"Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind": Taicho Planet and the Planeteers
One thousand years after the Seven Days Of Fire, the remaining humans of Earth are in constant battle with the Sea of Decay, a toxic jungle full of humongous insects. One girl, Princess Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, straddles the line of humanity and nature, trying to achieve a quality balance between the two worlds. In Hayao Miyazaki’s legend, it’s up to Nausicaa and her allies to save the world when an invading army begins to threaten nature.
The influence of Nausicaa on the world of animation is undeniable; almost honorarily part of Studio Ghibli’s birth, it manages to merge an environmental theme with supernatural and science fiction elements. While, years later, American children would learn that allying with like-minded teenagers from other countries could birth a mulletted hero made of the Earth itself in Ted Turner’s series Captain Planet, Nausicaa takes a more fantastical and post-apocalyptic look at it. It’s not that the world needs saving, it’s that the world needs to not be destroyed any more. Some of Hideaki Anno’s earliest work is in this feature too, and it almost echoes some of his future giant robot work (most notably Neon Genesis Evangelion and, well, Cutie Honey).
The plot isn’t too intricate, but it is deep and full of parallels. The “Seven Days Of Fire” obviously echo a World War III-type situation, with complete nuclear annihilation destroying most of humanity. Much of the heroic Nausicaa’s motivation is to not save humanity nor to save nature, but to find a good balance between the two. The character, in a long line of Miyazaki-crafted female leads, is far from weak, but does exemplify caring for others. None of Miyazaki’s characters appear one-note, and that’s the same here. While the story may be almost preachy at times, enough action and visually interesting scenes keep it at bay.
There’s no doubt that, beyond the story, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is both a visual and audio treat. The animation is fluid and solid, and easily beats much modern mass-produced animation, with distinguished character designs combined with film work that puts much of the CG tripe flying out to the theaters nowadays to shame. The English dub work is additionally entertaining; while the celebrity-oriented talent may not be as used to voice-acting as the standard options (outside of Mark Hamill), undoubtedly Alison Lohman, Patrick Stewart, and the others do a superb job.
Extras are a mixed bag. Naturally, you have both the Japanese and English dubs, but the mixed bag comes with the odd union of the new and the old. The Blu-Ray disc features the “World Of Ghibli” interactive feature as other Studio Ghibli releases by Disney do. The entire storyboard can be played in place of the finished animation. Additionally, it has a nice new feature dedicated to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, with new interviews with Miyazaki and others. The DVD, on the other hand, has the original Japanese promos and trailers, alongside a set of interviews from when the Disney dub came out (including a non-Tom Cruise 2.0 Shia LeBeouf ) and a set of news features in Japan from years after Nausicaa‘s release. While the original English dub, Warriors Of The Wind, would have been an incredibly interesting inclusion, it’s not here for various reasons, not the least of which being Studio Ghibli’s notable “no cuts” threat due to it. Still, a complete lack of mention of it in any interview features is disappointing. Additionally, with all the main English cast still being around (minus narrator Tony Jay), it would have been nice to see some form of commentary or retrospective on the six-year old dub.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a respectable part of any movie collection, regardless of whether animation is your normal purview. Disney did a good enough job with the release, and while nothing is particularly bad about it, they could have gone much farther than they did. Still, this is the best way to pick up this movie, and it’s a movie that deserves to be picked up.