentionally or not. It has it's moments of humor, the seer may be kinda goofy (honestly the whole prophecy sideplot in general is pretty weak in my opinion, it's far too heavily foreshadowed), but I never really laughed at any of it. I wouldn't even call Nausicaa "adorable" as a character, as sweet as she may be at times.

What I WILL say is that watching Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind gives me a very nostalgic feeling. Not that first I saw it all that long ago, but the general retro-future aesthetic, old school anime stylings, rough desaturated colors, and vaguely 80s tunage give me what I feel is a powerful look back into the distant past of animation, like digging out an old VHS tape of Color Classics.

Nausicaa is the quintessential film by Miyazaki. No other film embodies more of him as an artist than Nausicaa does and for that reason (given that Miyazaki is the greatest animator) it is widely regarded as the greatest animated film ever by many critics (specialized either in animation or in film). It also is a film of profound influences, it's dense atmosphere heavily influenced science fiction produced in Japan in the decades following it's release. Just 3 years later, films like Wings of Honneamise, which were marketed in its trailers to look like Nausicaa. And in 2007, in a poll by the Japanese Ministry of Culture involving over a hundred thousand people, Nausicaa was voted the greatest animated film of all time.

Nausicaa is also important for cementing Miyazaki's role in animation, after Nausicaa the crew who worked to make the film was integrated into the most influential animation studio of all time, Studio Ghibli. And one of the animators who worked on Nausicaa was Hideaki Anno. Anno would soon become another major figure of the animation world with highly influential works like Gunbuster (1988), Nadia (1991) and Evangelion (1995).

Something Guap leaves out here which I find particularly interesting is the fact that Nausicaa came into being in a pretty unconventional manner. Apparently Miyazaki already had the idea for Nausicaa and was deadset on making a movie about it, but corporate execs refused to fund him because anime movies were almost universally adaptions of popular existing manga franchises.

So what'd he do? He withdrew his great movie idea, turned around and personally wrote and illustrated Nausicaa into a series of manga which instantly became popular, and returned with a greenlight to make his movie.

That's a HUGE hoop to jump through just to make a friggen' movie!

This actually goes to explain certain disparities in the plot which make the movie seem like part of a greater overarching story which we only get glimpses of otherwise. I'm not giving Nausicaa any bonus points for it's impressive origins, but I think it's definitely worth mentioning if only for the mental image of Miyazaki's smug face after approaching those same purseholders the second time.

Inside Miyazaki's work Nausicaa occupies a middling place, between his earlier and later work. Miyazaki was working in animation since 1963 and he was involved in the creation of Horus: Prince of the Sun (1968), with Takahata as director, the film widely regarded to be of major historical importance in the development of animation as a fully fledged artistic medium: no animation before Horus had the same level of psychological complexity and seriousness as Horus had. After Horus, Miyazaki and Takahata worked on a slice of life TV series, Heidi: Girl of the Alps, which Miyazaki later explained to be something they regarded as ďfilmĒ, after that Miyazaki worked in the direction of Lupin the 3rd episodes and also in his first major work as a director and creator, the 1978 science fiction masterpiece, Conan: Boy of the Future, a 26 episode series which reflects many of Miyazaki's thematic concerns in his later work (specially in Nausicaa) and also his mythical style of storytelling. Nausicaa, however, was the first film that Miyazaki could make where he had full artistic control and hence, reflected his full ideology and style. Thanks to that he really pushed himself to do his absolute best, with dramatic results.

Guaporense & Omnizoa's
Final Verdict:

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Ominizoa did a great job with the header.
It's nothing too special.

Originally Posted by Guaporense
He also figured out who my avatar was.
I did, although I still have yet to read Vinland Saga.
Movie Reviews | Anime Reviews
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"Well, at least your intentions behind the UTTERLY DEVASTATING FAULTS IN YOUR LOGIC are good." - Captain Steel

I have to return some videotapes.
Wow this an impressive review of a film you two really love.

This gives me an idea...

Cole + Cole review of American Psycho

Originally Posted by The Gunslinger45
A crossover review? I like the concept! The review itself was an excellent read. Good job guys!

Originally Posted by Cole416
This gives me an idea...

Cole + Cole review of American Psycho
I'm actually planning on watching that for the first time today.

Master of My Domain
Enjoyed the review guys, thanks for the effort you put in to make it.

I like that one too.

I've been thinking and one scene jumped out at me on a rewatch that never really made sense to me before.

After Nausicaa escorts the injured insect from the crashed airship out of the valley we just kind of end on this dead scene where Nausicaa sees an Ohmu out in the desert. She just stares at it and it crawls away.

Whatever. I guess.

But after I saw it again and thought about the scene it occurred to me that the villagers warned about the injured insect "calling out" to it's friends. What if that Ohmu was so far away from the forest because it heard the insect and like a bat out of hell, was already on it's way to come tear up the village?

I was joking when I referenced that old ******** American-ized release of Nausicaa, why is this review listed as "Warriors of the Wind"?

The titles for all my Kara no Kyoukai reviews are messed up too even if you translate them literally.

How does Boundary of Emptiness: Remaining Sense of Pain become Garden of Sinners: Ever Cry, Never Life?

That's gonna confuse the total crap out of people, especially since Nausicaa hasn't been marketed as "Warriors of the Wind" for 20 years and that version was friggen' butchered.