Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä

Tagged: Film

Animated film (1984 Japan, vt heavily cut as Warriors of the Wind, 1985; uncut release as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, 2005). Nibariki, Hakuhodo, Tokuma, Tōei. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, starring Sumi Shimamoto, Goro Naya, Yoshihiko Sakakibara. Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki. 116 minutes. Colour.

Much imitated Ecology Anime, set on a Ruined Earth a thousand years after an environmental Disaster. A pro-technology faction, led by the Tolmekian Empire's Princess Kushana (Sakakibara), acquires a "God Warrior" doomsday device left over from the wars of legend. After its loss in a crash in a secluded valley, their recovery mission is opposed by Nausicaä (Shimamoto), a local princess who has an empathic relationship with the Ohmu, giant insectoid herds that roam the desert known as the Sea of Corruption.

Drawing to a certain extent on Gaia theory, and hence prefiguring Jurassic Park (1993) with its faith in the resilience of nature at the possible expense of humans, Miyazaki's original Manga (February 1982-March 1994 Animage) was commissioned by the editor Toshio Suzuki for serialization in his magazine about Japanese animation, allegedly on the understanding that it would be easier to secure funding for a film if a pre-existing manga property existed. This story is at odds with other, less likely claims that Suzuki duped Miyazaki into commencing the manga with the promise that he (Suzuki) would never adapt it into a film, although he subsequently became Nausicaä's producer. Released with the original manga only partly complete, the anime ending seems to incorporate a messianic message lifted from David Lynch's adaptation of Dune (1984). Made at the dawn of the video era, and hence imparted with greater rental and retail longevity after its initial cinema release, Nausicaä could be said to mark the commencement of anime's golden age, with an increase in productivity and audiences in the mid-1980s that established the foundations for the anime business outside Japan in the 1990s. It received a media Seiun Award.

The animation studio Top Craft, whose members had previously worked on numerous outsourced Rankin/Bass productions such as The Hobbit (1977), The Last Unicorn (1982) and The Flight of Dragons (1982), formed the nucleus of Miyazaki's animation team on Nausicaä. Those who did not quit during the high-pressure environment of Nausicaä's creation would form the first staff of Miyazaki's newly established Studio Ghibli, commencing with {TENKū NO SHIRO LAPUTA} (1986). An awful, truncated version of Nausicaä was released as Warriors of the Wind (1985 US) to the film-makers' enduring horror, and leading to Ghibli's virtual absence from the video-based boom in Japanese cartoons in foreign markets until Disney's Buena Vista distribution arm came up with a deal in the late 1990s.

Miyazaki would return to similar themes with his later Fantasy works. Mononoke Hime (1997; trans as Princess Mononoke) similarly evokes a stand-off between technologically minded imperialists and simpler forest folk, while Howl no Ugoku Shiro (2004 Japan; trans as Howl's Moving Castle) – based on Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle (1986) – also has a plot that turns on the search for a missing McGuffin. [JonC]

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