The Secret World of Arrietty, earned the top grossing film of 2010 at the Japanese box office and made over $100 million worldwide. Before its release on Feb. 17, revisit the film that set into motion the founding of Studio Ghibli and laid the groundwork for its future successes: co-founder Hayao Miyasaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
Nausicaä is a story set on a post-apocalyptic Earth one thousand years after the Seven Days of Fire, a cataclysm during which civilization was nearly wiped out. Returning to a medieval way of life, the people of the land spend most of their days clinging to lost technology and living in fear of the monstrous insects now populating most of the planet. What’s worse is that most of the landmasses of Earth are now shrouded in a poisonous miasma called the Sea of Decay. But, in a small kingdom known as the Valley of the Wind, a young princess named Nausicaä attempts to make peace with nature.
However, the peaceful lives of the valley’s natives are interrupted when an airship belonging to the Tolmekian empire crash lands in the valley, bringing with it deadly insects, prisoners of war, and a strange pulsating egg. Plundered from the depths of the city of Pejite, the egg contains a “god warrior,” one of several entities that were instrumental in bringing about the Seven Days of Fire. As Tolmekian commander Kushana tries to revive the fallen giant and burn away the toxic forest, the insects of the forest gather near the valley for one final battle.
The film is a visual wonder. From Miyazaki’s creatures to his carriers and gunships and even his relatively simple character designs, the world of Nausicaä oozes style and radiates a certain uniqueness that would later define his other works. The Japanese dub is brilliant, per usual, but the English voice cast is a bit shaky. Alison Lohman (the voice of Nausicaä) is, frankly, terrible. Instead of coming across as strong and confident, she manages to sound incredibly awkward while doing anything that isn’t normal speech, and even then, she’s not terribly convincing as an inhabitant of a ruined Earth. Let’s not even talk about Shia LaBeouf as Nausicaä’s friend, Asbel.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is Hayao Miyazaki’s first directorial work based upon his own material. Since then, he has directed eight more animated films, including the 2001 Oscar-winning Spirited Away. Disney’s dual DVD/Blu-ray release and Miyazaki’s focus on delivering a strong narrative with memorable characters allows fans and non-fans alike to take a quick trip into the past with Nausicaä.