This film is pre-Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki’s second full-length film and his first to both write and direct. It’s a cinematic version of Miyazaki’s original manga stories of the same title. This film is only the first sixteen chapters of the manga, and in that sense, it works. There’s a lot of worldbuilding and politics involved in this story, and it sets the stage for the recurrent themes in all his subsequent stories. And like many other reviewers stated, this movie was something of a precursor for the more cohesive subsequent film Castle in the Sky.
You can see that he is still honing in on his story-telling skills. There is an obvious statement about politics, war, and how humans tend to degrade nature. Fantasy is a great genre for political statements, but it is a fine art and one that takes a lot of practice to incorporate your message subtlety. While it’s a good story, Nausicaä’s themes are very cut and dry – but still told and portrayed well.
Nausicaä is set in a post-nuclear war world where the planet has become overrun with poisonous gases and limited resources, with oversized mutant insects to boot. Warring neighbors soon encroach and invade Nausicaä’s peaceful valley and she is thrown into the midst of a battle between humans and nature. Using her special talents of soothing and communicating with the insects, she bridges the divide between humans and nature. She enlightens her fellow humans to realize the error of their mindsets and learn to undo their destructive methods that has consequently almost destroyed themselves.
It’s a somber adventure. If you’re used to the lighter and oftentimes humorous quips of his later films, this story will jar you. The characters are serious, and the stakes are more serious with the lack of spunk and comic relief. I’m not taking it away from Miyazaki at all: this is a story with a lot of symbolism and stern themes. This is a statement of how humans have the capacity to destroy nature and in doing so, would eventually destroy themselves. In creating war, they had poisoned the very soil of the planet. That poison (of war and hatred) will slowly and eventually choke the life out of humans. Nature will always adapt and survive, and like nature, he shows that humans too must adapt and survive, but they also must open their eyes and stop the perversion of hate.
Nausicaä has a special connection and understanding (and sympathy) for nature which she always had from her youth. Humans, even her own father, could not take that love away from her, which is why she is the “savior” of humanity and succeeds in uniting humans with nature again. Until she falls through the forest floor, she continues to search for a cure to the poisons emitted by the jungles. Despite her scientific skills and learning, she discovers to her joy that nature has already found a way to heal itself. Thus, Nausicaä must then make that step to heal humanity.
The characters are very cut and dry. The villains are villainous, and consequently they are predictable. The slight comic relief with the valley workers don’t do much to ease the tension in the overall seriousness and gloom and doom of the story.
Small side note: the airships in this film are similar to those in Howl’s Moving Castle. I think war has something to do with that. And that Miyazaki tends to design rather bionic fluid airships. Note also: horseclaws were the inspiration for the chocobos in the Final Fantasy series. And my first impression of the Ohmu was the worms from Dune.
This is the most sci-fi-esque of his stories, I’ve noticed. Flying and air travel is a standard, and there is plenty of scenic vistas that carry Miyazaki’s signature. Overall, Nausicaä is certainly an anime classic worth the watch.