Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind DVD (Hyb) (2-disc)
Jon F. Turner - Jun 12 2004 JonT1982@AOL.com
No wonder it's considered a classic with Miyazaki buffs.
Based on his own Manga series of the same title, Hayao Miyazaki's NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND has been hailed as a masterpiece in both its initial 1984 release and even after the man produced several other greats. In particular, his 1997 megahit PRINCESS MONONOKE is said to be something of a sequel to this film. It's easy to see why: both stories involve compassionate protagonists battling for peace; tribes at war with corrupt yet not altogether unsympathetic rulers also fighting for reasons of their own; a super-powerful relic everyone's competing for the ownership of... heedless of the fact that the relic has a mind of its own; but more importantly, a strong message about the respect for nature and living in harmony. Fans and critics disagree about which is the better film, but both PRINCESS MONONOKE and NAUSICAA are classics in their own right. Of course, NAUSICAA is the older movie, and in spite of the fact that the animation looks a bit dated in comparison to some of Miyazaki's more recent films (including some rather weird, almost cheap-looking but still effective techniques to make the exotic creatures look menacing), the most amazing thing is how it holds well even today.
Admittingly, I don't remember much about this film other than the fact that I saw it subtitled at the same museum I saw PORCO ROSSO at, and also finding much to marvel... most notably how such a complex, well-written tale could be achieved using the technology Miyazaki worked with in those days. It's also interesting to note that the title character of the piece, Princess Nausicaa, showed up on the Japanese Animage polls as Favorite Heroine (until Hideaki Anno's darker-skinned, more fierce-tempered Nadia dethroned her). She is, in many ways, the equivalent of Ashitaka from MONONOKE: courageous, kind, and sympathetic not just to nature but willing to listen and accept both sides of the story... though the girl is also struggling against her own inner demons, too. Her kingdom, the Valley of the Wind, is one of the last to remain after a savage war tore the world apart, powered only by the blowing of the wind. The kingdom gets mixed up in a terrible struggle for power. On one side of the valley is a poisoned forest (whose spores are spreading across the earth) guarded by grotesque, insect-like creatures known as Ohmu. On the other side are two neighboring kingdoms, one of which whose leader (Kushana) wants possession of the other's super-powerful Fire Demon in a misguided effort to protect the earth... killing everything left and right in order to do so. Nausicaa's struggle to end the conflict resolves quite differently from the one in PRINCESS MONONOKE, but in a way still powerful enough to make it a dramatic piece of art and imagination.
It's a wonder this movie took twenty years to find its official release here in America. NAUSICAA had actually been brought to the U.S. before in 1985... but as an atrociously dubbed travesty called WARRIORS OF THE WIND. I have not seen this version, but I have no interest in doing so, given that I heard that about 30 of the film's 117 minute running time were cut and the story grossly altered to make it more "appealing" to America... all without Miyazaki's permission. It was because of this release that the distribution of the man's films was sealed off from America for a long, long time. When Disney acquired the rights for Miyazaki's movies, NAUSICAA was included, yet there was no talk of an English dub... until recently, no doubt due to the Oscar-winning success of SPIRITED AWAY. I do not doubt at all that the dub will be as excellent as Disney's other English language tracks for Miyazaki's films; the voice cast sounds promising indeed. Alison Lohman voices Nausicaa; Patrick Stewart (splendid choice!) is her mentor, Lord Yupa; Uma Thurman plays Kushana; Shia LaBeouf lends his voice to Prince Asbel of Pejite (the kingdom at war with Kushana's); Chris "Prince Humperdink" Sarandon is Kushana's righthand man; but the biggest surprise is Mark Hamill. Fresh from his delightfully devious performance as Muska in CASTLE IN THE SKY (another great yet grossly underrated--on some places anyway--Disney dub), it's thrilling to see that he will be lending his golden voice to another Miyazaki production... though I don't think it will be as special as the aforementioned role but still a treat.
The best part about this release is that not a single second will be cut. The Japanese language track will be on here too, so purists can relax. I am disappointed a bit, however, that Disney is not gonna upgrade the somewhat dated, yet still gorgeous score by Joe Hisaishi ala CASTLE IN THE SKY, but it was done because that film was intended for a theatrical release (which sadly never happened); NAUSICAA is meant to go directly to video which probably explains why Disney is leaving the score intact. (No, I am not blaming it on the love it or hate it atmosphere the hotly debated rescore received; it is a good score in its own right, despite what the naysayers say.)
Perhaps more memories of this movie will come back to me when I see it again, but in the meantime, NAUSICAA earns my highest recommendation, and I strongly encourage everyone to see it.
Jeremy Q. Jackson - Dec 26 2004
At long, long last.
As someon who HAS seen Warriors of the Wind (in fact, I own a copy), I have quite a story to tell.
I saw Warriors of the Wind when I was about 8 or 9, as a Friday night video rental. In spite of all that was done to it, it left such an impression with me that I have never forgotten it, and indeed, eventually I purchased the very same copy from the video store. I would not hesitate to say it was one of the motivators that led me to become an anime enthusiast.
For a long time I have lamented the fact that the true Nausicaa has not been available to American audiences. I am so very glad they are releasing it at last.
ROY SANDOW - Feb 24 2005 ROYSCARTOON@YAHOO.COM
In my opinion, this animated motion picture is a condense form of the graphic novels that I have. The book form is much more detailed than the movie and there is more insight in the book form than the movie, but, the flavor is still there. The movie version is much more condense. For instanst, the commander of the large army, (played by the voice of Ulman); has lost her arm fighting the insects known as the Ohmu. In the book that I have, her army blocks the path of the Ohmu so she can escape. As she flies over her troops, she cuts off her long golden hair and offer each strand to her brave soldiers for their sacrifice to her. In the movie she has an atificial arm and short hair. As I said before, the book version is much more intense while the movie version keeps in abreast to the book. All in all, this was a delightful movie to watch, I wish it was longer!
Jon F. Turner - Mar 10 2005 JonT1982@AOL.com
Finally, a release that does Miyazaki's much revered masterpiece justice!
Since the Disney corporation signed their deal with Hayao Miyazaki and his animation company, Studio Ghibli, to distribute his films, there have been naysayers in the form of purists and some critics. The dubs they produced thus far (KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, PRINCESS MONONOKE, CASTLE IN THE SKY, and SPIRITED AWAY), while top-quality and have unquestionably won over newcomers to Miyazaki's work, detractors have continually attacked the English language tracks, whether due to voice casting issues, occasionally minor dialogue embellishments, and, in the case of KIKI and CASTLE, extra music, saying that Japanese is the only way to watch his films. Others say that Disney has sat on the rights for Miyazaki's movies for far too long. However, to tell you the truth, I don't really care about such criticisms. As someone who has been very satisfied with the Disney releases of the current Miyazaki films (and yes that counts all the dubs as well), I appreciate that the deal, however many mistakes the Mouse House made, has at least brought the aforementioned films by Miyazaki to a wide audience. Also, any embellishments on the soundtracks were done with the supervision of Miyazaki and his colleagues, which ultimately renders controversial debates about aural alterations moot. (Plus, they DID remember to include the Japanese language track--and credits--for all these films, so purists can at least relax about that.)
Even having said all this, I was greatly worried that these latest releases (NAUSICAA, PORCO ROSSO, and THE CAT RETURNS) wouldn't see the light of day, but thanks to the success of the previous releases in America (well, SPIRITED AWAY's triumph at the Academy Awards did help), and after a very LONG AND VERY ANNOYING DELAY TIME, Disney brings their second wave of Miyazaki's works to America... finally. Was the wait worth it? The answer is a resounding yes.
Of the works by Miyazaki, it is NAUSICAA that many were anticipating, so this is the release I'm focusing on. There are bound to be differing opinions from many about the quality of this release, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is yet another outstanding job done by Disney. While the film was clearly animated in 1984 (it doesn't have as much artistic polish that Miyazaki's later works do), the most surprising thing about the animation is how well it stands, even in comparison to today's CGI flicks. This is no doubt due to the crisp, gorgeous quality of the visual transfer. It's obvious that a lot of work went into remastering the video, and it pays off. I've read complaints about edge-enhancement and haloing on the print, but I have yet to discover such drawbacks, for the video looks just about as good as it probably ever may get.
There is one drawback about the audio, however--it is monaurel... even on the English language track. Granted, I understand that it was mono due to the lack of technology in 1984, but a grand movie like this deserves a 5.1 remix! (I was told that they attempted a stereo mix, but ultimately decided that the mono track sounded best.) But this is just a personal gripe of mine, as the overall quality of the audio is done well. The Japanese language track is included on this release, and, as always, Disney remembers to show the Japanese credits and titles for users who want to hear the film only in its origin language.
However, there are just as many who love to hear Miyazaki's movies in English, and, given that Disney has done a fantastic job on the ones they've dubbed thus far, one shouldn't expect anything less than excellence on NAUSICAA. Unlike a previous release of Miyazaki's masterwork, WARRIORS OF THE WIND, the script remains as faithful to the original as possible with the occasional exception of tweaking a bit of terminology to make the dub stand on its own with American audiences, and NOT EVEN ONE SECOND IS CUT. NOT ONE. Having never heard this old dub, I cannot compare the quality of the acting on that version to this new version, but I was once again very pleased with the cast Disney brought in to perform the characters. The title character, Nausicaa, a compassionate princess who prefers to resolve problems peacefully and not through aggression, is a very demanding role to get right--and not an easy part to cast, but the performance that Alison Lohman gives is more than commendable. She does a great job displaying her inner struggle and vulnerability, never forgetting to emphasize her sweet, loving nature or emoting when she needs to.
The rest of the cast includes strong, solid performances by Uma Thurman as the embittered Tolmekian princess Kushana; Chris Sarandon as her sly henchman, Kurotowa; Edward James Olmos as the scrappy, feisty chief engineer, Mito; and unexpected appearances by veteran character stalwarts Tress MacNeille as the wise, blind Obaba (who also played Osono in KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE as well as the Boss's Wife in CASTLE IN THE SKY), the Little Mermaid herself, Jodi Benson, Jeff Bennett, and a brief opening voiceover by Tony Jay (best known as Frollo from Disney's underrated HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME). It should be mentioned that Mark Hamill, who turned in an outstanding, bang-up performance as the treacherous government agent Muska in the CASTLE IN THE SKY dub, plays a role in the dub; only this time it's in the form of the Mayor of Pejite. He has very few scenes, and consequently, Hamill's prescence isn't as special as his Muska was, but it's nonetheless great to hear his golden voice in another Miyazaki dub. It took me a while to get used to Shia LaBeouf as the aggressive, yet earnest Asbel--he sounded a bit rocky in places--but after a while he grew on me. Arguably the highlight of the dub, though, is Patrick Stewart as Nausicaa's wise mentor, Lord Yupa. This is an impeccable casting choice; Stewart's voice brings an added depth of nuance to the dub, as well as great Shakesperian diction and drama.
There are, however, two quibbles I have about this otherwise excellent dub. The opening credits for the dub are displayed ALONG with the original Japanese titles, which is a bit of an oddity (and a distraction) considering that in their other releases, Disney was able to use clean footage to lay down their titles. Also, for better or worse, Joe Hisaishi's synthesized music has not received an orchestral upgrade ala CASTLE IN THE SKY. Not that I have anything against Hisaishi's old-school scoring styles for NAUSICAA or even the original score of LAPUTA. On the contrary. I admire the work Hisaishi did in the days when he worked with mostly electronics. It's just that Hisaishi's reworking of his music for CASTLE was an excellent showcase of his talents as a composer and how far he has come since the old days, and it seems disappointing that Disney did not have him do the same for NAUSICAA. But then again, CASTLE was rescored because it was going to receive a theatrical release (which, of course, never happened), whereas NAUSICAA was meant to go direct-to-video, which means lower cost reductions. Nonetheless, these are the only shortcomings of this otherwise absolutely top-notch English track for Miyazaki's most revered masterpiece.
Moving onto the rest of the DVD's aspects, the menu styles don't seem to have changed all that much from the first wave of Miyazaki's DVD titles released two years ago, but that's OK. It is noticeable, however, that NAUSICAA has more chapter selections than PORCO ROSSO or THE CAT RETURNS. No doubt due to the fact that this is a grand, epic movie, and Disney probably would have gotten flak if they had kept the chapter selection down to sixteen (SPIRITED AWAY and KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE) or twelve (CASTLE IN THE SKY, PORCO ROSSO, THE CAT RETURNS). You DO, however, have to select Japanese in the language track selection if you wanna see the Japanese credits, but at least you can change the audio on the fly.
The extras on the DVD are as follows: the Behind-the-Microphone featurette we got on the other Miyazaki releases. You probably know what these sort of shorts consist of, but I like this extra, as it is nice to hear the actors talk about their characters, the movie (and of course, seeing them acting!). Then we have the original Japanese trailers and TV spots, which total to about eight minutes. It's interesting to see how Japan advertises their films, but this feature, for me, got a bit old fast. The second disc is enetirely devoted to one extra, and that is the original Japanese storyboards (similar to Disney's last wave of Miyazaki's releases). At least here you can watch them with subtitles (should you decide to select the Japanese language track), so no quibbles there. But my favorite of the extras is the "Birth of Studio Ghibli" featurette; this 30-minute long piece (which originally aired in Japan but was dubbed over into English) is a treat for outsiders of Studio Ghibli's work to watch, as we see how the studio got started in addition to a glimpse of the films that have been brought to America (and have yet to be released), ending with HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE.
All in all, NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND was a Miyazaki masterpiece that demanded an upgrade--especially after its drastically edited, 95 minute edition in 1985--and thankfully, Disney has honored Miyazaki's wishes with this new DVD release. Packaged with a first-rate transfer, equally top-notch audio, and a decent amount of extras, this is probably about as close to a "definitive" U.S. release of this film that we're gonna get. Very highly recommended.
Michael J. Clariday - Apr 20 2006 email@example.com
Oh my gosh, best movie since King Kong!.....Better!
This is the best movie ever! I am a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki's films, but this? Incredible. My all time favorite movie "Howl's Moving Castle", was my favorite of his films. But one day on television, there it was! I imediatly fell inlove with this movie! It has everything! If the phone rings you'd be too into the movie! If your roast is burning in the oven you'd be too busy watching the movie! I love this movie because it has action, comedy, drama, wars, and it can be sad at some parts. Don't think your tough enough not to cry. I also love the armies artillery. The tanks, planes, gunships, and guns are old fashioned yet futuristic. And it's all most mideavel,like they have armor and swords,and even kings queens and princes and princesses.There ae also huge insects, toxic jungles, lots of fighting and war scenes! But the best thing that struck about this film, the music! Wonderful! I've had them stuck in my head for days! And again trust me if u have never cried in a movie before you will in this movie!