The movie was written and produced in 1984 by Hayao Miyazaki; it was the second movie that he had worked on and it set the path for all of his future films. The movie features hand drawn animation and deals heavily with themes that are still relevant today.
The graphic novels that the movie was based on were first released in 1982 in Japan, Miyazaki was 41 at the time. He was four years old when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in World War II, and he grew up in the aftermath of the event, so it makes sense that the movie deals with the effects of war on people and the earth and shows the consequences of anger.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind begins in a world 6,000 years after a great war destroys the earth and spawns a toxic jungle that has taken over the world. Glimpses of the war are spread throughout the movie; the characters are constantly walking through ruins and the skeletons of the giant warriors are often seen buried in the ground, turned into giant habitats for the mutated insects of the jungle.
From the beginning, the consequences that the war brought on is clear. In the beginning of the movie, Lord Yupa, an adventurer and friend of Nausicaä’s, visits a village that has been completely infected by the toxic jungle and finds a house full of skeletons and a child's doll that falls apart as he picks it up.
That symbolism of the destruction of innocence via war is prevalent throughout the movie. It is used to highlight the destruction and filth of war and also the importance of growing up and fighting for change instead of just passively hoping for the better.
Even though the movie was released 35 years ago, many of its themes are still relevant today. In the current political climate, the threat of war, as distant as it may seem, looms in the back of people's minds and the consequences of war are terrifying unknowns. Miyazaki capture the reality of this fear almost perfectly, and while he addresses that there is no perfect solutions to bringing about peace, he stresses the importance of understanding one's enemy and sympathizing with them and how doing that is the first step towards peace.
Another theme that is found throughout the movie, is environmental conservation. The war may have caused the destruction, but the effect that it had on the world is what is killing the people. The toxic forest, the blight that is spreading over the world, was caused by pollution. The toxins that filled the soil, air, and water caused by the war, are the reasons that the forest has become toxic, and, as Nausicaä discovers, the water and soil deep in the earth, untainted by human destruction, is pure. Miyazaki show the destruction that humans have on the planet and through Nausicaä he shows how, through research and compassion, we can see the earth, not as an enemy, but as a protector that has been here long before us and will be here long after us.
Environmental conservation, to me, has always been an important ideal, and it is partially thanks to this movie. I’ve grown up watching Miyazaki movies, and environmentalism is a constant theme throughout most of his films. His characters, such as Nausicaä or San (from his movie Princess Mononoke) were my heroes and it was there ideals that sparked my love for nature. With the way that Miyazaki portrays the beautiful and sometimes the terrible things that nature is capable of, who wouldn’t fall in love?
That brings me to how he portrays it; the animation in the movie is completely hand drawn, this allowed him a freedom that computer generated animation does not allow. Practically every frame in the movie is unique, making it feel like it came straight from your imagination, even the backgrounds are full of life and detail. Miyazaki is able to bring to life creatures (such as the ohmu) that could never exist in the real world, yet he makes them feel real. He brings to life every aspect of the movie, even the unseen wind, which plays a big part in the movie, is illustrated in such a way that makes it feel real.
The final piece of the puzzle that makes this movie so real and so beautiful is the sound design. Every scene is filled with life and not just that which is on screen. The ambient noise and music in this movie is beautiful, from the reverent reverb in the beginning of the movie when Nausicaä finds the ohmu shell, to the beautiful flashback scenes in which a child's voice sings a simple but sweet song. Joe Hisaishi, the composer for the movie, is able to perfectly capture the mood for this story and it is his music that brings it to life.
All in all, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, while not perfect, is a beautiful movie, both aesthetically and thematically, and I would recommend it to anyone, no matter their age.
I give this movie 10/10 Ohmu shells.