Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is, in many ways, one of the most iconic anime films ever release. It stands as the launching point of Hayao Miyazaki's career and helped form Studio Ghibli as we know it today. It's a classic among classics, though compared to other Ghibli films it's probably the darkest of their efforts. Considered an epic by most this masterpiece has finally been given the Blu-ray treatment.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was originally released March 4, 1984. The film has had a few releases here in the States thanks to Disney, so American animation fans are most likely well aware of the film. If you're not, however, know that this is a film that deserves to be in everyone's collection.
The movie takes place roughly a thousand years after something known as the "Seven Days of Fire". Basically at that point giant beings from inside the Earth came forward and burned down the world of man. In the ensuing time period poisonous forests began growing across the world. These forests are uninhabitable by humans and have given rise to giant bugs that prove hostile themselves. Needless to say the human population isn't exactly as prominent as it used to be, but there are still little glimmers of hope.
Early in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind we are introduced to the titular character, Nausicaa. She's a princess from a quiet village in a valley near the ocean. Strong winds have afforded them protection from the spores of the forests, and the people have essentially become one with the land. Nausicaa in particular has grown up being unafraid of the bugs and the forests for some reason. She has a gift when it comes to dealing with them and even has the ability to calm down the giant Ohm beetle, which is capable of destroying cities in large packs.
Nausicaa's life seems to be going pretty well despite everything going on in the world, however, that's put to an end when ships from a warring country wind up crashing into their village. A young girl dies in Nausicaa's arms, but the worst is yet to come as the villagers find something that resembles a massive beating heart that survived the crash as well. After more soldiers arrive it's soon revealed that it's a young giant warrior like the ones that burned the Earth during the "Seven Days of Fire". What transpires next is Nausicaa's plight to save her village and the people she cares about, while also finding a way to coexist with the poisonous forest and bugs.
What's so great about Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is the manner with which Miyazaki builds his characters up. Like all his other efforts the characters here have heart and they feel real. That speaks volumes to the Disney films of old where characters really touched the viewers and became someone you could empathize with. Support characters such as old man Lord Yupa, a young prince named Asbel, and even the antagonist Lady Kushana all support the film in major ways.
It should be noted that even though he has become more known for his cuter films, Miyazaki created a dark, adult world with Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. There's death and destruction everywhere, and the outlook for the most part is pretty bleak. It's definitely a film that is for an older audience and not something that younger members of family will be able to appreciate. With that being said it's a finely balanced film that works action and storytelling together in a very effective way. This is a classic, an epic, and a masterpiece that stands strong over 25 years later. Nausicaa is a timeless film and it should be in everyone's collection.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is presented here with a Blu-ray disc and DVD combo pack. The transfer employed on the Blu-ray is outstanding from top to bottom. The 1080p presentation comes with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and has received an AVC encoding. Much of the beauty found in Nausicaa stems from the production of the film, as is often the case with Studio Ghibli pieces. The watercolor style, fluid animation, and lively settings pop in nearly every scene. There's a fine degree of sharpness and all in all the lines in this film are clean as can be.
Keep the praises in mind when considering the flim's age. This is a twenty-seven year old production and as such there's some loss in quality that this presentation didn't iron out. Some subtle grain is a part of the film, as are some flatter than expected colors, and speckle/dirt. Neither of these anomalies takes the quality of the experience down a peg, but they are worth noting and add to the aged look of the film. Make no mistakes about it though; Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is gorgeous and it's a huge step up from the original DVD release.
For audio Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind comes with 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks for English, French, and the original Japanese. Naturally one can point right to the 2.0 and wonder where the 5.1 track was, at least for the English language. While the absence of such a presentation is disappointing in some respects, the soundstage and quality of the sound here makes up for the lack of channel support.
For my experience with the film I watched it one time in Japanese and once in English. Me being a stickler for original languages in my films, I must admit that I preferred the Japanese selection the best. With that being said, the English dub isn't a slouch by any means. Names like Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Shia LaBeouf, and Edward James Olmos are attached to the English track, so how could you possibly knock it? In the end the sound isn't as good as it could have been, but it's still impressive in its own right.
Bonus features on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind's Blu-ray release are plentiful, though not quite as grandiose as one might hope. There are trailers and TV spots for the film as well as an eight minute feature with English cast members talking about their experience working on it. Two Ghibli features are present on the disc as well. One features Miyazaki talking about the creation of Nausicaa and the other focuses on the forming of Studio Ghibli. The other features on this release include an interactive map that has some trivia challenge, clips, and whatnot, and a storyboard presentation of the entire film. It's not nearly as interesting as one might think, but it's totally worth checking out sometime.
I can't say enough good things about Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The film is truly the definition of a timeless anime classic. Fans of Miyazaki's works, animated films, or quality movies in general owe it to themselves to watch this masterpiece at some point in their lives. It's a rich fantasy world populated with fantastic characters and an art style that must be seen to be appreciated.
The quality of the video on the Blu-ray stands out from the DVD transfer and the audio, despite the lack of a more robust presentation, is also nothing to sneeze at. The bonus features on this release are nice accompaniments to the film, but nowhere near as involved as one would have hoped. Still, Disney did a heck of a job putting this release together and it's easily highly recommended
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