Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

“It made me feel…”

That’s the first thing I said out loud as I watched this movie, and before I get any further, I have to say this, because it’s something that in my mind, I feel ashamed of, but I’m now in the process of correcting

I didn’t grow up with Miyazaki films, and up to recently, I’ve never really paid much attention to them.

I didn’t think they were bad, nor did I think they were boring. I think it was just the question of the backlog. We all hate that word.

Backlog.

We hate it because we have it, it’s there and it haunts us, but there’s nothing we can do about it. I joke around that the only way I can get rid of my backlog is if I had more screens in my life, and I’ve even considered it but decided against it.

I can’t really say what made watch Nausicaa, only that I made a firm decision to do so. I went out and got a copy (I’ll be picking up the Blu-ray soon enough), and saw the dub, which was done fine in my opinion, but maybe I should see the dub first, maybe, I’m still debating that.

        Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind follows the storyline of Nausicaa, the princess of this kingdom.

We first see her in the Toxic Jungle, collecting remnants of giant bugs, materials she can use for her devices. I like to think about where we see characters for the first time, cause it’s sort of a first impression, and while we shouldn’t judge anyone or anything with them, it still leaves an imprint in us, good or bad, and the decision to introduce Nausicaa in this manner was highly effective, it said a lot me about who she was, and why I should be interested in who she was.

Same with Lord Yupa, (who was voiced by the talents of Patrick Stewart).

He’s the first character we’re introduced to in the movie, and it’s done really well, as we see the effects of the Toxic jungle on people.

I always have to remind myself that this is a kid’s movie, it’s meant for kids, so to start a movie with a scene where people have died as a result of poison is odd, but it immediately creates a sense of urgency, by establishing what is going on, we can move rather quickly through the exposition, and not lose the pacing, which kind of brings me to the next item I wanted to highlight.

The pacing of the story is slow, which was kind of the norm in those days, kids were more willing to wait, to take in what was going on before getting bored, but that’s not a bad thing. Besides the little legend at the beginning, you don’t really know what’s going on, and that mystery keeps you watching, you want to know what happened and why.

     Nausicaa follows a story that on the surface looks simplistic, but it’s actually quite complex, despite the fact that it takes place in the future, we see mankind’s arrogance hasn’t changed.

As a result, we see them commit the same mistakes that led them to the Seven Days of Fire, an apocalyptic war that resulted in the destruction of the soil and everything else. In direct contrast, Nausicaa and her people follow “the ways of the wind”, a sort of philosophy where they live in harmony with the land.

Who is Nausicaa?

Like I already said, where we see our characters for the first time is really important in any story and Nausicaa is no exception. The Toxic Jungle I mentioned above, is a place full of life, with all sorts of creatures of massive sizes. It’s not a place meant for people, but that’s where we see Nausicaa for the first time, and that says a lot.

She is not a typical princess, she’s not even a normal person when compared to her people, and others around her. She’s special, she has a connection to the land that has developed over the course of years, due to her knowledge, her appreciation for nature and her ardent belief that violence is not the answer. There’s a scene in the movie, where she shows Lord Yupa a room filled with plants from the Toxic jungle. Through her studies, she has found a way to remove the poisons that they emit, no easy task, considering the popular attitude is to avoid anything related to the Toxic jungle.

It’s a very minor scene, and short enough that you might omit it from memory when remembering the movie, but it stays with me because it’s so important to who she is. She’s not just a pretty face, she’s not just kind. She’s a real person, in the sense that she works hard, cares for the future of her village, and is devoted to changing people’s views on the role the Toxic jungle plays. She’s smart, resourceful and like I said, she’s a believer in the idea that humans and nature can co-exist in harmony

This last idea brings us the climax of the movie, where she “walks over the golden fields”. She was willing to risk her life to show her people there was another way, and her efforts pay dividends. She successfully prevents the destruction of her valley, and saves her people, and shows them all that her efforts weren’t in vain.

She’s a strong female role in a time where there weren’t that many. Remember, this was made in 1984, and most princess type characters didn’t behave that way, though there were other exceptions. I don’t want to get too much into gender roles and stereotypes, but Nausicaa doesn’t fall into any of those traps. The story is about her, and she genuinely grows as it goes on. She loses her father, reacts violently to that, but she gives it up almost immediately as she sees it does no good. There was no prince who was going to save her, no courageous villager, it was her. She took it upon herself to act, to do something difficult because it had to be done. If that’s not a great role model, I don’t know what is

So many of us struggle with female roles, female characters. I won’t lie. It’s difficult for me, cause it’s a different mindset. It may also have to do with the fact that most female roles are poorly written, not because men are sexist or anything like that, it’s because most of them are two-dimensional, and that is not Nausicaa’s case. Like I already said, she’s very real, and that’s such a welcome change of pace.

General Themes

One of the underlying themes in this movie, and I say underlying cause remember, most kids don’t care about the enviroment, they don’t worry about the future or anything like that, and this is a movie that’s mostly for kids, one of the themes is nature. Like I said, we see the contrasts between the people who live in Valley and the kingdoms that we see, the people we see, the people from Pejite, the people from Tolmekia. The people from the Valley are simple folk, just trying to get by, and live in harmony with nature. The people of the Valley are not technologically inclined, but they’re not against it either. Those from Tolmekia and Pejite are more advanced, but they also face other problems.

Nausicaa sees that humans and nature can live together and do so successfully, while it’s the belief of most that humans have to fight the Toxic jungle and destroy the imminent threat.  That’s what pushes the Pejites and Tolmekians to search for the Giant Warrior, and that’s what starts the conflict between the two kingdoms. We also see in the movie, that this fight is not the answer. The mutant bugs outnumber them by the thousands and they don’t have the weapons or manpower to really put up much of a fight. Nausicaa and her people believe in co-existing, and although they themselves fight the harmful effects of the Toxic Jungle, they don’t actively seek to destroy it.

Again, they prefer “the ways of the wind”, and I think there’s a lot to be said there, so much so that I won’t try to say it all, just that we should be more conscious of our actions and just make an effort to live in peace, in harmony, with others and with nature. We don’t know if the people of Pejite or Tolmekia believe this, but we know how they behave in the face of imminent dangers, which leads to the other point I think the movie was trying to make.

Those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it and this is exactly what we see as the story progresses. After I saw the movie for the first time, I was left wondering about the legend in the beginning, the explanation behind the Seven Days Fire, the Giant Warrior, why put there in the first place? You can make the argument that it was there as a way to get some quick exposition out of the way, but why do so? Kids don’t care if the story takes place in the past, present or future. They’ll be entertained no matter what, but it does matter if you’re trying to prove a point.

What we see in the movie, the Toxic jungle, the mutant bugs, the state that people are living in, this is the result of that war, this is the result of man fighting endless wars, till they came up with a weapon so powerful, they destroyed the land.

(An allegory for the atomic bomb? Dunno, you be the judge)…

A millennia later, and man hasn’t changed. They’re still trying to rule over one another, and they’re still resorting to war to settle their disputes. The mere fact that the Tolmekians were willing to resurrect one of those weapons is proof enough of that fact.

War never changes, and that’s truth. It doesn’t matter where you are, where you come from, or where you grew up.

War never changes, and sadly, to this day, as a species, we haven’t changed either. One of the saddest things about this is that Nausicaa highlights that, even if the worst of the worst came to be, if we went and self-destructed, those left alive at first might change their ways, they might band together and start a society similar to the people of the Valley, but not everyone would do that. As a species, as a group, those hard earned lessons would be forgotten in time, and we would resort, again, to armed conflict. It’s happened before, and sadly, it will happen again…

I think that’s kinda sad, like a deer that sees the headlights of a car and doesn’t move, but worse, cause at least the deer doesn’t know. He can’t help it.

We know what’s going to happen, but we’re powerless, or worse, unwilling to change…

Final Thoughts

  • Nausicaa is an excellent movie, if you haven’t seen it, but stuck around and read my post, get off your butt and go watch it, it’s not hard, you’ll enjoy it
  • The animation style, music, and story took me back to a happier time in my life, and I was very grateful for that
  • It was made in 1984, but the “proper film” arrived in the states in 2005? Who dropped that ball?
  • Also, what was up with the original adaptation? That sounds horrible…
  • If this film hadn’t been successful, there would have been no Studio Ghibli, now that’s a scary thought
  • It didn’t get as much as love as Spirited Away did in the States, and I don’t know why…
  • That glider was freaking awesome, even more freaking awesome, someone built a fully functioning replica in 2013, that’s a go in my book…
  • I probably didn’t write enough to satisfy my love for Nausicaa, so you’ll see another post in the future…

 

 

 

 

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