Yesterday, I had the opportunity to watch Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in a theater. It’s been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it when I was ten, but seeing it on the big screen really blew me away. It’s such a stunning, powerful movie, and it reminded me of why I love it so much. That’s what I want to talk about to y’all today. Nausicaä was one of Miyazaki’s first movies, and in some ways you can tell. It’s clunkier than some of his later movies, the music is sometimes very dated, there’s the occasional plot hole, the animation is simpler. But it all works so well, both stylistically and thematically.
So, I mentioned that I saw and loved this movie when I was a kid and I did. But I will confess that about 70% of my initial enthusiasm boiled down to “AIRSHIPS!”. I liked airships a lot when I was young. Still do for that matter. And the airships in this movie are just so amazingly designed. They have this ramshackle look, like they’ve been bolted together from scrap metal, and it works so well for the post-apocalyptic setting. Really, all the designs are great. The Tolmekian army is this bizarre mix of tanks and knights and soldiers armed with guns that look they’ve been taped together that doesn’t really make any sense but, once again, reinforces this view of a world running off the scraps of industrialized civilization. The giant warriors have this amazingly minimalist, stripped down look that emphasizes their terror, and I’ve always liked that even the castle in the Valley of the Wind has windmills built into it. It’s such a good visual signifier of how everything and everyone in this kingdom is devoted to the precarious maintenance of human life. We don’t really see much of the word of Nausicaä, and yet you feel like you know it so well by the end of the movie.