Just forget the words and sing along

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Films of Hayao Miyazaki: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

For those just joining us, I'm using my free time to sit down and watch all the films directed by world-renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki. Today, we're looking at his second film, a film based on a comic book that Miyazaki himself wrote and drew, and the film that went on to spawn Miyazaki's studio, Studio Ghibli. That's right, today it's....

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Celebrity Voice Cast
As I'm sure you've figured out, my collection is made of the Disney dubs. The celebrities Disney got to dub this one include Alison Lohman, Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman, Edward James Olmos, Shia LeBouf, and the legendary voice actor Frank Welker.

When I was teaching English in Japan, there was this one fellow teacher. She was a specialist who taught the most advanced levels, and as such, only came in once a week. As the night she came in was a slow night for me, I delighted in having long conversations with her about Japanese culture, and her with me about Canadian culture. One night, the works of Miyazaki was the subject of conversation, and I mentioned that Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was finally getting a proper release in North America...albeit straight-to-DVD. She was a fairly mild-mannered sort, and when I told her this news, it was the only time I ever saw her get angry. I mean, really angry. We're talking right pissed off. She elaborated by saying that Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was her favourite movie, and that it was a crime that people wouldn't get a chance to see it on the big screen and feel its full impact. Needless to say, this is a film that people are very passionate about.

There are two stories as to how this film came to be. As I've mentioned, it's based on a manga (Japanese comic book) that Miyazaki himself wrote and drew. One story says that he was told a movie based on a manga would be more profitable, so he created the manga with the goal of eventually turning it into a movie. The other story says that he started it as a manga with no intention of turning into a film, but it so captivated audiences that he felt compelled to make it a movie. No matter how it came to be, it is here, and we are better for it.

It's the distant future...1000 years after the Earth was decimated by a great disaster known only as "the Seven Days of Fire." The Earth is now mostly covered by the Toxic Jungle, a forest filled with toxic plants and toxic air, and full of gigantic insects. The remnants of humanity are divided into kingdoms, and live in the last unpolluted pockets of Earth. Young Nausicaä is the princess of the Valley of the Wind, and is a very curious sort. She loves exploring the Toxic Jungle to learn its secrets, and has an almost supernatural ability to tame wild animals. Things are peaceful in her kingdom, until one day, an airship from the kingdom of Tolmekia crash lands in the valley, and it is carrying a dangerous cargo: a Giant Warrior, one of the weapons responsible for the Seven Days of Fire, and recently re-discovered. Kushana, the princess of Tolmekia, hopes to use it to destroy the Toxic Jungle, and so humanity and once again reclaim the Earth. Making matters worse, it was stolen from the kingdom of Pejite, and they want it back. Can Nausicaä uncover the secrets of the Toxic Jungle and prevent her Valley from being destroyed in a coming war between Tolmekia and Pejite?

What I Liked
This film has a deep and complicated mythology that really draws you in. The animation, as always, is stellar from Studio Ghibli. And I love that classic, 1980s, synthesizer heavy soundtrack.

What I Didn't Like
In the coming days, you'll find that this is a problem I have with a lot of Miyazaki films. And that it is, it has a really abrupt ending. And there's so many characters, you really don't get a chance to know them all.

Final Verdict
All things considered, a very fine film. I wonder what it would be like on the big screen...?

3.5 Nibs

Fun Trivia Fact
The first time this was dubbed and released in North America...it didn't go so well. It was dubbed in the mid-1980s and given the title Warriors of the Wind. More than half-an-hour was cut, and the plot was rendered incomprehensible. Because of this, Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have adopted a strict "no re-editing" policy when their films get sold for foreign distribution.

Next Time
Next on the Miyazaki filmography is his 1986 epic about giant robots, air pirates, and cities in the clouds. It's the film that Toy Story director John Lassetter has gone on record as saying is his favoutie. Next up, it's Castle in the Sky

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