Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind Review
Hayao Miyazaki's 1984 film is credited with starting Studio Ghibli, a studio and brand which has given us animated gem after gem. Miyazaki and his collaborator Isao Takahata had clearly made fine, fine films before Nausicaa and the brand has now absorbed works like Castle of Cagliostro before it as a form of collective shorthand for all of their output.
Nausicaa is also a kind of template for later works like Princess Mononoke and even Pom Poko. It uses the animated fable form to be serious about the ecological and the political, and it simultaneously aims for the childlike and the adult much as all Ghibli works have done since.
This treating the viewer with maturity and giving them the respect to be able to understand allegories and morality stands in stark contrast to a lot of animated film. I suppose for me that approach is what distinguishes Studio Ghibli from all of its competitors and makes its birth such a noteworthy matter.
The story of Nausicaa is set in a kind of medieval future, if that makes sense, where the world is caught in the midst of an arms race and ecological disaster. Competing ideologies and years of war mean that the sides involved are locked in their shared madness, and the natural world is scarred by their efforts and desperate to protect itself from them.
In the centre of this is a young woman, a princess warrior, whose efforts to make all around see sense are integral to our race having a future. This character is a positivist and an activist role model for the viewer, be they mature or not, and the message from an epic adventure is to promote peace and consideration for all who inhabit our world.
In the hands of others, the animation could be mass produced, the sentiment taken off the peg and the story told as inelegant hogwash, but Miyazaki weaves magic from the opposing virtues. The images look personal and particular, the emotions are earnest, real and from our own universe, and the action and narrative is compelling and believable.
Which means that you get to see a heartfelt moving adventure that affirms your role in the world of today. If you have children they get the same message and a warning of what will happen if they don't heed it. In short, the prototype Ghibli film seeks, and succeeds, to improve the world of those who watch it by empowering them to take up the causes it espouses.
Nausicaa is nearly peerless, but Miyazaki's gateway film opens up even greater delights with what followed it.
I have found previous transfers of this film on DVD quite soft and this 1080P retains that appearance to some degree whilst providing plenty of extra detail. AVC/MPEG 4 encoded with a 23.98 frame rate per second, the basic virtues of the animation I mention above are respected with no excessive filtering or edge enhancement. Black levels are close to spot on and colours seem well managed. This is a very nice and sympathetic treatment.
Uncompressed LPCM tracks in Japanese and English are included in stereo format and, as is quite usual with the care Ghibli take, the English language track is well directed and blessed with some fine actors. Having the score in such rich definition is a real joy and unless you really wanted 5.1 sound these are very good audio options.
The commentary from crew members Anno and Katayama is an amiable guide to the production of the film delivered in Japanese with English subs. They discuss Miyazaki's exacting standards, an alternative opening, and generally admire their rather wonderful handiwork.
Anno pops up again in the audio piece looking at the making of the film where he chats with Toshio Suzuki about their experiences. This is presented with a blue countdown on screen as the voices interact and is a very curious addition which is very difficult to watch or keep attuned to given the necessity of subs and the lack of visual appeal.
Following the history of Ghibli using actors and real footage we get "The Birth of Studio Ghibli", which is a half hour long documentary. It's quite straight-laced and pretty lacking in irony - it even tells of how Miyazaki spent a day watching women’s skirts on the street in order to represent this better in his animation(he was not arrested by the way).
There's a featurette on the English dialogue track with Mark Hamill, Alison Lohman, Uma Thurman and Patrick Stewart thesping it up. Nausicaa trailers from Japan are included in 1080P, and some 720P trailers for Optimum's Ghibli releases complete the package.
A landmark film from our greatest living animator gets a good HD treatment.