Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Director:

Hayao Miyazaki

Cast (English Language):

Alison Lohman……….Nausicaa
Patrick Stewart……….Lord Yupa
Uma Thurman……….Kushana
Chris Sarandon……….Kurotowa
Shia LaBeouf……….Asbel
Edward James Olmos……….Mito
Mark Hamill……….Pejite Mayor

Walt Disney Home Entertainment Presents a Studio Ghibli Film. Produced by Isao Takahata. Original story and screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki. Based on the comic series published in “Animage” month magazine, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”. Running time: 117 minutes. Rated PG (for violence).


The Movie

The United States has Walt Disney. Japan has Hayao Miyazaki. In 2002, Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. To celebrate this monumental achievement Walt Disney Home Entertainment released the Oscar winner and two other Miyazaki-Studio Ghibli classics, Castle in the Sky and Kiki’s Delivery Service, on DVD. This was the first wave of Miyazaki on DVD by Walt Disney Studios – the only exception is Princess Mononoke, which was released by Miramax.

Now, in 2005, Walt Disney Home Entertainment is at it again releasing three more Studio Ghibli films, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984), Porco Rosso (1992), and The Cat Returns (2002). Hayao Miyazaki directed all but the latter.

The first film of this set, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, is an important film. Not only did it mark Miyazaki’s directorial debut, but it was also the only non-Studio Ghibli production for Miyazaki. (Studio Ghibli’s first production was 1986’s Castle in the Sky).

The eighties were a decade for big business and instability. As the stock market rose and the population increased, valuable resources were being depleted. Let us not forget the Cold War between The United States and the Soviet Union.

Keeping that image in mind, Miyazaki’s first feature tells the story of a seaside kingdom known as “the Valley of the Wind.” One thousand years after a global war destroyed most of the densely inhabited areas of Earth, the valley struggles to remain a populated territory. But there’s a problem. Forcible insects called Ohmu are guarding a poisonous jungle that is spreading drastically across the Earth’s surface.

Earth’s salvation comes in the form of the beautiful Princess Nausicaa (voiced by Alison Lohman). She is the leader of the Valley of the Wind. Together with her friends Lord Yupa (voiced by Patrick Stewart) and Mito (voiced by Edward James Olmos), Nausicaa struggles to restore the balance between the human race and Earth.

Along the way, Nausicaa encounters a warring group, led by Kushana (voiced by Uma Thurman), which wants to exterminate the insects by way of brute force. Mostly through explosions and gunfire and a figure known only as “the Great Warrior.”

For his first feature Miyazaki steps up to the plate and nails one out of the park. Not many filmmakers can claim that. (Well, there was that Orson Welles guy.) Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is an epic masterpiece for good reason. Miyazaki combines action and adventure and a little bit of fantasy with staggering visuals. Oh, not to forget Joe Hisaishi’s melancholic musical score. Though many of you may find the animation tame by today’s standards; I bet if you saw this back in 1984, it would have blown your mind.

Besides the animation, all the characters work for this film. There are no stereotypes to speak of, which is also a plus. Nausicaa is the archetypical beautiful, strong-willed female. Hollywood executives take note. Learn from directors like Hayao Miyazaki and Quentin Tarantino. Both employ female characters who are decisive, and won’t scream or cower away from danger.


The DVD

THE VIDEO

The DVD transfer suffers for this Studio Ghibli release. It’s great to have this animated classic on DVD, don’t get me wrong. The guys at Walt Disney should have taken the time and remastered the video. Twenty-one years after its theatrical release, the video transfer is not up to snuff. It has a grainy look and that’s just on my analog television. And the colors seem bland for such a magical setting. Still, it is presented in widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions.

THE AUDIO

This DVD is presented with 2.0 Dolby Stereo Sound. It would have been nice to have a 5.1 option, but it’s all good. You still get to hear all the notes to Joe Hisaishi’s score as well as all the action sequences. In addition to the English dub version of the film, you can listen to the original Japanese recording. There are also English subtitles and captions for the hearing impaired.

SPECIAL FEATURES

The second wave of Studio Ghibli films takes a page from the first releases. While featurettes and trailers are located on the first disc, the second disc includes the complete storyboards for the film.

Behind the Microphone is the opening featurette on Disc #1. For seven-odd minutes the actors and actresses that comprise the vocal talent in the English dubbed version of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind treat the viewer to a series of sound bites. Most of the what is said is forgettable, but there are some neat tidbits (i.e., Patrick Stewart saying he is “mustache syncing” because a large mustache covers his entire mouth).

The big featurette is The Birth Story of Studio Ghibli (27:43). This feature originally aired on Japanese television after the release of Princess Mononoke in 1997. Like the title implies, this supplement chronicles how Studio Ghibli began. It starts with a man named Toshio Suzuki. While working as head editor for the monthly “Animage” magazine, Suzuki helped get Miyazaki’s first feature developed. By publishing a comic version of Nausicaa, the production company Top Craft green-lighted the project. Soon thereafter the two were inseparable. As it stands, Studio Ghibli has made 14 films. At least five Ghibli films have topped the Japanese box office in a given year.

There are also Sneak Peeks for the home video releases of: Bambi: Platinum Edition; The Incredibles; Spirited Away; Castle in the Sky; Kiki’s Delivery Service; and a montage for Nausicaa, Porco Rosso, and The Cat Returns.

Completing the extras of the first disc are the Original Japanese Trailers and TV Spots for Miyazaki’s directing debut. These are interesting to watch just to see how movies are marketed outside of America.

The only extra on Disc #2 are the original storyboards. For animation students or artists this is an interesting feature. It allows the viewer to see the entire film as a gigantic storyboard. It has both the Japanese language track and the English track.

THE INSIDE PULSE

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a film that can be seen on so many levels. Yes, it is a fantasy-oriented animated classic. But it can also be viewed as a metaphor for deterioration of society. Then there’s that whole “violence is not the solution” motif. Needless to say, Miyazaki’s first chance to shine is timeless. Definitely one of the best animated films I’ve ever seen.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

9.5
THE VIDEO

6.5
THE AUDIO

7.5
THE EXTRAS

8
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
8.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

Up next: The Studio Ghibli Experience Part 2 – The Flying Pig?!

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