Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind review (Blu-ray)

Undoubtedly, Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most celebrated film-makers in cinema history, while Studio Ghibli exists as just about the most beloved foreign film company around today. But there would be no such colourful legacy if it wasn't for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the success of which is exactly what laid the foundations for the studio and gave birth to what was to become the golden enterprise behind so much recognition, which includes an Oscar.

Viewing this Blu-ray edition of the film with the 2005 all-star English dub (original Japanese is an option on the disc), it's truly hard to believe that it's getting on for thirty years since its original release, but indeed it is. The picture quality of this high definition remaster is outstanding, with an animated palette that's ever so vibrant, making the film resemble a lifelike storybook, where each and every page is astoundingly detailed, fruitful and resolutely meaningful. And yes, this release of the film is in its entirety, not the horrendous butchering known as the “Warriors of the Wind” cut that was put out in the West by New World Pictures, formerly owned by the legendary Roger Corman.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the winner of a number of prestigious awards, was based on the manga series written by Miyazaki himself, which he penned with the intention of generating interest in a feature-length film version of his story, that he had already planned in advance. Set in the far future, it concerns the young Nausicaa, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, one of many kingdoms that were created when the Earth suffered ecological meltdown as a result of the Seven Days of Fire, an apocalyptic war. Since then, as pockets of surviving humanity spread across the land to rebuild, the Toxic Jungle was naturally formed out of the disaster; an enormous forest where the air is deadly poisonous and various insects roam, such as the titanic Ohmu, which destroy anything that enters their domain. But the Toxic Jungle is the target of the powerful Tolmekians, a distant state who wish to burn the forest down using a colossal weapon known as a Giant Warrior, which was instrumental in the great war 1000 years previous.

When a Tolmekian airship containing the embryo of the Giant Warrior crashes, Princess Nausicaa and her people aim to destroy it as per the dying request of a captured princess aboard the ship, but before they have the chance their town is overrun by the Tolmekians, kick-starting an epic adventure for Nausicaa and a desperate attempt to keep the peace between the various kingdoms.

The great thing about hand-drawn animation is that you can literally put whatever you want on paper, and so there are no limitations to one's creativity. This is especially good when you've got an imagination like Miyazaki's, who for this film fleshed out a rich, unique dystopia that blends a medieval-style aesthetic with both the technology of the Second World War and what we imagine the faraway future will behold. It's a visually bold world.

Enviromentalism is an extremely strong theme that runs throughout the entire film, yet it's never hidden beneath metaphors or symbolism, but blatant and to-the-point. An original platform for such expression back in the first half of the '80s, there's no doubt that the film has inspired the likes of James Cameron and his 2009 work, Avatar. But then again, what didn't influence that particular blockbuster?

Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is nothing but a sheer triumph in film-making. With such strong animation and a masterfully told, poignant story, it's no wonder the man has had such a tremendous career.

EXTRAS ??? An audio commentary with animator Hideaki Anno and assistant director Kazuyoshi Katayama; storyboards; an interview with Hideaki Anno and Studio Ghibli president Toshio Suzuki; The Birth of Studio Ghibli: a feature running half an hour that details the history of the animation company; Behind the Microphone: the cast of the English dubbing talk passionately about the film and their characters; the original trailers and TV spots; and a selection of trailers for the Studio Ghibli Collection on home video.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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