I haven’t actually watched Nausicaa before (nor have I read the 7 volume manga that the film in based on), I was going to over a decade ago when SBS was airing Ghibli movies every Saturday night but Dad taped over the VHS that had recorded the showing of it on the next day and I was pretty salty about it so I never really was motivated to watch it.
As of writing this, I still haven’t watched Nausicaa, I just thought I’d write up a quick intro prior to watching and, unless I forget, I will be doing this for all of the other Ghibli films that I haven’t watched yet.
First of all, I don’t really know much about this film other than the fact that it has a cute rabbity-long eared friend thing and I can sort of picture the main character (short brown hair and blue dressy outfit thing? Sure, that describes a lot of Ghibli heroines, but I think I’m right on this one).
I also am assuming that the main character is called Nausicaa and there is some form of windy valley. Probably.
I think there are flying mammals? Probably because the valley is full of wind and the creature have big ears that work as sails?
I’ve also heard that it is quite good (87% on Rotten Tomatoes). I’m looking forward to watching it.
Well, here we go!
This movie starts of by telling us that the world is in a post-apocalyptic state which occurred 100 years ago. This war created the Sea of Decay where humans have to wear masks in order to survive.
Nausicaa lives in and is a princess of a kingdom called ‘The Valley of the Wind’.
Our heroine is gathering parts of giant insect (Ohmu) shells for the villagers to create tools out of and, straight off the bat, we see that she’s rather friendly and sympathetic towards these giant insects and means them no harm when, after chasing towards the sounds of an attacking insect, she apologises to a giant insect which she accidentally steps on.
Nasuicaa rescues a human, Lord Yupa, who has a small, frightened fox-squirrel which had enraged the Ohmu. She calms the small animal down and more or less adopts it. His name is Teto and he is my favourite part of the movie despite never actually doing anything other than snuggle up to Nausicaa.
Something I like about this movie is that, upon her return to the village, everybody talks about how strong and wonderful she is and there’s no sign of a salty male who points out that she’s ‘strong for a girl’. Her gender rarely comes into the fact that she’s a warrior.
We get a nice bit of worldbuilding foreshadowing here when the Ghibli staple ‘Baba’ tells us of a prophecy relating to a savior dressed in blue descending onto a field of gold. It’s a little Legend of Zelda-esque “You, boy in a green garb, there’s a legend of a boy in green…”
One night, a ship is having an emergency landing and Nausicaa, having seen that insects are attacking the ship, assumes immediately that they must have come here before and attacked some insects, more or less telling us that the insects, while large and strong, are mostly harmless creatures unless they are threatened.
Nausicaa meets a dying princess who was held captive on the ship, she tells them to burn the cargo.
A group of knights, who we find out to be Tolmekian, are lead by another Princess, Princess Kushana. Again, a strong warrior princess whose gender never comes into conversation.
The Tolmekian knights invade the village and kill Nausicaa’s ailing father.
Seeing this, we get another Ghibli staple; a character becoming so frustrated her hair poofs up. An enraged and poofy Nausicaa kills a few of the knights before Lord Yupa calms everyone down.
We find out that the knights came to capture the cargo of the crashed ship and use it, which we find out to be an embryo, to burn down the Sea of Decay.
Nausicaa, knowing that if they don’t agree to submit to the knights more deaths will occur, tells the villages to submit and listen to Princess Kushana, despite Baba saying how many have tried to destroy the Sea of Decay.
Soon after, we learn that Nausicaa has a secret garden where she has studied and discovered that the land is polluted and, if the plants from the Sea of Decay are given pure water and soil, they will not be toxic.
I found that this scene felt a little weirdly placed here and could have been earlier in the movie, possibly prior to the cargo ship crashing.
However, this scene is important none the less and all the other scenes in this movie feel correctly placed.
Princess Kushana, Nausicaa and five villagers held hostage from the Valley set out for the Tolmekian capital.
An interceptor from another Kingdom (Pejite) shoots down the airships, causing Nausicaa, Kushana, and the hostages to crash land. We get a really lovely scene where, despite the toxic air, Nausicaa removes her mask to motivate the others with a smile.
Nausicaa finds a Pejite pilot called Asbel who is being pursued by an insect for attacking it and, you have to hand it to Nausicaa being both sympathetic to humans as well as animals, because a lot of the time the humans in this movie don’t deserve to be rescued.
Nausicaa, having rescued Asbel, crash lands her glinder into quicksand, causing the pair to sink and land on the other side in a non-toxic are underneath the Sea of Decay.
The pair then return to Pejite which has now (deservingly) been ravaged by insects. They find a bunch of survivors who explain that they lured the insects in order to kill the Tolmekians and they plan to do they same to the Valley.
Meanwhile, we learn that spores are spreading to the valley so the forest must be burnt down and that the other princess hates insects because one attacked her and now she only has one arm.
It’s about here where I realised that this whole story felt pretty familiar and, as the movie went on, I came to realise that some of the themes are very reminiscent of another Studio Ghibli title – Princess Mononoke: female warriors, humans vs non-humans/nature, strong female bad guy with a grudge against ‘the other side’, humans are the problem, etc.
However, the similarities don’t make either film bad as the plots are still mostly different.
Nausicaa is being held hostage by the Pejite but is freed by Asbel’s mother and Nausicaa is given the ‘old switcheroo’ with a young Pejite girl where they exchange clothes and positions so that Nausicaa can escape.
Nausicaa finds that the Pejite are baiting a stampede of Ohmu with an injured baby Ohmu which Nausicaa promptly rescues, the pink Pejite dress becoming blue from the Ohmu blood in the process.
Meanwhile, nothing seems to be stopping this stampede and the Great Warrior is brought out prematurely and dies pretty anti-climatically.
Nausicaa and the baby Ohmu stand in the way of the stampede but are run over, killing Nausicaa but calming down the stampede.
Nausicaa is brought back to life with the Ohmu’s glowing tentacles, causing Nausicaa to rise up and walk along the field of gold in her stained blue clothes, as per the prophecy we were told at the start of the movie. Baba points this out to us, just in case this wasn’t immediately obvious.
The clothes are a nice thematic choice (as in, stained by the blood of the baby Ohmu), but it feels rather unnecessary considering Nausicaa’s starting outfit was blue.
In the closing scenes, we see the Pejites help the villagers of the Valley of the Wind rebuild their village. The final shot of the movie is of a non-toxic tree sprouting underneath the Sea of Decay.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, like all other works of Studio Ghibli, is a stunningly animated and beautiful story in a futuristic yet ancient-feeling setting, causing the story to be timeless. The design of the ships and the gliders really add to that Ghibli feeling of timelessness.
Nausicaa is sympathetic to all living things, paving the way for the ending where she sacrifices her own life to bring peace to her village.
Unlike other Ghibli films, our heroine never seems to have a love interest throughout this movie because this isn’t a love story – it’s a story about humans living alongside nature and how humans treat nature.
A small thing I noticed is that, despite being called ‘Princess’, Nausicaa, nor the Pejite Princess, appear to be of royal decent.
Nausicaa’s Father, while respected, is not called ‘King’ and likewise Asbel nor his Mother are considered royalty either despite Asbel’s sister being a Princess.
It seems to be more of a rank acquired or a job rather than something that you’re born into.
Overall, I really liked this film and can’t really find much to complain about other than a scene that felt the tiniest out of place. I feel like I enjoyed it more than the similar-in-theme Princess Mononoke (but I guess when I get around to rewatching and reviewing that, I’ll have more to say on the topic).
I give this movie 4 stars out of 5. Whether or not I’m judging this movie too harshly because I’ve not seen it before or because it’s the first movie I’m reviewing is unknown, but for now, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend watching this movie for its beautiful visuals and wonderful story telling.