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Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

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Here it is, Hayao Miyazaki fans: the Holy Grail. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was the first feature film by the grand master of Japanese animation — make that animation, period — after establishing his Studio Ghibli in 1984. It’s the first to combine such Miyazaki elements as a strong heroine, a notable lack of bad guys, and an apocalyptic sense of Earth’s eco-frailty. And while some of the animation is dated, Nausicaä was the first to present the director’s sense of visual beauty in all its vast splendor.

That said, this ain’t for toddlers weaned on My Neighbor Totoro. Set on a future Earth where giant mutant insects roam the land, Nausicaä (pronounced ”NOW-zhika”) is a tweens-and-up fantasy that looks back to Frank Herbert’s Dune and forward to Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. The images are often intense, the warring-factions plot complicated, and the climax involving a nuclear cyborg overwhelming.

The two-disc set — released in conjunction with two lesser Miyazaki films, Porco Rosso and The Cat Returns — offers an uncut English-language version with the voices of Lohman (Nausicaä), Thurman (an ambitious warrior queen), and Stewart (Lord Yupa), as well as the sub-titled original Japanese version (for advanced students). Extras on Studio Ghibli and the recording of the dubbed version are distinctly minor, and the second disc, matching original story-boards and art to the soundtrack, could’ve been meatier. You know what? We’ll take it anyway.