This week our review is of one of Hayao Miyazaki’s films that, well, the lack of a review of thsi film has been a bit of an oversight – one which is now rectified. The DVD has been out for a while, and the hype behind it is enormous, but the question is – how is it in comparsion with Miyazaki’s more recent stuff.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Japanese Cast

Sumi Shimamoto as Nausicaä
Goro Naya as Yupa
Yoji Matsuda as Asbel
Yoshiko Sakakibara as Kushana
Hisako Kyouda as Oh-Baba
Ichirô Nagai as Mito
Iemasa Kayumi as Kurotowa
Jouji Yanami as Gikkuri
Kôhei Miyauchi as Goru

English Cast

Alison Lohman as Nausicaä
Cam Clarke as Prince Milo
Edward James Olmos as Mito
Patrick Stewart as Lord Yupa
Shia LaBeouf as Asbel
Uma Thurman as Kushana
Mark Hamill as Mayor of Pejite
Chris Sarandon as Kurotowa
Tress MacNeille as Obaba

Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Animated by Topcraft

Premise

In a post-apocalyptic future, the world is on the brink of being swallowed up forests of toxic fungus. The Valley of the Wind, due to weather and geography, has found itself free of both fungus, and the predatory aspirations of it’s neighbors. Things are about to change though, as a discovery in a nearby kingdom will put the village at risk, and gentle Princess Nausicaa may be the village’s only hope.

High Point

All the scenes within the fungal forests are very excellently done, looking alien and dangerous, but familiar. We don’t get enough information overall to say how well Miyazaki thought out the ecosystem, but it looks solid from this end, more or less. The detail in the animation is excellent, and the facial expressions on the characters, particularly the supporting cast, is phenominal.

Low Point

Miyazaki and Tolkien have some of the same hangups on technology, particularly with the whole “simple low-tech life in symbiosis with nature is superior to life with technology” thing. I’m not going to go on a political rant here, but I will say in brief that I suspect that Michael Moorcock would have included Miyazaki’s works like Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa in “Epic Pooh”, had he known of them at the time. This is not to say that Nausicaa is bad. It’s not. Neither is Mononoke, neither is Lord of the Rings. However, over the course of my time doing tech-support, I’ve lost some patience with the perspective expressed by Tolkien and Miyazaki in this regard. I suspect that someone who has not worked Tech Support will not have those hang-ups though.

If you’re afraid of insects, you might want to look up clips from You-Tube to decide if you want to watch this or not.

Nudity and Violence

There is no nudity at all, and some bloody violence, but nothing that I would consider above a PG-13 at the absolute worst.

The Scores

Originality: This is an adaptation of a manga by Miyazaki, but a very original one. This world is very different from most other worlds I’ve seen in Sci-Fi and fantasy. 5 out of 6

Animation: A lot of the people who worked on this either went on to form Studio Ghibli, or other studio’s of their own – including one key animator of note – Hideki Anno. 6 out of 6

Story: It’s a good story, well told, and aside from my criticism under the low point I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. 4 out of 6

Voice Acting: The Japanese dub was excellent, the English dub has some moments at the beginning that I’d consider iffy, but otherwise it’s fine. 5 out of 6

Emotional Response: Miyazaki puts a lot of character in his supporting cast, particularly the villagers from the Valley of the Wind, so when they’re in peril I found myself worrying about the characters in spite of myself. 5 out of 6

Production: It’s a Studio Ghibli film, put on DVD by Disney, they took their time to make sure the sound and the music were on par with the animation and voice acting. It’s not totally flawless though, there are some sound artifacts from the recording studio on the Japanese dub. 5 out of 6

Overall: This is an excellent film, and whether you like anime or not it’s worth giving it a watch. 6 out of 6

In total, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind receives a 36 out of 42.

Note: For any readers in the Portland-Metro area, I’ll be at this week’s meeting of the Northern Oregon & Vancouver Anime Club in Tigard – and for those who will be attending Kumoricon, I’ll be at covering Kumoricon for the Bureau.