Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind – In the distant future, the age of civilisation has crumbled due to the unstoppable spread of the poisonous ‘toxic forest’. Living inside the deadly woodlands are huge mutated insects that will kill if enraged. When Princess Nauiscaä’s peaceful valley is invaded by the aggressive Torumekians, she discovers that they have unearthed an ancient and devastating living weapon, a God Warrior, in an effort to destroy the toxic forest once and for all. Will it make the situation worse, like all other attempts before it? Or will Nausicaä’s natural bond with the deadly insects lead to shocking discoveries about the truth of the toxic forest’s origins before it is too late?

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind (1984) – Hayao Miyazaki

Nausicaä of the valley of the wind japanese poster suitable for kids

Rating: PG

Running Time: 117 mins

Starring (English Dub): Alison Lohman, Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman

Genre: Animated, Fantasy

 

‘NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND’ REVIEW

Released to critical acclaim in 1984 by the then up-and-coming writer / director, Hayao Miyazaki, ‘Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind’ is a seminal movie that, over 30 years later, is still regarded as one of the best animated films of all time. Nausicaä is hugely influential, not only due to its own expertly crafted story, themes and artwork, but also because it marked the beginning of three decades of beloved movie making from Japanese animation powerhouse, Studio Ghibli. In the distant future, civilisation has collapsed due to devastating wars. Protected by huge and lethal insects, a deadly Toxic Forest is spreading, wiping out humanity with fungal spores and what few human groups survive are battling each other for resources. Nausicaä is a princess of the Valley of the Wind; a peaceful group who survive thanks to the protection of the mountains that surround them. Unfortunately they are caught in the crossfire between the warring nations of Pejite and Torumekia, fighting over the discovery of an ancient weapon of unimaginable destructive power.

In retrospect, ‘Nausciaä Of The Valley Of The Wind’ laid down the archetypes that would feature in most later Ghibli films by presenting themes of environmentalist alongside pacifism, and by infusing a distinctly Japanese level of perfection into the craftsmanship of hand drawn animation. Nausicaä herself may be the ‘princess’ of the Valley of the Wind, but she is in no way a character resting on her privilege. She explores dangerous areas, conducts scientific study, displays compassion as well as rage, battles as well as talks, and constantly puts others ahead of herself for the greater good. She is first of a long line of stoic, strong and independent female leads that grace most Ghibli films, and Miyazaki films in particular.

That said, ‘Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind’ does wobble a little under the weight of its own mythology: the movie only covers the first sixteen chapters of the source manga (also written and drawn by Miyazaki) which itself did not conclude until 1994. Thus the efforts to establish long-standing prophecies are not given enough weight to really appreciate their realisation (or not). Similarly, parts of the score have dated badly with a distinctly 80’s era electronica blare dampening the otherwise edge-of-the-seat action sequences. However, such minor quibbles are easily overcome by overwhelming plusses. Indeed, the main orchestral score (as composed by the then unknown – but later long time partner of Ghibli films – Joe Hisaishi) is a sumptuous treat of wind-like strings, guiding the soaring narrative and imbuing it with a haunting beauty throughout. The animation is still gorgeous to the eye after all these years (especially the lovingly created flying sequences – a recurring passion in Miyazaki’s works) and while the plot may seem overtly fantasy based on first glance, a tale which encompasses warmongering, stoic bravery and the cycle of human folly is one which can resonate regardless of the window dressing. And all this is unified under the strength of Nausicaä herself. As a character she goes beyond the western norm of ‘believe in yourself’ and instead provides a positive role model based on her altruistic, pro-active and decisive actions, rather than simply internal intentions.

Even after passing its 30 year anniversary, ‘Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind’ stands tall as one of the greatest animated movies of all time. With a blend of action, humour, friendship, mature anti-war rhetoric, and relatable, grounded characters, there is a little something for everyone here, be they child or adult. With both Miyazaki and Takahata retired from movie making and Studio Ghibli shutting down in their wake, Nausicaä stands out as one of the very best even within a back catalogue of over 20 other stunning films.

IS ‘NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

Nausicaä explores the Toxic Forest and discovers the shed shell of an Ohmu – giant insects with multiple eyes. This is just a shed ‘skin’ but it is the first introduction to the look of the Ohmu and Nausicaä is shown to not be scared. Shortly after she hears a commotion and goes to investigate. A character is being aggressively pursued by an angry Ohmu. It’s eyes are lit up red and its huge mandibles are wriggling as it chases after someone who is fleeing on horseback. It has no expression but Nausicaä describes it as being ‘blinded with rage’. This section could scare young children. Nausciaä herself isn’t afraid and is in fact sympathetic to the Ohmu. She manages to calm it after a few minutes following which its slows. stops, and its eyes revert to blue. Throughout the film the Ohmu are feared but Nausicaä strives to understand and empathise with them and through her eyes we see they are protectors that only attack in defence or if provoked.

Lord Yupa reveals that he captured a ‘fox-squirrel’. This is a small animal, a little larger than a squirrel but resembling a cross between a cat and a fox. It bursts out of his pack and Nausicaä holds her hand up to it in a friendly gesture. It is aggressive and scared and instead bites her finger, hard. A brief spurt of blood is seen. She grimaces but does not react and the fox-squirrel calms down and licks her wound. Thereafter they are inseparable. Whilst this scene nicely demonstrates that animals make act aggressive when they are actually just scared, it may also falsely encourage children to approach dangerous animals.

A swarm of giant insects attack an air vehicle at night. They are seen to be crawling over the cockpit windows and exterior. We briefly see a scared passenger through a porthole window before the plan crashes into a mountain and explodes into a fireball. Nausicaä runs to the wreckage to try to help. Some clawed hands are seen sticking up out of the rubble although these are in silhouette as the twisted remains of the plane are on fire. Nausicaä finds a women barely alive. She tears open the front of her clothes to inspect her injuries. We don’t see these as the camera cuts to Nausicaä’s face but her expression changes to a grimace. The woman dies after uttering a few words, although no suffering is shown.

A flash back narration refers to ‘God Warriors’ or ‘Giant Warriors’ responsible for the ‘Seven Days of Fire’. These are shown to be huge gnarled looking monsters that can fire beams of destructive light. The flashback is short but could scare younger children. The skeletons of these huge creatures are shown several times half-submerged as part of the landscape as well as huge half buried skulls.

The friendly Valley of the Wind where Nausicaä lives is attacked by an invading force: the Torumekian army. The Torumekian war planes smash through windmills and discharge soldiers and tanks. Villagers scream and flee. one character has previously been introduced as bed-ridden and terminally sick. Torumekian soldiers burst into his room and raise guns. The scene cuts to outside the building and automatic weapon fire is heard. Another character runs into the room and sees the soldiers standing over a bed, with the bed-ridden character not shown but obviously implied dead. The other character screams ‘I’ll kill you!’ in rage and fights the soldiers, causing injuries which are not shown in detail. A further character enters the room and intentionally moves his arms into the way of swords so that they are lodged in his forearm, preventing the attack from continuing. Blood runs out his arm and down the swords, although he shows no sign of pain.

An airborne convoy comes under attack. Several planes are shot down / burst into flames / explode. None of the passengers or crew of these planes are shown, although any occupants must be presumed dead. The lead plane burns, remaining airborne, and some shots of bodies are shown. There is no blood.

Crashed survivors are stuck in the Toxic Forest. Giant flying insects fly around and one character is almost ‘eaten’ before being ‘rescued’. Insects chase the pair who crash into quicksand and disappear under the surface. They panic during this although circumstances quickly change.

A flashback shows Nausicaä as a child of roughly 4 to 6 years old. The animation style shifts to a stylised ‘sketchbook’ approach, and shows villagers trying to track down the younger Nausicaä who is clearly hiding something. She is revealed to be hiding a small, docile, baby Ohmu. The adult villagers take it away and she cries, saying, “don’t kill it!” and, “It hasn’t done anything wrong!”

One female character reveals that her body has been ravaged by insect attacks. She removes one metal hand to show it is fake; her wrist is a metal bracelet with a hole where the hand was. She re-attaches this with no show of pain, but also says “…and whatever lucky man becomes my husband will see far worse than that.”

A later airborne action sequence involves the lead characters (along with the Pejite army) are being pursued by a war plane during a lightning storm. They fly directly into a storm cloud to avoid being caught although they are later boarded anyway. This sequence is very loud with lots of lightning flashes and ominous music and the situation seems desperate. Most of the boarding attackers use swords. One soldier shouts, “I want every Pejite dead!”. At the same time, in the Valley of the Wind, the residents rise up against the Torumekians and there is much shooting and battle. No injury detail or blood is shown. One character threatens to ignite a flammable liquid and kill everyone in the room in an explosion.

A baby Ohmu is being used to cause a stampede of adult Ohmu. The baby is held aloft by a hot air balloon and is shown to have large metal spears driven into it. It is leaking blue blood and is evidentially in pain and distress. One character approaches unarmed but is shot twice. Brief injury detail of a the shots are shown as a glancing shot to the shoulder and a penetration of the foot. Blood plumes are shown for both and later the character is bleeding visibly from these wounds. This character tries to prevent the baby Ohmu from moving towards the adults because to do so would take it into the deadly Acid Lake. The character pushes against the Ohmu but their foot is pushed into the lake’s waters causing them to scream in pain and steam to hiss around their boot.

As the stampede of Ohmu heads to a group of civilians, a small child asks in fear “are we going to die?”

The much talked about God Warrior / Giant Warrior is activated and emerges from behind a hill. A huge hand dips and slams into the landscape, before the face is pulled over the ridge. The Warrior has large alien-like eyes and a mouthful of twitching, sharp, spiky teeth. It fires an energy beam into the Ohmu which then explodes with a nuclear-like force. Ohmu are thrown into the air.

One character is struck by stampeding Ohmu and thrown high into the air. They then land within the mass of Ohmu and other characters cry out in anguish. The character is shown to be dead although further events take place. Before this happens several established characters cry, including small children.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT – IS ‘NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND’ FOR KIDS?

Whilst not a Studio Ghibli film itself, Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind would bring together the three linchpins who would go on to form the much revered children’s animation studio: Writer / Director Miyazaki (who would go on to direct such landmark movies as ‘My Neighbour Totoro’, ‘Princess Mononoke’ and the Oscar winning ‘Spirited Away’); producer Isao Takahata (who would later direct the powerful ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, Japanese box office record-breaking ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ and breathtakingly gorgeous ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’) and Toshio Suzuki (who edited Animage – the magazine in which the original Nausicaä manga was published).

A recurring theme through Studio Ghibli films, despite being primarily films for children, is that they deal with their subject matters with maturity and respect to their audience. Although never graphic, Nausicaä doesn’t sugar coat its violent scenes, doesn’t play down the consequences of its action sequences, and doesn’t use the ‘cheat sheet’ of clunking in false light relief to artificially balance itself. Instead it talks to its audience on a level of mutual respect and as such will likely go over the heads of very young children. We therefore recommend that ‘Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind’ is appropriate for kids aged 7 and up.

  • Violence: 3/5 (war like states use guns and swords. Many deaths although none are graphic. Some blood detail)
  • Emotional Distress: 3/5 (the murder of a father devastates a character although this is channelled into anger more than sorrow. Many characters are emotionally distressed throughout although not excessively so. Small children wail and cry at points)
  • Fear Factor: 3/5 (the Giant Warrior / God Warrior is scary although this is near the end of the movie. The Ohmu are shown to be feared but also to be respected and represent more an insect-like herd of Buffalo.)
  • Sexual Content: 0/5
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 3/5 (some discussion about death, some threats, some taunting, some regrets. Notable moments are detailed, above)
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of environmentalism, the cycle of violence, pacifism, jingoism, scientific study, empathy with creatures you can’t understand, a balance between humans and the natural world, disarming violence with reason and self-sacrifice

Words by Michael Record

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind [DVD]


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