After posting my The Cat Returns review, I realized I needed to get a move on with this watch-through if I was going to see all of Studio Ghibli’s films before the end of the year. According to Wikipedia, there are twenty Studio Ghibli movies, and I’ve only seen four of them to date. That’s sixteen left. I’ll need to watch almost one a week to finish in time!
So. . .of course, when I went to the library, I picked up one of Hayao Miyazaki’s films that “technically” isn’t Studio Ghibli. Whatever. It’s not going to count towards crossing off Studio Ghibli films I’ve yet to see, but I’m going to include it in my rantings all the same. I see a lot of people including it in their “Top 10” Studio Ghibli film lists so I’m going to include it on mine too!
I know, I know that I can’t really promise that it will be in my “Top 10” yet, but I have a feeling that Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind will make the cut.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a story set in a post-apocalyptic future where the Earth has been taken over by gigantic bugs and a toxic jungle. Only a few human civilizations remain and Nausicaä is the princess over one such community. Her people live on the edge of the toxic jungle, but since they are peaceful and vigilant, they’ve avoided dangerous run-ins with the bugs and jungle spores. Things change, however, when the less peaceful Tolmekians land in their valley, bringing a dangerous weapon with them.
This is the first Studio Ghibli film that I think I would have loved a lot as a kid. Growing up, I wasn’t one for traditional princess movies. My favorite Disney princesses were Pocahontas and Mulan. Not surprisingly these two have things in common with Nausicaä. First, they are more warrior princesses than the sort who go to balls and wear nice clothes. Second, they don’t wind up married at the end of their story. Third, they have adorable animal companions. As an adult, I love Nausicaä because she’s tough, but it still doesn’t hurt that she has a Pokemon-like animal friend who goes everywhere with her.
Another thing I liked about Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is that it is a film about pacifism and environmentalism. In that way, it’s a bit like James Cameron’s Avatar—but it’s a lot less preachy in its storytelling. I’m always for heroes and heroines who refuse to kill and Nausicaä is one such lady. She’s capable of killing, sure, but after she realizes that about herself, she refuses to take a life ever again. She’s awesome in that way because she doesn’t have to be someone who doles out death to be an awesome and slightly scary character. When she’s standing in front of thousands of rampaging Ohmu at the end of the movie, she looks as tough as Ripley or Sarah Connor—and that’s something I didn’t think I’d ever say about a character from an animated film.
It’s worth mentioning that the art of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is beautiful—if a little dated. It looks really good for an animated movie from the 80’, but I’d be interested to see if the coloring is any brighter on the Blu-ray (my copy was the DVD released in 2004). I loved the “Diesel-Punk meets Medieval” aesthetic of the film. It was different, but surprisingly, not as weird as the look of the other Studio Ghibli films I’ve seen.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is probably the best Hayao Miyazaki film I’ve watched, but it’s not my favorite. I still prefer Howl’s Moving Castle and The Cat Returns—mostly because they employ some humor in their storytelling. Nausicaä is grim. There aren’t many lighthearted moments (or really any at all after the first act) and that gets a little oppressive at times. While the story itself and the characters are magnificently done, I just wish there could have been a breather or two from all the darkness.
Tentatively, Pom Poko is set to be my next Studio Ghibli film so you’ll all be seeing soon how I feel about shape-shifting raccoon dogs.
My Current Studio Ghibli Movie Rankings
- Howl’s Moving Castle (Review)
- The Cat Returns (Review)
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
- My Neighbor Totoro
Who is your favorite animated princess?