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Tag Archive: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind


Review by C.J. Bunce

In a year of retrospectives that included the return to theaters of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), would you have guessed that the film to fill the most theater seats would be Hayao Miyazaki’s 1984 film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind?  Sunday I saw just that, as Ghibli Fest 2017 and Fathom Events presented the first of three screenings nationwide.  Tonight you, too, can see Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind at select theaters nationwide, the subtitled version, followed by the 2005 English dubbed version screening again Wednesday.  Check out the Fathom Events website here for participating theaters and to get tickets.  If you are a fan of Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, epic fantasy films, or great cinema in general, Nausicaä is a completely different film in the theater than as seen on the small screen.  In the theater you will be immersed in Miyazaki’s sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrific, post-apocalyptic world.  You’ll surrounded by the prolific composer Joe Hisaishi’s sweeping, gorgeous melodies and breathtaking emotional cues.  And if you’re an anime fan debating which of Miyazaki’s creations is the best–Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, or My Neighbor Totoro…  you may decide Nausicaä is the winner.

Nausicaä is chillingly timeless and current.  I discovered what began as a rather chatty theater suddenly became quiet as the story’s themes unfolded: the consequences of unchecked technological advances, the price of decades of polluting the environment, the likely outcome of warring nations bent on total destruction of the other, the results of failing to take responsibility for the animal kingdom.  Miyazaki combined more compelling and important drama in one film than many top directors have created in the entirety of their careers.  But the film is not the stuff of your typical bland mainstream drama–it’s chock full of action and daring adventure of the fantastical variety while also considered a science fiction tale because of its dystopian vision of the future.  Set one thousand years into the future, the world was once ravaged, and cities destroyed, by mutated insects and beasts created by humans as bioweapons that laid waste to everything like military tanks, all during the horrible Seven Days of Fire.

But over the centuries a balance has formed between the Toxic Jungle, humans, and the animal world.  A young woman named Nausicaä, a princess of the Valley of the Wind, is praised and respected by her people.  She studies the forest, its creatures, dangerous spores, and the environment, all in secret, searching for anything to help her preserve the progress that has been made.  Her world is soon upset by the people of Tomekia, militant humans led by Princess Kushana (voiced in the English version by Uma Thurman) bent on destroying the insects and sending the world out of balance.  But it is Princess Nausicaä that steals every scene.  From the very beginning she emerges as a great leader, clever and resourceful, never hesitating to protect the people and things she cares about.  And the plot threads are entirely unpredictable–Miyazaki’s entire grasp of fantasy, interlocked with amazing special effects for an animated film, suck us down into the quicksand with Nausicaä and a boy named Asbel.  Miyazaki created a flying contraption for our heroine, a glider so wonderfully conceptualized every viewer will believe it could be real, based on sound aeronautic principles, from the soaring trajectories, weight, and movement in flight to Nausicaä’s different ways she grasps the ship to maneuver it.  Even the enormous multi-eyed Ohms feel ominous and threatening.

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Think fast, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon players–where can you find the lead actors of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica all in one film?

He is one of the top ten filmmakers of all time–Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki, known for Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and much more, but Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is considered by many to be his masterwork.  It is a grand work that the film medium could not yet hope to transform into live action—a devastated world destroyed by atmospheric poisons, and barraged by gigantic insect beasts, sweeping cinematography, and a post-apocalyptic world layers and layers deep.  And from this arises a young woman named Nausicaä, princess of the Valley of the Wind.  Innocent and driven, can she piece back together what divides man and nature?

It’s a story of dangers and sacrifices, of epic scope, feuds between warring clans, a dying planet, and the forging of a new heroine.  A sci-fi adventure fantasy first released in Japan in 1984, Nausicaä’s story of protecting nature is a timeless tale.  Miyazaki adapted his own 1982 manga story for the screen, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year with so many other great science fiction works internationally.  The film stars the voice talents of Sumi Shimamoto, Goro Naya, Yoji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, and Iemasa Kayumi in this month’s subtitled screenings, with English voice actors including Alison Lohman, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Mark Hamill, Edward James Olmos, Shia LaBeouf, and Chris Sarandon in the dubbed screenings.

Frequently ranked as one of the greatest animated films of all time, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is being presented by Fathom Events in the States as part of Studio Ghibli Fest 2017.  Tickets are available now here at the Fathom Events website.

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Miyazaki collection Blu-ray boxed set 2015

If you’ve ever tried to pick up a complete collection of the works of Hayao Miyazaki on DVD or Blu-ray, you may have had the misfortune of buying one of the several bootleg or substandard quality sets available frequently on both eBay and Amazon.  Finally Disney and Studio Ghibli are set to release a Blu-ray boxed set by year-end, including all eleven of the director’s full-length films.

The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki will be available exclusively from Amazon and is expected to ship November 17, 2015.  It includes Blu-ray editions The Castle of Cagliostro, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and his last film, The Wind Rises.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

If you have already purchased the individual Blu-rays, the special features may entice you:

  • Yuki no Taiyo (Yuki’s Sun) — a 1972 television pilot based on a manga by Tetsuya Chiba.  It was directed, storyboarded and animated by Hayao Miyazaki.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It really comes down to one thing.  Is the art of Ryan Sook, the superb cover artist for series like Justice League Dark, good enough to cause you to spend $7.99 for an 80-page comic book?  Let’s come back to that.

As you may know, Vertigo is an imprint of DC Comics, known for stories targeted at mature readers, including elements of stepped up violence, sexuality, horror and just plain controversial subjects not easily absorbed by the mainstream audience.  Mystery in Space is a classic comic book series beginning in the 1950s, known for great sci-fi stories including stories featuring Adam Strange.  Suspense and intrigue were key to the original series, and they often had the feel of Twilight Zone stories.

Along with titles like G.I. Combat and Worlds Finest, DC has been making the best of grabbing readers through a little bit of nostalgia, and the title and classic cover of the one-shot anthology Mystery in Space #1, in the style of the original 1950s series, is step one in reeling new readers in.  As with short story anthologies, the challenge is whether a writer can really put together a narrative with a beginning, middle and end that can be compelling, exciting, and original, in just a few pages.

The new Mystery in Space is good.  Good enough that it leaves the reader wanting more.  Sure, not every entry in an anthology will be great or even good.  That’s the beauty of an anthology–if it’s good there will be something for everyone.  But there is no reason DC cannot continue churning out anthologies like this of classic themed sci-fi stories.

The book starts out with a bang, and the first story “Verbinksy Doesn’t Appreciate It” is a great story about a cyborg with an unwanted cybernetic arm and a classic storytelling session among typical guys in a bar.  Written by Duane Swierczynski and illustrated by Ramon Bachs, the story blends alien abduction and The Matrix.   Smart and dark, at 8 pages, Bachs conveys panic and emotion nicely.

Green Arrow: Year One and Adam Strange writer Andy Diggle joined forced with artist Davide Gianfelice on “Transmission.”  Billions of lives are at stake in a Star Trek Voyager “Year of Hell” throwback, with a female ambassador taking on a computer that rules all like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Quick plot movement and a satisfying resolution highlight this as one of the best stories in the set, although it ends off the mark a bit.  I’d love to see more books drawn by Bachs and Gianfelice.  Gianfelice’s giant star map room is evocative of Data’s star room in Star Trek Generations.

Writer/artist Ming Doyle serves double duty on “Asleep to See You,” an account of two women pulled apart by time and space.  At one level the life and times of a flight attendant of the future, it packs a surprising amount of emotion and delivers a classic Twilight Zone resolution of the happy ever after variety.  A simple story, written in a simple style, Doyle proves you don’t need a lot of blatant sci-fi elements to have a successful sci-fi story.

Probably the weakest of the anthology is Ann Nocenti’s “Here Nor There,” which spends too much time with clever dialogue and not enough time with character development.  Fred Harper’s unique style didn’t work for me, at least tied up with this story.  Not awful, just one to read and then move on.

“The Elgort” is a story more fantasy than sci-fi, and I really liked the adventure story by writer Nnedi Okorafor and artist Michael Kaluta.  Like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, it follows a girl flying across a strange land with varying levels of beastie threats.  A little Avatar and a little Predator, this story has a cool feel and interesting voice.

Writer Steve Orlando provides a cool glimpse at a coming of age story for centaurs in some far away place in “Breeching.”  Artist Francesco Trifogli illustrates a tale reflecting a culture not unlike Mr. Spock’s Vulcan race, struggling with the question “am I a man, or am I a horse?”  Not a lot of resolution but themes of loyalty and conformity are well-played here.

Probably the most controversial of the bunch, “Contact High” covers a love triangle among three astronauts on a space mission, and the inevitable result when idle minds in tight quarters erupt against each other.  A psychological mini-drama, Robert Rodi and Sebastian Fiumara tell their story effectively, with Fiumara’s art and need special effects renderings the better part of the team-up.

Kevin McCarthy and Kyle Baker’s “The Dream Pool” is full of action but the over-wordy story and big-eyed girl art put this at the bottom of the anthology.  There’s probably a good story here but it feels like the creators would have been served by fleshing out the story and art better–it seems a bit rushed.

Sweeping colors, simple concepts and epic level weirdness puts Mike and Laura Allred’s “Alpha Meets Omega” among the best of Mystery in Space.   Amazingly they deal, again in only a few pages, with the most heavy of concepts in a refreshing way, that will leave readers hopeful in the face of loss.

“Verbinksy Doesn’t Appreciate It” and “Alpha Meets Omega” really perfectly bookend the anthology, illustrating some good editing thoughts went into this compilation.

So, back to the first question: Is the art of Ryan Sook good enough to cause you to spend $7.99 for an 80-page comic book? 

The answer is yes, as I hesitated before buying this issue, but Sook’s awesome blending of fantasy and science fiction with this seventeenth century Valkyrie with archaic or steampunk tools painting a star map inside the hull of her spacecraft, pushed me over the edge.  Luckily what resides inside the covers does not disappoint.

Hardly an artist on Facebook or anywhere else today isn’t talking about the influence of Moebius on comics, and sci-fi and fantasy art.  French artist Jean Giraud, who went by the moniker Moebius and created innovative designs for movies and comic books alike for more than 50 years, passed away this weekend at the age of 73.

Moebius became famous in France early in his career for his Western anti-hero Blueberry.  He went on to being awarded the Eisner Award for his work on Silver Surfer with Stan Lee.

His futuristic designs for the films Alien, Tron, The Fifth Element, Willow, Dune and The Abyss allowed his work to reach an even wider audience.  Ridley Scott credited his contribution to The Long Tomorrow to inspire the look of Blade Runner and master anime artist Hayao Miyazaki said his work influenced his work Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

His influence on Miyazaki is unmistakable.  Check out this piece by Moebius, which looks like it could be found in any number of Miyazaki’s anime films:

His cocenpt art for the original Tron was innovative as seen in his solar sail:

… as well as his image of Tron himself:

His concept art for The Fifth Element helped define the look of the future, merging elements of past and present, for director Luc Besson, and his aerial Chinese junk boat made it near verbatim to the screen:

His imagery for Alien merged science fiction and horror:

His fantasy influence can be seen in his art for George Lucas’s film Willow:

Ultimately his comic book fans will remember his work for Marvel Comics, and his legacy from that work will continue to inspire legions of comic book artists young and old and designers of the look of the future:

C.J. Bunce

Editor

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On February 17, 2012, Studio Ghibli releases Arrietty, its first Hayao Miyazaki project since Ponyo in 2008.   Miyazaki, for anyone who hasn’t explored anime before, is considered to be the master of the medium, and if you have watched any Disney or Pixar DVD special features you will be hard pressed not to have seen John Lassiter and his American animator brethren praising Miyazaki as their mentor, and their inspiration for their own animated storytelling.

Miyazaki has served as writer, artist and director, often painting frame after frame of his own films, where other studios might rely on studio artists for detail work.  For Arrietty, Miyazaki wrote the screenplay, based on Mary Morton’s The Borrowers.  Arrietty is a little girl, a very little girl, who lives in a world of tiny people called the Borrowers, who live by borrowing items when humans are not around, in the spirit of the fairy tales told in Miyazaki’s past films.  She befriends a human boy and encounters trials not unlike other “incredible shrinking person” stories.  Released last year in Japan and soon in the UK, Arrietty won’t hit U.S. theaters until next year.  In the meantime several great anime films are available on video to get caught up on Miyazaki’s works and other Studio Ghibli films.

Years ago we stumbled upon an AMC Network Monday night marathon that played two Studio Ghibli movies per night.  First up was Princess Mononoke (1997), and we were sucked right in.  It played first in English dubbed with American voices, but later we re-watched it in its original Japanese, with added English subtitles, and it was a different, far better film.  We are not fans of movies with subtitles, but this communicated its story seamlessly, and pretty much every other Miyazaki film we have seen plays better without the American dubbed actors.  The dubbing choices for Ghibli are typically known actors and actresses and they can sometimes detract from the story and are a bit distracting.

Princess Mononoke at first viewing reflects the animated movie Battle for Terra, in its interesting and inventive visuals, exciting action and mythic story.  Princess Mononoke surpasses that film and is a more complex story, but it plays like Star Wars in its energy.  Clone Wars should be this good.  The soundtrack is spectacular.  The story centers around a warrior on a quest to cure a curse.  He must walk a line between competing factions of a village and the forest and along the way encounters natural and spirit world obstacles.  Nothing is predictable in this world, but elements like sword fights, bravery, and sacrifice make the story familiar to any audience.

Another worthy film from Ghibli and Miyazaki is Spirited Away (2001).  A little girl is literally and figuratively spirited away when she wanders away from her parents and enters a strange and bizarre world of unique creatures, gods, witches and unworldly monstrosities.  She is forced to work for the creatures in a bath house.  The story and direction is imaginative and descriptions of the admittedly bizarre plot do not do justice to the compassion and angst you feel for the lost girl of the story.

Characteristic of Miyazaki is his sweeping panoramas of nature, whether through water, mountains or forests.  No film surrounds the viewer in these elements more than Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984).  Both written and directed by Miyazaki, Nausicaa follows a young princess who must forge through warring factions in her attempts to save her world.  Nausicaa is an ecological parable and a satisfying and sweet film.   Miyazaki’s storyboards were once available in book form (now out of print, but can still be found from time to time on eBay).  They showed in still form the great details and care he used in making the film.

The most fun of Miyazaki’s films is the first movie that made him a global name, My Neighbor Totoro (1988).  Two girls move to the country to be with their ailing mother and befriend several strange nearby animal creatures called Totoros.  This is a charming story of children having a fun adventure, despite the realities of their lives.  One highlight is a giant 12-footed wide-smiling Cheshire cat that serves as a bus to transport the girls and their spirit friends.  A story in the realm of Alice and Wonderland, but without all the dark and twisted places.

1995’s Whisper of the Heart marks a departure from Miyazaki’s trademark fantasy, focusing on a sweet romance between two Tokyo teens. But Studio Ghibli lavished the same care and detail on the scenery and cinematography of Whisper that characterized such masterpieces as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, and the result is a fully-realized and richly layered film that gives depth and majesty to this deceptively simple tale of two young people learning to follow their dreams.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988) plumbs the darker potential of anime, turning the delicate artistry and storytelling to this heartbreaking tale of two young siblings struggling to survive in Postwar Japan. This film pulls no punches, exploring the war’s effects on the Japanese homeland, a side of history seldom presented in Western film, with tremendous empathy and perspective.

The above are our top Ghibli recommendations. Other notable Studio Ghibli films include Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso and Ponyo.

C.J. Bunce and Elizabeth C. Bunce

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