19 February 2008

Ink Blots - Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Where Happy Feet failed miserably to make a statement in the midst of entertaining, Nausicaä proves Miyazaki always had a special talent for masterful and meaningful storytelling. It also demonstrates many of Miyazaki's trademark elements, such a beautiful flying animation, a strong female lead character, a dude with a big mustache, and an old woman.

Nausicaä is set 1,000 years after the "Seven Days of Fire," which destroyed human civilization. A toxic jungle infested with bugs sprouted up which constantly encroaches on the remaining human settlement. Princess Nausicaä finds herself trapped in a conflict between the Pejites and the Tolmekians. The Pejites are baiting a swarm of giant potato bugs called Ohmu while the Telmekians are trying to revive a giant God Warrior (which caused the original devastation).

Nausicaä, being the peace loving girl that she is, is just trying to save her Valley. She discovers that the toxic jungle is actually purifying the world, and in a way, the bugs are helping too by protecting the jungle. The world is trying to find balance and restore itself.

The films greatest feat is that it never preaches, while dealing with a potentially preach subject matter. The Ohmu are an awesome creation and the whole world is imagined with a depth of mythology that draws you into the story. The film reminds me a lot of Princess Mononoke, but not quite as polished. On the other hand, its is less existential as well. Another nice touch is the 80's style (fitting as it was made in 1984) synthesizer music. It gives the movie a bit of a retro feel, while the themes and setting of the movie are more timeless.

This is a great gateway film into anime or at the least into the incredible world of Studio Ghibli films (though technically this film predated the studio). Nausicaä may only be in the top 5 of Ghibli films (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Whisper of the Heart and Grave of the Fireflies are better, but they are also perfect films), but that still qualifies it as an A, and well worth your time.

PS, avoid the edited down version Warriors of the Wind, which cut 30 minutes of "slow-moving" story. Never mind that the edits removed the story. Miyazaki was pretty unhappy with the adaptation and made Disney promise "no edits" in their current North American distributions of his films.

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