Having never seen a single Studio Ghibli film (not counting Totoro, which I saw over 15 years ago and can’t remember one iota of the plot) I was looking forward to getting acquainted with this celebrated studio’s offerings. Unfortunately, I missed my chance to see this “Best Of” festival at San Francisco’s Bridge Theatre last week, but, thankfully, it’s playing again at the California Theatre right across the bay in Berkeley. Not being one to miss an opportunity like this twice, I plan on seeing as many, if not all, of these films, especially since a lot of them are being presented on actual film.
Say what you want about first impressions, but whether I like it or not, admittedly, at least some amount of judgement on whatever it is I’m being introduced to will be placed during those crucial first moments. In this case, my first impression judgments were directed at the sub-genre of anime known as the Ghibli film, and what better way to win me over from the get-go than by appealing to one of my favorite cinematic themes; the post apocalyptic setting?
The story takes place in the dismal future on a very minimal populated Earth where a little pocketed community, known as the Valley of the Wind, is struggling to survive. On the outskirts of their village lies a toxic jungle where a plethora of potentially dangerous and enormous insects live and mostly keep to themselves. All that changes however, when a more aggressive community comes along and decides to manipulate the insects into attacking the peaceful Valley of the Wind community, all in the name of peace, mind you. Thankfully for the Valley of the wind people they have a princess named Nausicaä. When this very special princess isn’t working her diplomatic charms, communicating with bugs and such, she’s flashing her entire community while expertly soaring panty-less through the sky on her motorized glider craft. Put some pants on, girl! Kids are watching.
Overall, the movie has a very in-your-face anti-war/pro environment theme to it, which is fine. However, there are several subplots taking place which make the film feel a bit over saturated at times. Also, in the film’s final act (don’t worry, not giving anything away) it delves into supernatural and/or miracle territory, which brought me right out of the reality within this film’s world.
On a more positive note, it was quite refreshing seeing action filmed in a way where I actually know what’s happening. And the actual hand drawn artistry is quite beautiful throughout. During flashback scenes the style would change to a more detailed sketchy type of animation. But the most captivating images I found were in how he captured the bleakness of the post apocalyptic landscape, especially in contrast to Nausicaä’s flourishing brightly lit underground garden.
Not bad for only his second feature-length film. As the festival continues it will be interesting to see the advances in director Hayao Miyazaki‘s techniques. Personally, I’m hoping that he started drawing in underwear on his lead protagonists, especially if they’re going to be young kids.