Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a pre-Ghibli Hayao Miyazaki movie set in a post-apocalyptic kingdom bordering a toxic jungle.
Though watching the dubbed version is less than ideal (having an anime character speak like Shia LaBeouf is bizarre), Mark Hamill and Patrick Stewart fit easily into a universe that already resembles a cross between Star Wars and Dune. Dogfights, warrior princesses and giant insects fill the screen, underpinned by an invasion from an industrialised military force. Coupled with the central theme of nature’s capacity to crush arrogant humans, the 1984 sci-fi could hardly be more relevant.
Even back then Miyazaki’s ideas feel fully formed and mature, concerning Japan’s nuclear trauma and mankind’s survival depending on a peaceful communion with nature. Characters who favour bioweapons suffer the natural consequences, but they are not outright villains so much as fools in a land of moral complexity. One of the few signs of age is the coarser animation compared to Studio Ghibli, nonetheless lending an appropriate rawness to the harsh environments. Likewise the proggy score suits the surreal surroundings, with its pre-Avatar flights around luminous jungles and proto-Pokémon fox-squirrel companion.
Miyazaki would grow as a filmmaker (and ditch the emphasis on his teenage heroines’ bodies), while never losing the humanity and ecology that soar across his worlds so rich in wonder and light. That sense of hope glides us through Nausicaä‘s dark valleys, opening our eyes to the way war scars the planet and its people alike. It is a stunning adventure that suffers only in comparison to Princess Mononoke.