In most recent years I’ve been getting in the habit of rewatching things, especially if there’s a large period of time that has passed. One reason is because my mom had this policy of “I’ve already seen it, therefore no point watching it again.” — I didn’t stick to this piece of advice. Some things require watching it a few times. Even if somewhat recently as you end up catching up on a lot of details the subsequent repeats as the first time you’re just trying to take in everything that’s going on.
With films that have had a long period of time pass before rewatching again, it can be a different experience taking in another viewing after all those years, especially if it’s a film you watched when you were so young that you don’t even remember. I think it’s safe to say that most us were all different as eight year-olds. Some films surprise you on a viewing far later; some are a bit of a let down. I’ll admit I gave Howard The Duck a rewatch recently. It was entertaining but a bit very cringe-worthy at the same time.
Where I grew up as a young ‘un there was only one video store in the small town in British Columbia that I grew up in. Back then no-one my family knew actually owned a VHS player. You had to rent one from the one video store in town and it was this massive, grey metal thing that could probably take a few people out if dropped out of a window three floors up. VHS cassettes would be loaded in on a spring-loaded mechanism and then pushed into the machine.
I remember picking out an animated film called Warriors Of The Wind because it had a ridiculous illustration of a number of characters riding on top of a blobby fanged creature. I remembered this film having an impression on me: the strange animated creatures in bizarre landscapes, giant pillbug type creatures roaming desert landscapes and the main character being a young girl on a flying machine that had a mission to bring peace across the land.
Cut to about twenty years later and I came across this film again, this time it was given a proper release by the creators, Studio Ghibli, under the name Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. At this point I was starting to pick up on the studio’s output, all done by the renowned Japanese director/animator Hayao Miyazaki. It was strange seeing “that film” from my youth re-surface, this time with an all new English language overdub as well as the film being edited the way it was intended.
What I found out was that that Warriors of the Wind was a heavily edited version of Miyazaki’s original film, re-packaged for an American audience, trimming out some key aspects of the storyline. With the full storyline now intact, the full “environmental” message that was the backbone of the original story put everything into perspective.
Ok, here’s the plot: One thousand years ago the earth was destroyed in what legends call The Seven Days of Fire; an apocalyptic war in which man and its technology raised an army of demons and decimated everything. The aftermath left everything polluted and spawned the growth of the Toxic Jungle, a poisonous mass of rapidly expanding vegetation that engulfed most of what remained. This jungle uninhabitable to humans and most animals, with exception of the strange insects and other creatures that evolved within the jungle. The most largest and powerful of these jungle creatures are the Ohm, which are trillobite, pillbug type creatures that are massive in size, seemingly about the height of a small skyscraper.
Within this expanse of the Toxic Jungle are the remains pockets of human settlements, including a small, idyllic kingdom simply called The Valley of The Wind, which is a lush green region nestled within tall walls of a valley. Life is brought to the valley by the winds that blow through it. Nausicäa, the princess of the valley, spends her time racing about on an air powered glider and wearing a gas mask, exploring the edges of the Toxic Jungle – looking for artifacts and trying to connect with the strange animals within it.
The peace of everyday life however is shattered when a massive airship from the kingdom of Tolmekia crashes into the valley after being attacked by a swarm of insects from the jungle. Sifting through the wreckage, citizens of the Valley evidence of slaves, including the dying princess from another kingdom called Pejite. Also found is a massive throbbing mass of flesh, which is suspected to be the embryo of one of the remaining Warrior demons from the Seven Days of Fire.
This incident prompts a conflict between the kingdoms that is carried out in acts of aggression and retaliation. However in doing this they aggravate the lifeforms in the jungle which start to naturally retaliate and close in on the green idyll of the Valley of The Wind. The Tolmekians retaliate by attacking Pejite causing more chaos. It all leads to a massive showdown between the three human kingdoms, a giant half-revived fire-breathing warrior and an endless sea of rampaging Ohms.
Although Nausicäa contains a lot of classic animé action and visual styles, there’s a some unique things about the film. First off, at least for me, there’s no actual “villains” in the film. It’s more about the conflict of various peoples and creatures in the natural world of survival. The exception here would be the Warrior demons, but in the end they’re just by-products of a technological society, built for their purpose of well, um, destroying things. The end of the film has a resolution in which no-one really loses out, but where some truths and compromises are learnt.
Secondly, the visual design of the film, especially in the segments where Nausicäa and her party go into the Toxic Jungle, are amazing renderings of organic, surreal and psychedelic landscapes. The depth of the jungle seems to be composed of many strange layers and filled with alien-looking giant creatures. This visual style is carried on in some other parts of the film, including Nausicäa’s secret underground garden underneath the castle.
Although the majority of the soundtrack work by Joe Hisaishi for this film if of a more traditional, orchestral vein, there are pieces of the soundtrack that stand out for me. The visits to the jungle are more electronic with fugue-like organ arpeggiations and German-school synth sounds. There’s a part where Nausicäa approaches the destroyed capital city of Pejite, cued by a simple, minimalistic kick drum which sets a sinister tone.
Whether you’re a person that’s totally into animé, has a dislike for it or sit somewhere in the middle, it’s worth watching for it’s environmental story as well as it’s imaginative and dreamlike look and feel. Both my current self and my 8-year old self approve.
There’s various clips below, including the Japanese trailer and the 80’s North American trailer for Warriors Of The Wind.