Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a 1984 Japanese animated movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki, based on his 1982 manga. One thousand years have passed since the Seven Days of Fire, an apocalyptic war which destroyed human civilization and most of the Earth’s original ecosystem. Scattered human settlements and tribes survive, isolated from one another by the Sea of Decay, a jungle of enormous plants swarming with giant insects. Everything in the Sea of Decay, including the air, is lethally toxic that can kill humans unless they wear protective masks.
Nausicaä is the young princess of the peaceful tribe of the Valley of the Wind. Although a skillful fighter, she is humane and peace-loving. She has an unusual gift for communicating with the Ohmu, the gigantic, armoured, caterpillar-like insects who are the most intelligent creatures in the Sea of Decay. She is noted for her empathy toward all animals, humans, and other beings. Nausicaä frequently explores the flora and fauna outside her village in 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.
The film’s predominant theme is that of humankind’s relationship with the Earth. The central conflict is between Nausicaä and the ruthless Tolmekian princess Kushana. They are two women who both want to rid the world of toxicity, but their methods are what separates them. Nausicaä, an enthusiastic environmentalist one could argue, seeks an answer through study and sympathizing with all creatures, even with the Ohmu. Kushana’s solution is through destruction of the Sea of Decay and all that it represents.
That Nausicaä’s method is the best way to go becomes clear in two crucial scenes of the film. During one of her explorations, Nausicaä discovers a strange, non-toxic fertile land that exists beneath the Sea of Decay, a hidden garden of jungle plants growing in sand and water from a deep well. She finds out that, paradoxically, the plants in the Sea of Decay purify the polluted soil, and in this way produce clean water and sand. And after Nausicaä has helped a baby Ohmu, the Ohmu in return use their gold-colored tentacles to revive Nausicaä when she’s seriously injured. Whereas for Kushana the world is black and white, good versus evil, for Nausicaä the world is more complex. The plants and insects of the Sea of Decay are, after all, not just plain evil but can peacefully be turned into allies. The film ends with fragments of a future where people and insects live in peace with each other. Nausicaä is the one that finally reunites people and nature.
The film deals with our relationship with nature on Earth. Trees and plants are the only natural resources that clean up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even though the flora is preventing global warming to a very large extent, humanity keeps cutting down trees for economic purposes. The movie makes you appreciate the unique nature of the jungle, even if it seems to be only toxic. In the beginning of the movie, we can see Nausicaä willingly going into the Sea of Decay to explore it for herself. Director Miyazaki shows the beauty of it through unique, colorful images of its flora and fauna. Throughout the movie, the viewers see the nature they just learned to appreciate being threatened multiple times. It creates a concern for the environment, a concern we can collaboratively apply into our own way of living.