Id read a review a few months ago on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and realized that, holy cow! I hadnt seen it yet and Ive heard it hailed as one of, if not the, best of Hayao Miyazakis films. Miyazaki brings unique taste to the world of Japanese animation and animation in general.
For those of you who may have only seen Walt Disney slapped on the label, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is entirely the work of the Japanese, created and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Walt Disney simply decided to make some extra bucks by capitalizing on Miyazakis genius since they are incapable of coming up with any unique ideas themselves (I maintain that it is their writing and not their animation that has brought them down). In any case, Disney does manage to bring in some big names to voice this film in English, such as Patrick Stewart and Uma Thurman, though while not entirely necessary, I do tend to find it fun when big name actors (as long as they dont suck at voice acting) do things like this. In the previews I heard Cary Elwes doing the voice of a cat in a tophat in another Studio Ghibli film, The Cat Returns. Heh, cute.
But the names are definitely not what makes the movie. In a world where humans have basically destroyed themselves due to their desecration of the planet, only small pockets of people have survived. A place known as the Sea of Decay (or toxic jungle if youre watching the English version) spreads over the Earth. These plants take root and grow to produce poisons that would rot your lungs within five minutes of breathing in their toxins. A girl named Nausicaa is the Princess of the Valley of the Wind, and she shares a love of life with the world around her, including the gigantic bugs that inhabit and protect the deadly plants. But not everyone is as peaceful as the valley Nausicaa watches over.
Even with all the Earths ruin, wars and death still exist and have drawn Nausicaa and her people into the mix. With a few friends, Nausicaa must save her people as well as the Ohmu, huge insects that can easily destroy anything in their path. Can a brave yet gentle girl do so much? And what secrets will she learn about the Sea of Decay as she tries to bring people back into harmony with the Earth?
There is a lot going on in this movie. But if you pay attention, you should be able to catch everything. I watched the movie twice; once in Japanese and again in English, so Im pretty sure I figured everything out. You see, not only does everyone have to deal with poisonous plants and protective insects, but also warring factions, trying to figure out what the deal is with the Sea of Decay, and just where the Giant Warriors came from. I came to the conclusion that humans created the Giant Warriors and thus destroyed themselves. No surprise there.
Miyazaki has a thing for nature and would love nothing more than to see a lot of buildings crumble and be reclaimed by nature. Im sure a lot of his personal sentiments are in the movie, but thats fine with me. The storyline is so unique that I found myself quite astounded, as I originally did not expect this I was thinking along the lines of something totally different. As far as I can tell, all the loose ends are tied up, even if some people did not get their just deserts as many would have liked them to. But thats another Miyazaki thing; everyone is fairly well humanized so it lessens the antagonist role; but at least here there were clear antagonists as opposed to some of his other films with either ambiguous or no apparent antagonist.
Back to the details; as you would expect, the animation is pretty amazing even if the movie is older (1984 a year after I was born. Cool.). It isnt as good as some of the movies out now, naturally, but there are plenty of details and the Sea of Decay can be a pretty freaky place. Places in time when the Earth has become like this, half dead and rotting away, freak me out yet at the same time I find the idea utterly fascinating. All the interesting ideas and fun things put in, such as Nausicaas glider, the little fox animal, the airships (which may remind you of those in Howls Moving Castle), and the chocobos. Ok, so theyre not technically chocobos, but theyre pretty close and they were still super-cute. I particularly liked the details put into Teto, the little fox animal, his movements and actions were exactly like something a small animal like him would do. Miyazakis animators have to do their research.
The voice acting for both Japanese and English was great. I cant even say that I have a favorite, though I liked the title of Sea of Decay better than toxic jungle. Wasnt really a jungle so much as a huge, poisonous fungal growth. Ew. Even though Disney brought in big name actors, they didnt particularly make the movie great. They were good, of course, but you cant sell me on the voice acting talent; there are a lot of others out there who are just as good as any major actor/actress. I dont even particularly like Uma Thurman that much, but she did a nice job here as Kushana, and I think Alison Lohman made a fine Nausicaa. It just depends on if you want to read subtitles or not.
When it comes to the music, I found myself both impressed and amused. I have to mention the music because at times it was really good and moving, and yet at others I was strongly reminded of video game tunes and the way many of them tend to sound. They worked for the movie, but it still struck me as a little funny.
Though I cant say that I think this was my favorite Miyazaki film, it has to be one of the most unique things Ive ever seen. I loved the character of Nausicaa, enjoyed all the concepts and found myself at times appalled with other character actions on screen and at other times fascinated with events taking place. I daresay I almost found this movie too unique maybe even weird for me (admittedly quite a strange thing for me to say), but I think that is because I was anticipating something completely different.
Fun trivia: Mark Hamill has a brief part in this. Thats right Luke Skywalker has long since turned to voice acting boys and girls; where have you been?
Other Miyazaki Films:
My Neighbor Totoro
Howls Moving Castle
Viewing Format: DVD
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