The movie won the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize in 1984.
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The story takes place 1,000 years after the "Seven Days of Fire," an event which destroyed human civilization and most of the Earth's original ecosystem. Scattered human settlements survive, isolated from one another by the Sea of Decay (腐海, fuhai). Literally translating as the Rotting Sea, Sea of Fungus, Sea of Corruption, or Toxic jungle in the English release, the Sea of Decay is a jungle of giant plants and fungi swarming with giant insects, which seem to come together only to wage war. Everything in the Sea of Decay, including the air, is lethally toxic.
The primary protagonist, Nausicaä, is a charismatic young princess of the peaceful Valley of the Wind. Although a skillful fighter, Miyazaki's Nausicaä is humane and peace-loving. She has an unusual gift for communicating with the giant insects (particularly with the Ohmu, the gigantic, armored, caterpillar-like insects who are the most intelligent creatures in the Sea of Decay). She is also noted for her empathy toward animals, humans, and other beings. An intelligent girl, and inspired by the mentor figure Yupa, a wandering samurai type possessed of great wisdom, Nausicaä frequently explores the Sea of Decay and conducts scientific experiments in an attempt to define the true nature and origins of the toxic world in which she lives. Her explorations are facilitated by her skill at "windriding"; flying with an advanced glider-like craft with a jet assist called a möwe. Yupa is searching for the mythological man in blue who, according to the legend, will appear surrounded by a sea of gold and reunite the people and nature.
One day, an airship (a kind of large cargo airplane) crashes onto the cliffs near the Valley of the Wind. Nausicaä tries to rescue a hand-cuffed girl of her age from the burning wreck, but she dies after telling that she is Princess Lastelle from the kingdom Pejite and that the cargo of the airship must be destroyed. The airship is from Tolmekia and the cargo turns out to be a God Warrior (kyoshinhei embryo, Giant Warrior in the English release), one of the lethal, giant, biological weapons used in the ancient war.
It is later revealed that the God Warrior embryo was unearthed by Pejite, but it was stolen by the more powerful state of Tolmekia (Tormekia in the manga). While transporting the Warrior back to their realm, the Tolmekians were attacked by insects and subsequently crash-land in the Valley. The very next day, the Tolmekians, under the leadership of princess Kushana, invade the Valley to kill the Valley king and to secure and revive the Warrior. Kushana explains that the God Warrior will be used to burn the Sea of Decay, although Obaba, an old and blind Valley woman warns that attempting so will only enrage the Ohmu and lead to more deaths.
Kushana attempts to return to Tolmekia, with Nausicaä and several others as hostages. Before their departure, Nausicaä reveals to Yupa a hidden garden of jungle plants, that are not toxic because they are growing in sand and water from a deep well. Nausicaä explains that the jungle is only toxic due to the toxic soil that is everywhere on the surface of the earth. The airships with Kushana and Nausicaä are attacked by a Pejitan gunship and several of the ships are forced to make an emergency landing in the Sea of Decay. There, Nausicaä communicates with several ohmus and discovers that the pilot of the Pejitan gunship is still alive. With the help of her glider, Nausicaä rescues the pilot from a swarm of enraged insects. However, they crash and end up in a strange, non-toxic world that is below the Sea of Decay; the plants in the Sea of Decay purify the polluted soil, and in this way produce clean water and sand, which remains hidden in this underground world. The pilot turns out to be Asbel of Pejite, the twin brother of princess Lastelle.
Nausicaä and Asbel return to Pejite, which turns out to be destroyed after the Pejite people lured the insects from the Sea of Decay into their town in order to kill the occupying Tolmekian forces. The Pejite people reveal that they will do the same thing to the Valley of the Winds in order to recapture the God Warrior. To prevent Nausicaä from alerting the Tolmekians, they capture her, but she escapes with the help of Asbel. With a gunship, she returns to the Valley, but along the way they encounter a enormous herd of enraged Ohmus who are on their way towards an injured baby Ohmu, which is used by the Pejite people to lure the Ohmus to the Valley. Nausicaä releases the baby ohmu and gains its trust.
In the meantime, the Tolmekians try stopping the herd with armored vehicles they brought with them but to no effect, later Kushana arrives with the God Warrior to stop the ohmu herd, but the Warrior, woken too early, dies in the process. However, Nausicaä, with the baby ohmu, is finally able to stop the ohmu herd, but she is overrun and slain in the process. In front of the Valley people and the Tolmekian forces, the ohmus use their gold-colored tentacles to revive Nausicaä, whose dress has turned blue by the baby ohmu's blood; thus Nausicaä turns out to be the mythological "man" in blue mentioned in the beginning. The film ends with fragments of a future where people and insects live in peace with each other.
The story holds deeper meaning than its depiction of war; there are both environmental and ecological subtexts in Miyazaki's narrative. Even the insects seem to be working toward some secret harmony and the lethal fungal forest seems to have a vital role in Earth's new ecosystem.
The film was originally released in Japan on March 4, 1984, and sold almost a million tickets.
A heavily edited and English-dubbed version of the film was released theatrically in North America, shown on HBO and released on VHS by New World Pictures & Orion Pictures in the 1980s as "Warriors of the Wind". According to Nausicaa.net, the voice actors and actresses were not even informed of the film's plotline and more than 30 minutes of the movie were cut from the film because New World felt that "the parts were slow moving". As a result, part of the film's narrative meaning was lost; some of the environmentalist themes were diluted as was the main subplot about the Ohmu, altered to turn them into aggressive enemies. Most of the characters were renamed (for example, Nausicaä became "Princess Zandra"). The cover for the VHS release featured a cadre of male characters, who are not part of the film, riding the resurrected God Warrior — including a still-living Warrior shown briefly in a flashback. It was released around the world under various different titles, such as Sternenkrieger (literally "Star Warriors") in Germany. It was rumored that June Foray provided the voice of Zandra, though this has been proven as untrue.
Many fans of Nausicaä, along with Miyazaki himself, dislike this version; Miyazaki suggested that people should put it "out of their minds." Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki have asked fans to forget its existence and later adopted a strict "no-edits" clause for future foreign releases of its films. On hearing that Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein would try to cut Princess Mononoke to make it more marketable, one of Studio Ghibli's producers sent an authentic katana with a simple message: "No cuts".
The rating of this film is PG in both the United Kingdom and US.
An uncut and re-dubbed version of Nausicaä was released on DVD by Buena Vista Home Entertainment on February 22, 2005 for Region 1. This DVD also includes the Japanese audio track with English subtitles. Optimum Home Entertainment released the film in Region 2, and the Region 4 DVD is distributed by Madman Entertainment. The 2005 DVD version made it around the world uncut.
Nausicaä was produced with animators hired for the one movie and paid per frame. One notable animator was Hideaki Anno, who later produced Neon Genesis Evangelion. Anno was assigned to draw the challenging God Warrior's attack sequence, which according to Toshio Suzuki is a "high point in the film".
- Nausicaä: Sumi Shimamoto
- Asbel: Yōji Matsuda
- Kushana: Yoshiko Sakakibara
- Master Yupa: Goro Naya
- Obaba Hisako: Kyōda
- Kurotowa: Iemasa Kayumi
- King Jihl: Mahito Tsujimura
- Mito: Ichirō Nagai
- Gol: Kōhei Miyauchi
- Gikuri: Jōji Yanami
- Lastelle: Miina Tominaga
- Mayor of Pejite: Makoto Terada
- Lastelle's Mother: Akiko Tsuboi
Miyazaki's manga version of Nausicaä was written over a period of 13 years, with breaks taken to work on Studio Ghibli films. Serialized in Tokuma Shoten's Animage magazine, the first chapter was published in February 1982, and the last chapter in March 1994. As can be expected, the story of the manga is far more complex than that of the film. The tale depicted in the film roughly corresponds to only the first quarter of the manga (which is all that had been written at the time the film was produced), with significant differences in plot.
In addition to the plot, there are other significant differences in the story – the characters are more developed and the environmentalist tone is more sophisticated, echoed in the complex worldview of Princess Mononoke. Nausicaä herself is portrayed as being much more potent, with abilities that are not always explained.
The Nausicaä manga is published in English by VIZ Media. Earlier editions of the English manga and fan translations often used the title Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind, omitting the definite article.
The Möwe (メーヴェ, Mēve, sometimes transliterated as Mehve) is a fictional one-person plane/glider. Möwe is the German word meaning seagull, and refers to the vehicle's form and color, as well as the proximity of the Valley of Wind to the Sea of Decay.
It is unarmed, though the pilot can deploy non-lethal flash grenades to disorient pursuers. It can store a rifle/shotgun on the back. It does not provide any protection from the elements for the pilot, who is completely exposed to the wind. Although its performance specifications are not clear, it is slow enough to allow the pilot to hold onto and control it with nothing more than his/her arms and body weight. The möwe also possesses V/STOL capabilities.
The möwe has an approximate wingspan of 5.8 meters (1/20 model measured to be 29cm), and is only 12 kg according to the design notes. In 2004, the Japanese-led OpenSky Aircraft Project began attempts to build a real-life, working Möwe.