Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Dani Moure
Review Date: Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Release Date: Monday, September 26, 2005



What They Say
From one of the most celebrated filmmakers in the history of animation, and the creator of the Oscar-winning Spirited Away comes Hayao Miyazaki's epic ecological masterpiece!

A thousand years after a global war, a seaside kingdom known as the Valley of the Wind remains one of only a few areas still populated. Led by the courageous Princess Nausicaa, the people of the Valley are engaged in a constant struggle with powerful insects called Ohmu, who guard a poisonous jungle that is spreading across the Earth. Nausicaa and her brave companions, together with the people of the Valley, strive to restore the bond between humanity and the Earth...

Hayao Miyazaki gained widespread attention in Japan for his complex ecological manga series, Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind, which he adapted for the screen two years later. Miyazaki began to explore elements he would develop more fully in his later films: daring, compassionate heroines; exciting flying sequences; colourful side characters; strong interpersonal relationships; and a call for an ecologically sustainable way of life.

The Review!
Miyazaki’s epic finally receives a UK release, and what an amazing film it is.

Audio:
I opted to take in the English dub, produced by Disney, when watching the film for review and I can happily say that the dub is excellent. As you would expect from the company that has so much experience in voice acting, they manage to get some fine performances out of the cast which includes personal favourites of mine like Patrick Stewart and Edward James Olmos. Alison Lohman also puts in a fine performance by Nausicaa, capturing her emotions extremely well. From a technical standpoint, the dub is provided in a pretty nice stereo mix. I noticed no dropouts or distortions during playback, although at times (particularly when the characters voices were made to sound a bit muffled as their mouths were covered) the music was a bit overbearing for the dialogue.

I briefly sampled the Japanese track for the film as well, and noticed no problems with it.

Video:
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the transfer for the film is for the most part extremely lush. Colours are very vibrant, the print is in superb condition with no nicks or scratches rearing their head, and there’s only a slight amount of grain that you’d expect for a film. The only problem I had were a few moments throughout the film where there’s a lot of fast movement (such as when the swarm of insects appear) and there is a little bit of macroblocking. It doesn’t last long but it is there on a few occasions. The film would’ve probably benefited from having two discs like the US and Japanese releases, rather than squeezing the full storyboards as well as extras onto the same disc as the feature (it’s worth noting that the encoding is of a poorer quality on some of the disc’s extras as well). For those keeping track, this disc was authored by Madman, so it’s exactly the same transfer as the Australian release.

The English subtitles are yellow, in a clearly readable font, and were error free from what I saw.

Packaging:
No packaging was available as this was a check disc.

Menu:
The menu is simple but quite elegant. The main menu plays a short animation before fixing on some animated windmills in the Valley of the Wind, which continue to loop as some music plays. The movie’s logo is at the top of the screen, with the selections at the bottom. Sub-menus are all static with a different image of scenery from the film behind all the selections. Access times are nice and quick.

Extras:
As has become typical with Ghibli releases, one of the main extras, which I really like, is the ability to watch the entire film as storyboards (with the accompanying soundtrack) via a second angle. While you’d be hard-pressed to sit through the whole movie like this unless you have a great interest in the animation process, it’s an excellent extra to have to see how the film went from paper to screen. The other key feature on the disc is the “Birth of Studio Ghibli” featurette, which runs about 25 minutes and looks at how Studio Ghibli was formed, with interviews and comments from several of its staff.

Rounding things out are a series of theatrical teasers and trailers for the movie, as well as a series of trailers for the rest of the Studio Ghibli features from Nausicaa all the way through to Howl’s Moving Castle. As mentioned in the video section, these trailers are encoded at a lower quality than the main feature, presumably because of space concerns.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Nausicaa was originally announced by Disney/Buena Vista for release in the UK as part of an onslaught of Ghibli titles when the first wave of Kiki’s Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky (along with a repackaged Princess Mononoke) hit a couple of years ago. Since then Optimum Releasing snapped up the UK rights to Spirited Away, and have now pried the Ghibli films away from Disney. This movie, along with The Cat Returns, makes up the first wave of releases, with the remaining movies all scheduled for release early next year, so it’s clear that Optimum are fully behind Mr. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

It’s easy to see why, as this release of the first film created under the Studio Ghibli banner shows what Miyazaki and friends are all about. In a word, it’s simply stunning. Like most of his movies that I have seen so far, it creeps up on you slowly as the film builds up, and by the end of it you realise it’s a breathtaking experience. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes it so good, but the story, the characters and the animation all blend together for a remarkable movie.

The story itself starts off fairly straightforward, revealing more complex layers as it moves on. The world as it is now has been abused by mankind, and the Earth is covered largely by the Toxic Jungle (or “Sea of Decay” if you’re watching the Japanese version with subtitles), where insects, toxic spores, plants and giant creatures called ohmu reside. It’s spreading throughout the land, consuming new areas when it does and laying them to waste. A few sparse areas remain untouched, including the titular Valley of the Wind.

Nausicaa is the princess of this place, and is well-loved by the villagers. She is quite the eco-friendly girl, always wanting to make peace with the Jungle’s inhabitants, and trying to reason with them when they encroach. At the start of the film one of the well known faces of the Valley, Lord Yupa, returns having found several more villages destroyed by the Toxic Jungle, and encountering a group of ohmu. Back in the Valley though, a ship soon crashes close by, and it turns out that on board is a group of Tolmekians and their Princess. They had retrieved a legendary monster from the old world to try and solve the problems of the Jungle and were trying to get it home. Instead, they decide to set up base in the Valley and take it into their Empire.

With several of the villagers sacrificed as part of their arrival, Nausicaa doesn’t want any more killing so tells everyone they should submit to the Tolmekians. But they are not finished, and also want to involve the Pejites. On their way to Pejite they are attacked by some of its soldiers and shot down over the Toxic Jungle. Nausicaa tries to take command and wants to make the world a better place, without resorting to continued destruction to stop the Jungle spreading, but she also has to deal with the Tolmekian Princess and their bloodthirsty attempts to destroy the Jungle, as well as trying to win the Pejites over to her cause.

Many of the themes present in Miyazaki’s later movies, such as the ecological themes running throughout the classic Princess Mononoke are also present here, and its clear that he’s built on some of his beliefs and stories with each of his subsequent films. But there’s something about Nausicaa that just makes it extra special. There’s simply a raw feel to the movie and how it plays out, with smatterings of violence, sacrifice, and some rich characterisation throughout.

Nausicaa is a strong lead, and while she may be somewhat archetypal in how she’s the lead heroine, wanting the best for the world and believing in humanity, her plight is actually believable and Miyazaki manages to convey her emotions extremely well to show how much the world and its inhabitants, both human and insect, mean to her. Several of the people from the Valley have interesting personalities as well, such as Mito, Lord Yupa and Obaba. The inclusion of Asbel, the boy from Pejite who Nausicaa manages to make believe in her cause is a great way to show her conviction and the power of her beliefs. The Tolmekian Princess and a few other characters have a surprising amount of depth considering the length of the film.

There are many facets to Nausicaa, and it’s when they’re all put together and you reach the end of the tale that you realise how masterfully crafted the film was. There are quiet and intricate character moments, such as when Nausicaa and Asbel are talking underground after they crashed, enormous battles, death, destruction, hope and an amazing finale that packs quite an emotional punch. It’s all so seamless and makes it easy to forgive the few misgivings with the narrative, such as the slightly overbearing (if you feel that way) save the Earth theme, that crop up occasionally.

It’s not just that the story and characters shine, either. The animation is wonderful, and it has a real “classic” feel being entirely hand-drawn, and it’s easy to see how much love went in to crafting such a beautiful looking film. The backgrounds are so detailed and gorgeous, and the character designs are fairly simple but are the foundation for Ghibli look that most anime fans have become familiar with. Some of the film’s set pieces are visually stunning, and you just have to see them to see how good they really look.

In Summary:
Nausicaa is a movie that I’ve wanted to see for a long time, and having finally had the chance I wasn’t disappointed at all. As the movie draws on, it pulls you in deeper and deeper keeping, being engaging right until the moment the end credits appear. The story is very well told through characters with totally different personalities that have a lot of heart and really believe in what they think is right. It’s easy to call a movie by Miyazaki a masterpiece, but Nausicaa goes a long way to display exactly why he’s nicknamed the “master of Japanese animation”. There are few films quite as extraordinary as this, and I can only apologise for jumping on the bandwagon and gushing quite so much throughout this review, but I’ve just watched one of the true animated classics.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language (2.0),English Subtitles,Complete Storyboards,Original Trailer and Studio Ghibli Trailers,The Birth of Studio Ghibli Featurette

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.



Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Optimum Asia
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 117
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2