Review: Kaze No Tani No Naushika (Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind, 1984)

As I draw nearer to having reviewed every single Hayao Miyazaki film I am again reminded of how amazing the man really is!

Screenplay By: Hayao Miyazaki
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

I have occupied my time with many a distracting task while I tried to formulate my thoughts on Kaze No Tani No Naushika. I know I use the “I’m having trouble thinking of what to write” excuse far too often, heck by this point I think I’ve used the “I know that I use the I’m having trouble thinking of what to write” excuse far too often. I am nothing if not predictable and that is why what I am about to say might surprise you a little, well maybe not, or maybe it will, what the hell do I know?

I first watched Kaze No Tani No Naushika when I was in my teens. I watched it because a kid in my biology class would not stop going on about anime, or as it was known in the day “Japanimation,” and I simply put, wanted him to shut the hell up. A trek to my local video store, yes I had one of the awesome mom and pop operations as opposed to the nasty, nasty Blockbuster (don’t worry chain renters I no longer harbor such venom towards the larger rental stores, heck I use Netflix now), was fruitful as they had many “Japanimation” titles in their traditional animation section. The urge to say “screw you biology dork” and pick up Fantasia or Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs was large, but I had told him I would check out this foreign animation crap, and thus I would. I recall now that I passed over such titles as Akira, Tonari No Totoro and Jangaru Taitei and settled on the video that had the best box art. That video was Kaze No Tani No Naushika, and I recall sitting down for my first experience with the man I would come to know as the greatest director to ever live. I watched the entire film and my initial reaction was, “well, that sucked.”

Yes, I have been outed, my first experience with the immortal Hayao Miyazaki resulted in me declaring that said film sucked. I marched back into biology class and told that annoying kid that he needed to have his health checked because I’d seen that “Japanimation” stuff and it was crap. He was actually a nice chap, I was far too angry myself, and he begged me to give it another shot, asking what I had watched, because maybe that was the problem. When I told him I had chosen Kaze No Tani No Naushika for my first foray into “Japanimation” (I know now that this wasn’t true at all, I now know that Voltron: Defender Of The Universe, Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman and a few other TV shows that defined my youth were in fact anime before I even knew what anime was) his response was one I now completely understand. “And you didn’t like it?” A few startled wows and oh man’s later he simply walked away and stopped annoying me. I thought it was a victory at the time, I had finally shut the annoying kid up, but in the back of my mind a thought began to form. He didn’t walk away from me because he was annoying, he walked away from me because I should have loved the movie, and if I didn’t maybe there was something wrong with me?

Trust me, I know the last statement isn’t true, different people like different films, there is no such thing as one universal film that all others should love. But, by alienating me the biology kid created a seed of doubt in my mind that maybe I needed to give “Japanimation” another try. A few months after that the gnawing doubt finally got to me and I trudged along to the video store with “Japanimation” on my mind again and this time my eyes stopped on a box with a very large and furry creature on the cover. After getting home and an hour and a half viewing time later I had fallen in love with Tonari No Totoro. I was wrong, oh how wrong I had been, if I had actually been man enough to admit such things at the time I would have sought out biology kid and told him as such. But, I was still an angry, angry kid and so my new found love of anime remained my thing and my thing alone. I gulped down every title I could find, some I loved, some were meh and some I didn’t like. But one title remained unseen for a second time, at least until I had watched every anime video my rental oasis had to offer and had no choice but to give Kaze No Tani No Naushika another shot.

Fast forward a number of years and I am now watching Kaze No Tani No Naushika for what must be the twentieth time. Yes, it is safe to assume that my feelings on this work from Miyazaki did quickly change with each repeated viewing. I quickly realized the depth I had missed the first time through, how amazing Nausicaä was as a character, the brilliant animation, and so on. With each viewing I find something new in Kaze No Tani No Naushika to marvel over, and yet it remains in the middle of the pack as far as Miyazaki’s work goes. That should tell you how highly I do regard the entire oeuvre of Mr. Miyazaki.

I realize I have talked for a fair bit and told you a nice story, but I haven’t told you a whole lot about the film and why I think it is so great. I apologize for that, but sometimes the best way to relate the power a work of art has is by telling how it came to have such a high place in your life. Hopefully my little story amused you a bit and was able to relate the draw and power that Kaze No Tani No Naushika has over me. If that isn’t enough, trust me, it is a brilliant film with a wonderful world design, a synth-pop score that fits said world, and it is layered with environmental and humanistic messaging. I know that isn’t much, and if you want more feel free to ask in comments, but I have talked long enough. Kaze No Tani No Naushika is a cracker of a film, it’s not Miyazaki’s best, but it certainly is up there, even if I didn’t exactly outright tell you that in the review.

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill

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7 responses to “Review: Kaze No Tani No Naushika (Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind, 1984)

  1. Steve Kimes

    I actually had the same experience with Miyazaki. I watched Princess Mononoke– my first anime film– and I really didn’t care for it. It seemed so ugly and difficult to understand. Of course, I was totally sold when I later saw Spirited Away. Since then it’s been no turning back.

    All this to say: If there are others reading this review saying, “I’ve tried Miyazaki…” or any other director, for that matter, “and I didn’t care for it,” give him another try! Miyazaki especially is kind of like cigarette smoking or sex. The first time may be uncomfortable, but it is quickly addictive. 🙂

  2. Nausicaa is my favourite Miyazaki film, it’s up there in my favourite films in general. There’s just something about it, it’s so beautiful, so epic and so rousing. The end always turns this 6 foot 2 man into a gibbering wreck! It was the first (or maybe second) of his films I saw though, which might be why I hold it above some of his others. I love all of his films though, he’s an absolute legend. For me he’s the most consistent director out there.

  3. Well, that sucked.

    To be honest, I had the same experience, but with Spirited Away…boy, how dumb we were as teens (but it took me a lot longer than a few weeks to wise up).

    Anyway, not a big fan of this one but I appreciate the creativity at work.

  4. Man, I’ve been meaning to watch this for ages now. It’s high time I got around to a Miyazaki marathon and this sounds like a swell place to start. Good review, man.

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  7. Steve – Hear, hear! 🙂

    David – Miyazaki is not only my favorite director, I also consider him the best director of all time, so there is that.

    James – It certainly is a very creative film.

    Aiden – I’m hoping that the Miyazaki marathon turned out well for you.

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