Finally given a UK release since it's release in its native Japan way back in 1984, Nausicaš is a true classic which still stands as one of Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki's best offering more depth then his more well known titles Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke.
Set 1,000 years into the future and focused around the heroine Nausicaš, the film opens by introducing the viewer to the 'Toxic Jungle' - a forest which is the cause of all pollution in a world which has reverted back to a traditional way of living ever since the 'Great War' which took place 1,000 years ago. In this introduction we see the giant insects which rule the forest and possibly the Earth, the most gigantic of which are the Ohmu - a kind of giant woodlouse with several eyes that can cause great destruction if angered.
Now I would not normally devote so much space in a review to the first few minutes of a film, but Nausicaš is an exception as so much can be interpreted from the opening. Within minutes Miyazaki has already established the mood for the whole film by showing us the Toxic Jungle and the manner in which the heroine Nausicaš treats her surrounding. The forest is clearly the result of mankind's pollution from our current time and has possibly led to the mutation of insects who wish to protect the Earth from those who wish to harm it. Thankfully Nausicaš is not one of these people and this is shown when she comes across an Ohmu corpse and shows great respect to it. When she removes a precious eye socket from the corpse it is with care, not haste and she is genuinely overwhelmed by the strength of her find.
The film then continues to astound as a rival faction of Nausicaš's home village unearth a surviving embryo of one of the 'God Warriors' - mythological warriors which 'rained fire down on the Earth' 1,000 years ago - are clearly a metaphor for nuclear weapons. Despite the fact that the rival village takes over Nausicaš's home village she still refuses to accept that anyone can be completely evil and that everyone has some good in them. When she crash-lands into the Toxic Jungle later in the film with the enemy leader, she helps them stay alive despite resistance. This theme is common throughout the film as Miyazaki's expertly never reveals if humans or the giant insects are the dominant species, he instead shows that there is no dominant species and that they can protect one another. One particular plot point later in the film regarding the Toxic Jungle proves this.
Aside from the superb story, other positive points of Nausicaš include the simply stunning animation throughout with a fantastic tapestry title sequence. The animation is highly detailed throughout and the contain huge depth in it's never-ending landscapes. Although the old-fashioned technique of moving frames by hands is used to depict the movement of the giant Ohmu, it does allow for incredible detail when the Ohmu are viewed close-up and only adds to the artistic beauty. Another positive is the character Nausicaš herself who's positive attitude could have been the make or break of the film, but thankfully it definitely makes the film. Miyazaki ensures this by not changing her character throughout the film as, rather then the textbook hero/heroine, he gives Nausicaš courage, leadership and compassion from the start. Nausicaš's respect for nature has been with her since childhood and is genuine. She does not learn this trait solely to protect her people but to protect the Earth and everything on it - that is true strength. Although this may sound like the usual cheesy message trust me it isn't - it is the truest nature message ever committed to film.
The only real negative aspect of Nausicaš lies within certain pieces of music which now sound a little dated. Although the score is mainly comprises of the fantastic sweeping symphonies by composer Jo Hisaishi (who went on to compose for several future Studio Ghibli films), it also contains some odd electonica in several scenes as well as odd sitar accompaniment whenever an Ohmu shows up. It is like George Harrison wandered in during the recording occasionally, but although this may slightly detract from the film it is hardly a big enough negative to dismiss the film.
The UK DVD release has been worth the wait also with an outstanding re-mastering of picture and sound as well as some impressive extras (see below). An English dub which features talents such as Uma Thurman and Patrick Stewart has also been included as well as the original Japanese - both of which are as good as each other, the English dub proving just as effective.
Overall Nausicaš is a classic in so many ways it is unbelievable just how essential it is 22 years on. The film still stands as one of Miyazaki's best and far outstrips his more recent efforts in terms of story, characters and just about everything else.
The highlight here is the inclusion of the documentary 'The
Birth of Studio Ghibli' which provides a fascinating insight into the birth of
the animation studio. Full storyboards are also included, which can be
viewed as an alternative angle to the film. Other extras include all of
the original trailers and TV spots for Nausicaš
as well as a Studio Ghibli
collection trailers which showcases current and future Studio Ghibli
releases including Howl's Moving Castle.