The relationship between man and nature, the irrational fear of the unknown and the hatred of the new are the themes of what is considered by many as the first Studio Ghibli film (although released a little for the creation of the studio)- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
The story is set in a time when the earth has been traumatized by a nuclear war called the “7 days of Fire” which has made post of the planet inhabitable. The survivors live in fear of a dark forest where giant insects and dangerous plants exist. A 1000 years after this war, in a remote valley that is safe from the poisonous pores of these plants, lives a peaceful kingdom. The young princess of this kingdom is Nausicaä. However when a flying ship of the kingdom of Tolmekia crashes into the valley, her life is changed completely and a great story of adventure and discovery begins. The people of Tolmekia seek to use one of the weapons used during the 7 days of fire to destroy the forest. Now, Nausicaä has to fight to save the jungle which she realizes is not as sinister as it is thought to be.
A couple of years before the release of the film, Miyazaki had started his manga- Nausicaä.- on which the film is based. Although, the manga is much longer with many more side stories, Miyazaki chooses what works best in animation to give the story coherence and depth. Miyazaki constructs the film to be an ode to nature, but not as a friendly force like he would later in My Neighbor Totoro. Here, nature is fearsome and intimidating. It resists the humans who try to control or eliminate it. But it also rewards understanding and comprehension. No matter how much humans in the story want to wish away nature, it stands its ground and fights, leaving it up to humans to accept it or perish. Nausicaä, is our guide in this story who tells us that not all that’s good is so good, nor that all that’s bad so bad. Through her eyes we see the bounty of a post-apocalyptic world to which humans have had to adapt. She is the flag-bearer for reason when everyone around her succumbs to irrational fear and distrust.
Nausicaä of the valley of the wind also is a great starting point to discover the world of Ghibli. It foreshadows many of Miyazaki’s pet themes- nature, female protagonists, the supernatural and of course, flying machines. When Nausicaä takes wings so does the spectator, amazed by the artistry in the animation. So step right into it and watch one of the greatest artists of our time take an assured first step in a career strewn with gems.