I have been watching a lot of Studio Ghibli films lately as part of the Miyazaki movie project assigned by my enthusiastic roommate. I have really liked this films ever since I watched Spirited Away, a beautiful masterpiece that I am glad was my first movie of Miyazaki’s. I have since then watched Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle. I have also seen Whisper of the Heart, although this movie is not Miyazaki himself. After gaining more experience into Miyazaki’s movies, I decided to tackle his very first, and in many ways his most famous movie, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. I enjoyed this movie very much, undoubtedly because it is simply a Miyazaki movie. Regardless, I had many opinions, both negative and positive about this movie. Read on for more! The plot follows the young princess of the Valley of the Wind, Nausicaä, who flies about on a glider and loves all people and creatures. She is a pacifist at heart and respects all creatures, despite some differing opinions of the people in her kingdom. She lives in a post-apocalyptic world in which most of the earth is covered in toxic swamps dominated by enormous insects. The humans of the past destroyed each other using giant beings as war machines, and the giant insects that attacked the people after this decomposed to create the toxic forests. Nausicaä’s people are attacked by an enemy kingdom after one of their ships lands in the Valley of the Wind. This leads Nausicaä on an adventure to save her people as well as the insects and creatures of the toxic jungle.
The movie was standout in its art, as expected of Miyazaki. Everything was drawn beautifully, and the amount of detail was incredible when considering the amount of work it must have taken for the film to be drawn in the time it was created. There was little CGI to help the movie artists in the 1980s when the film was put out (read the Wikipedia page for more information about the making and plot of this movie). The detail in even the very first scene was incredible, with plants and insects crawling from every side of the screen. The scenes in the clouds were also quite grand and incredible. I was most impressed with the beauty of each setting, whether it was full of giant trees or a valley filled with gentle wind. None of the backgrounds were pushed to the side or plain looking. Miyazaki lives up to his name once again in providing a movie that is truly a work of art as much as it is a film. It may have shown it’s age in the animation a bit, but that didn’t detract from the movie at all.
The few flaws that I saw in this movie were mostly evident as flaws created by this being Miyazaki’s first movie. There were some plot inconsistencies near the end because everything was so neatly wrapped up without many answers. The movie also ended quite suddenly which contributed to a cop-out feeling. I also wish that some of the characters were more developed. It seemed as if many of them were a certain way “just because”. There was a lot of potential for interesting stories for certain characters, such as Asbel, who became friends with Nausicaä way too quickly and Kushana, who had an interesting story about how she lost her limbs. I understand that he was trying to condense his entire manga into one movie, but I could have used characterization to help me feel attached to the characters.
There was also some nice symbolism in the movie, such as the fairly obvious hints at being peaceful and preserving nature. It seemed to me as if the movie was also a metaphor for the effects of nuclear weapons, and I thought the implications of that were very interesting. The movie could have definitely gone a bit deeper with these metaphors, but it did pretty well with what it had. The only bit of symbolism that I thought went a bit far was what I believed was an indication that Nausicaä was like the messiah, or Jesus. The way they resurrected her from the dead and compared her to a bearded man walking on gold seemed a little over the top. I felt like they hardly made a big deal about a savior, and then just sort of whipped it out at the end to make the story “deeper”. Otherwise the metaphors didn’t bother me to much.
This brings me to my final and biggest criticism, the character of Nausicaä. It means something that my favorite characters in the film were the side characters. Nausicaä seemed to have no depth at all. She was just too perfect, and that sort of character doesn’t really appeal to me. She is brave yes, but she is also completely boring because she only cares about peace and being nice. I was pretty annoyed that I was supposed to like her automatically and that she was so “noble” for being a martyr at the end. I felt like Nausicaä puts women on a pedestal of perfection and sacrifice which I don’t appreciate. Women are people with flaws, and making them seem perfect is just as bad as saying that they are weak because it is a stereotype the expects women to be this perfect ideal. The most interesting thing that Nausicaä does is to kill those soldiers, but even then we are made to forget about that quickly in favor of Nausicaä’s perfection. She doesn’t even have any sort of dilemma over her break from her pacifistic ideals. All the other Miyazaki movies I watched had pretty interesting and cool female leads, so I was a little disappointed in Nausicaä.
I really enjoyed this movie despite my indifference to the main character. As a movie it is very good because Miyazaki made it so well, but I will be reviewing this as a comparison to Miyazaki’s other movies instead of a movie in general. In comparison, this movie was not my favorite and had a lot more problems that I couldn’t look over. I still recommend it to lovers of anime, art, and Miyazaki because it is worth watching. I give this movie a 2.5/5 for my movie review.