First Look! "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" Blu-ray/DVD Combo Review

風の谷のナウシカ
Kaze no Tani no Naushika
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

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*Mild Spoilers!*

The story of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, in brief, takes place on a post-apocalyptic world some one thousand years after the “Seven Days of Fire,” an event which saw enormous, humanoid, biomechanical creations known as “Giant Warriors” all but destroy humanity.  Sometime afterward, these Giant Warriors ceased to function and became petrified while a polluted Earth is now being overtaken by the Sea of Decay (“Toxic Jungle” in the English dub) and the monstrous, giant insect creatures living within.

Nausicaä is a princess of the Valley of the Wind country who is skilled at flying and fighting, but who is also a bit of a scientist. After “Lord Yupa” (Yupa-sama in the Japanese) returns from his expedition, the people of the valley get caught up in a squabble between the Pejite, who’ve just uncovered a surviving but undeveloped Giant Warrior, and powerful military country of Tolmekia, who’ve decided to steal the Giant Warrior to beat back the Sea of Decay and the giant insects that come with it.   Nausicaä must not only find a way to save her people from being slaughtered by the Tolmekia when they come calling, but must also protect everyone from the Pejite plan to use enraged insects to level the Tolmekian and the Valley people.

I first saw this movie in Japan back in 1989 and it was the first anime title I purchased.  Back then, the English dub on VHS was licensed by New World Pictures and was heavily edited (over 30-minutes of film removed) and rewritten and was called Warriors of the Wind.  Fortunately, Disney license-rescued the Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind movie and in 2005, released it unedited on DVD.  On March 8, 2001, Disney re-releases this Miyazaki-sensei classic with a combination Blu-ray/DVD set.

Visually, Miyazaki-sensei’s mid-80’s anime film stands the test of time.  However, there was no difference in how the movie looked on Blu-ray or DVD on my 46″ HDTV.  I know the movie was remastered for a 2010 Blu-ray release in Japan but I don’t think that this U.S. Blu-ray release is from that remastering.  None of the materials sent to me said anything about remastering but simply touted the high definition aspect of Blu-ray.  I’ve seen a couple of anime titles in Blu-ray which looked vibrant as they were made for high definition.  That’s not the case here, though the movie still looks good even if it isn’t high def.  For those watching in Japanese with subtitles, the Blu-ray subtitles look better than the DVD subtitles.

Audio-wise, at times, I felt the incidental sound effects were muffled somewhat at times on the English dub. I didn’t notice the same muffling on the Japanese audio track, though as usual, we only get the 2-channel stereo Japanese audio.

Because Disney gets A-list Hollywood actors to perform their anime dubs, it is only natural that their dubs are quite good.  I made sure to watch the dub first because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to after I watched this again in Japanese.  While I have seen the movie in Japanese back when Disney first released this movie on DVD in 2005, I haven’t watched it since and so wasn’t to “polluted” with memories of the Japanese voices.  However, while I felt that the voice actors did a fine job, some voices were too recognizable to not be a bit of a distraction, especially when they first appear.

For starters, there’s Patrick Stewart, who plays Lord Yupa.  The man’s voice is very distinctive but I just couldn’t help but think, “Captain Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation) is speaking!”  Then there’s Shia LaBeouf who is the voice of Asbel.  When he started speaking, I couldn’t get the image of him from the live-action Transformers movie out of my head.  Chris Sarandon is the voice for the Tolmekian military second in command, Kurotowa.  Chris is well known for playing the role of Prince Humperdinck in fantasy classic, The Princess Bride.  Since Kurotowa looks very similar to Prince Humperdinck and they are both played by the same actor, well naturally one just sorta expects Kurotowa to spout something about the Fire Swamp or the like. ^_~

On the other hand, there are some actors who do quite well at disguising their voices to one degree or other.  Uma Thurman (Kill Bill) is the voice of the Tolmekian military leader Kushana.  Because Uma has studied Japanese, I felt she did a good job at taking what she could from SAKAKIBARA Yoshiko’s take on the role in the Japanese original and thus wasn’t readily recognized by me.  Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica) voices Mito but I never once thought, “There’s Admiral Adama speaking!” as Edward does a good job not sounding himself.  Mark Hamil (Star Wars) voices the role of the Mayor of Pejite, but I doubt anyone but hardcore fans of his would recognize him (he does a lot of voice acting and is quite good at it).  Certainly, he doesn’t sound like his infamous Luke Skywalker role.

As is normal for nearly all anime adaptations into English, the English dub takes quite a number of small liberties with the original Japanese script.  I watched the English dub first and then immediately rewatched the film in Japanese with subtitles.  In doing so, one is made keenly aware of those changes.  Some are as simple as changing the “Sea of Decay” to the “Toxic Jungle” which doesn’t really affect things story-wise either way (though “Sea of Decay” is much more accurate since there is an actual sea there).  There was a scene where Nausicaä and Asbel are discussing the nuts she brought.  In the English dub, a joke is made about how come it is that things that are good for you taste nasty.  In the Japanese, Asbel’s remark is that even though these nuts taste nasty, he’s hungry enough to eat a ton of them.

Others are a bit more complex in nature and actually give small changes in tone.  Miyazaki-sensei’s script clearly contains an environmentalist theme, an anti-technology theme, an anti-war theme, and one could say an anti-nuclear theme too with the Giant Warriors taking the role of a nuclear weapon.  Those things are clear in the Japanese version without being too “in your face.”  In the English dub, it is as if the writers wanted to emphasize those themes because they are a lot more “in your face” at times.  Indeed, while the Japanese version at one point has Nausicaä simply trying to prevent things from escalating out of control, the English dub makes this an appeal to end all killing.  Miyazaki-sensei’s script is indeed having Nausicaä try to prevent people from being killed, but it is subtle vs. the English script’s overt way of putting it.

Even if you aren’t someone who watched anime in Japanese with subtitles, I would encourage you to give the Japanese version a look-see and experience the movie in two different ways.  I think you might be more than a little surprised at times, especially when a scene in the Japanese ends up making more sense than it did in the English dub.

One thing that I found interesting was the decision to use the Japanese term “Obaba” for the old, blind, female seer in both the English dub and subtitles.  English-speaking audiences will simply assume this is her name rather than a term for an old woman (grandmother), but it is clear based on the Japanese audio that she has no name mentioned, but is simply and very respectfully addressed as “Obaba-sama.”  So, if “Yupa-sama” becomes “Lord Yupa,” why doesn’t “Obaba-sama” become “Lady Obaba?”  Just another reason why I like Japanese honorifics retained in the subtitles, which of course they are NOT in this release.

The Blu-ray and the DVD contain different extras.  The Blu-ray has a documentary called “Behind the Studio” which has interviews with Miyazaki-sensei and other Japanese people as well as some American folk.  When Japanese people are interviewed, those are done in subtitles.  It was pretty interesting to me to hear Miyazaki-sensei speak.

The next extra is “Enter the Lands” which is basically little more than very clever advertising on Disney’s part for other Studiop Ghibli films they’ve licensed (in other words, don’t expect to see Lupin III lurking here).  The next extra, for those interested, has the entire movie shown via the original Japanese storyboards.  I’m guessing this will be mostly of interest to those looking into getting into animation.

On the DVD side, there’s an interesting feature “Behind the Microphone” which interviews the English voice actors (Shia LaBeouf is just a mere young teen here).  There’s a lengthy documentary called “The Birth of Studio Ghibli” which has English voice-overs when Miyazaki-sensei or other Japanese people speak.  I was disappointed with that.

One final thing I was disappointed in was how many people in the extras call  Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” Miyazaki-sensei’s first work or first feature film.  Every time this happened, I wanted to shout, “What about Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro?!”   That was Miyazaki-sensei’s first feature film and before that, he worked on the Lupin III TV series.

If you don’t already own this classic work by Miyazaki-sensei, I highly recommend buying it.  There’s no doubt that Miyazaki-sensei knows how to write a good story and make it visually beautiful as well.

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11 Responses to “First Look! "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" Blu-ray/DVD Combo Review”

  1. Pillslanger says:

    Saw your post on this movie and I had to comment…
    To start, easily one of my favorite movies of all time little did I know that growing up I was watching a heavily edited movie that originally came from Japan. Nausicaa was my first anime and I never knew it till I was older, so I have to say good choice in movie to review.
    Second, you briefly touched on the awful revision but I don’t know if you know this or not, but Miyazaki never planned to release movies in the US after the hack job done with this movie. It took the coaxing of John Lasseter over at Pixar to get Miyazaki to agree to American releases of his works.
    Third, this is technically his first movie as he had complete control over it. He directed Lupin III, but he did nearly everything short of animating every cell for Nausicaa. I’m not 100% on this but I also think this was Ghibli’s first film and it almost never got made due to budget constraints.
    Finally, if you have time and/or the inclination the manga is highly highly recommended. Do not pass up the manga if you can avoid it, there is so much different about it that is essentially a different piece of work and the anime is based off of Miyazaki’s (first/only??? not sure about this) manga.
    –Pillslanger

  2. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Third, this is technically his first movie as he had complete control over it.

    To me, when you are the director, it is considered “your movie” even though you may not have written it. As such, Castle of Cagliostro is Miyazaki-sensei’s first movie to me.

    I’m not 100% on this but I also think this was Ghibli’s first film…

    It predates Ghibli so is technically not one of theirs but it is still considered one of theirs.

    Finally, if you have time and/or the inclination the manga is highly highly recommended. Do not pass up the manga if you can avoid it, there is so much different about it that is essentially a different piece of work and the anime is based off of Miyazaki’s (first/only??? not sure about this) manga.

    I think the manga is out of print now but that being said, I have thought about picking up the manga to get the whole story.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “To me, when you are the director, it is considered “your movie” even though you may not have written it. As such, Castle of Cagliostro is Miyazaki-sensei’s first movie to me.”

    How come you think the exact opposite when it comes to the Tenchi series where Masaki Kajishima has never been the director?

  4. Pillslanger says:

    I think the manga is out of print now but that being said, I have thought about picking up the manga to get the whole story.

    (if I screwed up the html above please fix lol)

    The manga may or may not be out of print as you know it, but a quick check on Righstuff has a 2nd Edition out. You can also find the editions I own at Amazon, I’m not sure what the differences are but the ones at Amazon come with great pull-out posters drawn by Miyazaki himself. Many of the posters are instantly recognizable as some of the better desktop wallpapers out there for Nausicaa.
    –Pillslanger

  5. Tim says:

    Out of curiosity, how were the subtitles? One of the things I’ve noticed when I first purchased the original US DVD releases, were the fact that all the subtitles were basically, ‘dubtitles’. Meaning it was nothing but close captioning of the dub track. Is that the case here or was the subtitle scrip independent of the dub script?

    If the script is different, I might be interested in purchasing a copy myself….

  6. AstroNerdBoy says:

    “To me, when you are the director, it is considered “your movie” even though you may not have written it. As such, Castle of Cagliostro is Miyazaki-sensei’s first movie to me.”

    How come you think the exact opposite when it comes to the Tenchi series where Masaki Kajishima has never been the director?

    Very simple. Movies are known by their director for the most part. When one says Alien, one things Ridley Scott. However, when one says the sequel Aliens, it becomes James Cameron. There are some exceptions of course, the main one being George Lucas and Star Wars. Now, he did direct two of the movies in the franchises, starting with the first one. However, the entire franchise is his.

    In TV series, the new Battlestar Galactica is know as Ron Moore’s creation even though he had a co-creator and the series was a reboot of Glen Larson’s original series. Gene Roddenberry is the “owner” of the entire Star Trek franchise even though he’s dead, though when things started going south, the people who replaced him began to become better known. ^_^;

    In the case of TM!R, Kajishima-sensei is the accepted creator of the franchise because he wrote the initial stories. It doesn’t matter that there are a number of others who made their mark on the series, Kajishima-sensei will always be at the top.

    Hope that helps and thanks for writing. ^_^

    The manga may or may not be out of print as you know it, but a quick check on Righstuff has a 2nd Edition out.

    Its out of print. Volume three sells for a ton in a lot of spots and isn’t easy to find. I think I have and scored it and volume 2 from a website I’ve never done business with before but which has nothing negative said against it. So we’ll see. The other volumes are mostly coming from Amazon with volume 7 coming from a 3rd bookstore.

    I did notice that it may not be out of print in Europe as there are a number of UK sellers with the volumes in question.

    Oh, and I’m referring to the 2nd edition, which is unflipped.

    Out of curiosity, how were the subtitles? One of the things I’ve noticed when I first purchased the original US DVD releases, were the fact that all the subtitles were basically, ‘dubtitles’. Meaning it was nothing but close captioning of the dub track. Is that the case here or was the subtitle scrip independent of the dub script?

    There are two subtitle tracks. One is for hearing impaired (dub track) and the other a mostly accurate translation-adaptation of the Japanese script. Disney is notoriously bad about apparently using an early version of their English dub script for their Japanese subtitles and it annoys the crap out of me. Fortunately, that was not the case here.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “In the case of TM!R, Kajishima-sensei is the accepted creator of the franchise because he wrote the initial stories. It doesn’t matter that there are a number of others who made their mark on the series, Kajishima-sensei will always be at the top.”

    Not quite that simple. Lets look at the facts.

    Masaki Kajishima is the accepted co-creator of the franchise because he developed the initial stories together with Hiroki Hayashi, who also directed the first OVA series. Don’t you think a writer/director would have at least as much influence on a show as a writer/character_designer? One of the co-creators leaving the show doesn’t remove him from previous history and erase his credits.

    In the case of Tenchi GXP, Nabeshin’s footprint on the show was huge and his name was a major selling point of the series. If I recall correctly, you’ve said yourself that Kajishima was unhappy with many of Nabeshin’s decisions and that he intends to correct this in his light novels. How could Nabeshin have inserted his changes against the will of the person at the top? Would a star director like him have taken the job to begin with if Kajishima had the final say?

  8. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Don’t have a lot of time to respond, but what I will say is that Hayashi reportedly left TM!R because it was “Kajishima’s baby.” And yeah, Watanabi had major influence on GXP and reportedly some of the things he did annoyed Kajishima, which is why Kajishima is writting novels.

    So while those people have influence, the canon TM!R is considered Kajishima’s. AIC doesn’t go to Hayashi, Watanabi, or anyone else when it comes to creating new canon Tenchi products. ^_~

  9. David Opie says:

    Classic Ghibli! Definitely my favourite, along with Laputa

  10. […] watch the dub first before watching this in Japanese.  As usual, the dub is first rate. Unlike the Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind dub, which had some voice actors become minor distractions because their voices are so famous, […]

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